At Ease: Sixkiller Threw Just 6 Passes As Huskies Embarrassed Navy Midshipmen

Dan Raley

Washington quarterback Sonny Sixkiller might as well have been Mick Jaggar or Robert Plant the way Navy players gawked at him when they met prior to their game at Husky Stadium.

Sixkiller and his teammates resembled rock stars, and Sonny was the frontman. 

At the apex of the Vietnam war, the Midshipmen showed themselves to be highly disciplined in style and decidedly conservative in appearance.

"All they could do was stare at our long hair," Sixkiller said. "They had buzz cuts. My hair went down my back."

Approaching their third UW game in 1970, Sixkiller and his teammates brought a loose and carefree approach, matching their long locks, that re-energized the entire roster as well as the fan base.

Michigan State players found this out two weeks earlier when they showed up for the season opener, shuffled past the Huskies' locker room and peered inside on the way to the visitors' dressing quarters.

"Our doors were open and I remember them walking by and we had Jimi Hendrix and 'Purple Haze' turned up to about 10 (on the stereo player) in the locker room," Sixkiller said. "Guys were singing. Guys were dancing around. We were having fun. We had Purple Haze as loud as you can play it. Those guys just walked by with blank stares."

A lot of barriers came tumbling down in 1970 for a Huskies team that was coming off an unbearable 1-9 season. The quarterback was as responsible for change as much as anyone.

Sixkiller, who appropriately celebrated his 19th birthday on September 6, now saw mostly senior faces surrounding him, among them offensive linemen such as Bruce Jarvis, Ernie Janet and Lane Ronnebaum. Sophomore or not, he let everyone know who was boss in the huddle.

"I got their attention and I did that from day one," he said. "It was, 'Hey man, listen up! Shut the (bleep) up!' I gained respect from them because I stood up to them."

Against Navy, Sixkiller went out and threw just six passes that afternoon. A magic number no less, but not a magical one for a throwing quarterback. No, the Huskies didn't revert back to three yards and a cloud of dust on offense either.

They simply brought the hammer down on the service academy, settled things quickly and pulled back on the throttle.

On the second play of the game, Huskies senior cornerback Bob Burmeister intercepted a Navy pass, ran it back 28 yards and scored, same as he did against Michigan State down to the yard.

The rout was on even before Sixkiller and his high-octane offense stepped on the field. 

Sonny played less than a half. He completed 5 of his 6 passes for 81 yards and a 33-yard score to wide receiver Ralph Bayard. He quickly turned the team over to Greg Collins, his backup, who threw a pair of touchdowns.

By the end of the second quarter, the Huskies already were using third-string quarterback Steve Hanzlik and on their way to a crushing 56-7 victory over Navy in front of another festive crowd of 57,000. Hanzlik threw a TD pass, as well.

The tough setback to Michigan the weekend before only inspired the fans to return for more. Win or lose, this team was fun to watch. 

The Huskies left the field that day with twice as many wins as they had the season before. And they earned the full respect of Navy and Midshipmen coach Rick Forzano.

"Washington has something of everything," Forzano said. "Fine backs, a solid defense and that Sonny Sixkiller can whistle the ball."

Comments (1)

I was at the game. I recall a tight end, John Brady, going about 60 yards for a touchdown on an end around. Fun day. Enjoy these articles. Thanks.

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