Legend of Sixkiller: Sonny Took Bite of the Apple, Won Rivalry Game

Dan Raley

Washington quarterback Sonny Sixkiller, shuddering in 20-degree temperatures in Spokane, threw a pair of touchdown passes and ran for another.

Husky fullback Bo Cornell and Washington State linebacker Rod Mumma threw punches at each other, igniting a third-quarter brawl that emptied both benches.

Cougars and Huskies fans threw apples everywhere, pelting the field at Joe Albi Stadium.

Welcome to your first Apple Cup, Sonny -- don't forget to duck.

A swashbuckling first season for Sixkiller and Company came to a highly satisfying end as the Huskies fell behind 7-0 and then rattled off 31 unanswered points to throttle the Cougars  43-25. 

For three months, these guys weren't perfect but they were highly entertaining. Captivating. Inspiring. 

Sixkiller's initial Washington team brought a college football rebirth to the city. From a miserable 1-9 season in 1969, the Huskies improved to a respectable 6-4.

Picked to finish last in the Pac-8 standings, they shared second place with a cluster of teams, California, Oregon and UCLA, all 4-3 in league play.

"We were fortunate enough to have Sonny Sixkiller," Cornell said. "Everything else seemed to fall into place."

Down 7-0, Sixkiller tossed a 17-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end John Brady in the second quarter. Typical of this team, the Huskies wanted the lead right away and went for two points. Sonny lobbed one to senior Ace Bulger, his other tight end, for an 8-7 advantage.

Sixkiller came back and led the Huskies on a 17-play, 90-yard drive, capped off by the quarterback's 5-yard scramble around right end for a score right before half. They went for two points again and failed. Still, the rout was on.

Sixkiller's most spectacular pass was a 58-yard gainer to senior running back Joe Bell, who snuck out of the back field and stood alone along the sideline trying to get his quarterback's attention however he could.

"I saw Sonny scrambling, so I kept drifting and I put up my hand and I yelled," Bell said. "I think he heard me, too."

In the fourth quarter, Sixkiller's work was done for 1970. He handed the team over to sophomore backup Greg Collins once more, with the game safely tucked away. He left after completing 17 of 34 passes for 256 yards and those two scores, giving him a UW-record 15 TD passes for the season, one more than Don Heinrich. 

Away from the bitter November chill, Husky players were asked in the locker room about the lopsided victory and the team's overall resurgence throughout the year. 

The Michigan State game, a similar victory ignited by Sixkiller and the rest of the sophomore class, made everyone believers again. They were proud to be Huskies again, no longer embarrassed. Each of their four losses were close ones to good teams.

Coach Jim Owens was quizzed about his future, pressed whether he might retire or consider pursuing the soon-to-be vacant Pac-8 Conference commissioner job.

Whether or not he had given much thought to leaving the Huskies -- and considering the continuous fan backlash and overt accusations of racist practices, it would have been no surprise -- Owens said he wasn't willing to walk away from the Sixkiller era just now. 

It was way too much fun. He felt renewed as a coach. Like everyone else, he wanted to see what else Sonny and the others could do in 1971.

"We didn't want this season to end," Owens told reporters in the visitor's locker room in Spokane.

Comments (2)
No. 1-2
monkeyarms
monkeyarms

The Huskies just barely missed out on going to the Rose Bowl, and would have gone to another sweet Bowl game had it been later in the decade. Enjoyed the articles.

Dan Raley
Dan Raley

Editor

Thanks monkeyarms. Appreciate you weighing in repeatedly. Need to get others to follow


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