Road to 1991 Perfection: Pawlawski Gave Title-Bound Huskies Their Only Scare

The California quarterback was confident and competitive, but he couldn't prevent a 24-17 UW victory in Berkeley. He wanted a couple more plays.
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Mike Pawlawski was likened to another Rambo, a tough, fearless quarterback for the California Bears in 1991. He was the blue-collar signal-caller.

He said things to get people riled up. He called the Oregon student newspaper the "Daily Quack." He offered something in the accompanying video that might get a few Husky fans foaming at the mouth.

"I don't want anyone to think I play like a little girl out there," he said memorably.

Pawlawski and his teammates represented the biggest obstacle between the University of Washington football team and a national championship. He genuinely had the Huskies concerned.

Entering the game, the Bears quarterback ranked second in the NCAA in passing efficiency (71.7 percent) and he'd led the Bears to a 5-0 record and a No. 7 ranking in the polls. 

Pawlawski, shown in the photo with legendary Cal quarterback Craig Morton, was asked during the week if he was at all concerned about playing the fearsome Steve Emtman-led Huskies.

How was this competitive guy supposed to answer that? He knew only one way.

"I said we're undefeated and they're coming to our stadium," he said. "If anybody should be worried, it should be Washington."

This is another in series of vignettes about the UW 1991 national championship football team, filling in the conversation before the pandemic-delayed season begins next month. This week, we're revisiting the sixth game of the perfect 12.

Pawlawski, who sat down for this video with Bay Area journalist Jeff Faraudo at Husky Maven's request, hasn't strayed far from the Bears program. After spending a year in the NFL and another decade in the Arena Football League, he's become a popular Cal broadcaster who brings his fun-loving personality and wit to each game. 

The 1991 UW-Cal game lived up to all its hype, one that made it a nationally televised game with Brent Musberger and Dick Vermeil handling the broadcasting chores.

It went all the way down to the last play before Husky cornerback Walter Bailey knocked down a Pawlawski pass to preserve a 24-17 Husky victory. It was the only close game the UW played that season. 

"We were toe to toe," Pawlawski said, sounding as if he take a few more snaps. "We were really close to beating that team. We just ran out of seconds."

As it turned out, quarterbacks Billy Joe Hobert and Pawlawski didn't have their best days because each faced a superb defense. These guys were constantly on the run because of the pressure. 

Hobert completed just 15 of 34 passes for 189 yards and an interception and touchdown. 

Pawlawski, who led the Bears to a 10-2 season that fall, was good on just 18 of 41 passes for 215 yards, two interceptions and a score.

Everyone else was entertained, but neither quarterback was very happy when it was over, least of all the Bears' offensive leader. 

"Everybody talked about what a great game that was," Pawlawski said. "That game sucked. We lost that game."

Check out the video. This guy is fun to listen to as replays the three-decade-old game.

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