Legend of Sixkiller: UCLA Payback Was Sweet For Sonny and Huskies

Dan Raley

Sonny Sixkiller and his Washington teammates received instructions from their coach for dealing with 17th-ranked UCLA, and the orders were cold-blooded.

Score often and at will against the Bruins.

Embarrass this team for its past transgressions.

If possible, run up the score at Husky Stadium. 

Sixkiller was only too happy to oblige, and he wasn't even on the receiving end of Bruins coach Tommy Prothro's questionable tactics the year before that created such ill feelings.

"We couldn't wait for UCLA to come to town," the young quarterback said. 

In 1969, a Husky team had showed up in Los Angeles without a dozen African-American players, who were suspended or boycotting the game that week over racial grievances, and it was greatly overmatched.

Prothro had his team pour it on this helpless foe. 

He was famous for calling for onside kicks and two-point conversions with a game long decided, and his actions against the UW fell in line with that pettiness.

UCLA sent the Huskies staggering home with a merciless 57-14 defeat -- the worst outcome for a UW football team in 49 seasons, rubbing it in everyone's noses.

The Bruins coach kept the pressure on its shorthanded opponent even after his team led 33-7 at half and 47-7 after three quarters.

Owens let this situation fester for 12 months. Normally reticent about supplying insider information, he made it no secret how bent he was on revenge. 

"When you live through an afternoon like we did, you think a long time about it," Owens said. "They caught us short-handed last year. We were looking for a chance to reciprocate." 

The coach had someone water down the Astroturf to make it slippery.

He put in new plays for Sixkiller to benefit from, such as two receivers split to a side, with a third in the slot -- a formation decades ahead of its time.

Then Owens turned the Huskies loose.

Under foreboding gray skies that provided a dreary backdrop for UCLA, the home team exacted its retribution before a crowd of 59,250, then the largest in Husky Stadium history.

The charged-up response: Washington 61, UCLA 20.

"It was one of my favorite games of the year," Sixkiller said.

Owens was even more succinct about his innermost desire, "Our goal was to score 58."

One more than the Bruins the year before. Symbolic. Emphatic.  

Sixkiller, with his best protection of the season, completed 18 of 35 passes for 3 scores and no interceptions. He repeatedly hooked up with wide-open receivers, the onslaught unleashed with a 52-yard TD pass to fullback Bo Cornell

His backup, Greg Collins, replaced him in the third quarter and didn't let up, connecting on 6 of 11 throws for 132 yards and 3 TDs.

Reserve wide receiver Al Maurer caught 4 passes for 140 yards from these two pinpoint UW quarterbacks for 3 scores.

The Husky defense forced UCLA into fumbling four times and Bruins quarterback Dennis Dummitt into throwing four interceptions. 

UW senior linebacker Jim Katsenes picked off a Dummitt pass and lumbered 86 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown. Dummitt was the last man between him and the end zone but stood no chance.

"I gave him a fullback fake," Katsenes said.

Prothro became so angry on the sideline as things got totally out of hand that he tossed his fedora hat into the sky, later humorously explaining, "My hat slipped out of my hand and flew about 40 feet in the air."

The outcome proved to be the worst UCLA defeat in 45 years.

UW players lifted up Owens and carried him off the field as Prothro walked around this joyous scene.

One headline the next day said, "Sonny Sixty-One Killer and Co. Bury the Bruins."

One writer suggested, that with a win over WSU the following weekend in Pullman, Washington, the 5-4 Huskies would become true "six-killers."

"Payback is such a good feeling," Sixkiller said. 

The sophomore quarterback broke two 30-year-old school records, surpassing Don Heinrich's season passing yardage with 2,047 and total offense standard with 1,992 yards. 

While old scores were settled and plenty of celebration took place that afternoon in Seattle, college football actually suffered one of its toughest days.

Three time zones away, a chartered airplane carrying the Marshall football team home from a game at East Carolina crashed in the hills of West Virginia, killing all 75 on board. 

Suddenly hard feelings on the football field seemed so meaningless.

Comments (2)
No. 1-2

I was at this game, sitting in the horseshoe west-endzone. It was a fun game to witness, and seeing a rarely played reserve catch 3 touchdown passes was amazing. And I recall the Marshall University plane crash too. Great article.


Fortunately, I was living overseas and missed this game (and season). I do remember the 1965 game, when UCLA pulled the hidden receiver trick to help win that game. Coach Owens was really upset afterwards.

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