Legend of Sixkiller: Sonny Got Sick, But Huskies Survived Oregon

Dan Raley

It was Sonny Sixkiller vs. Dan Fouts.

A dream matchup of sophomore quarterbacks at Husky Stadium.

An electrifying Oregon kid playing against his second Oregon school in two weeks, one rallying behind a highly promising California quarterback.

The nation's No. 1 passer against the No. 14 thrower in Fouts.

If only Sixkiller could stop coughing.

While opposing defenses had great difficulty slowing down Sixkiller and his prolific arm, the University of Washington  quarterback sensation met his match with Mother Nature at Oregon State the weekend before.

Oh, he survived the six interceptions he threw and went on to beat the Beavers.

No, the rainy and extra fridgid climate got to him in Corvallis, making Sixkiller sick with a cold, if not the flu. He felt lousy. Hardly well enough to play football. He spent two days in bed.

Yet the Ducks were coming to Seattle on Saturday to face his 3-3 Washington football team and Sixkiller tried his best to get physically ready. 

He practiced sparingly that week, running a few plays and then heading to the sideline, where he received throat spray treatments.

Sixkiller was there for the opening bell against Oregon. He just wasn't around for the final gun.

With a sellout crowd of 58,000 on hand, he gave it his best shot, starting the game and playing into the third quarter. In his weakened condition, he fumbled twice, once on the Oregon 15 to blunt a scoring drive. 

Sixkiller hung in there as long as he could to complete 13 of 29 passes for 116 yards, well below his usual numbers. He left with the Huskies trailing 15-7 and turned the game over to Greg Collins, a fellow sophomore and little-used quarterback.

"Sonny was off his form in the second half, so it was up to Collins," Owens said. "He did a wonderful job."

This intense rivalry game turned into a battle of two Californians at quarterback. A Los Angeles kid, yet another sophomore, against this guy from San Francisco. 

Collins against Fouts.

Similar to Sixkiller replacing injured senior Gene Willis in the spring, Fouts early in the season was called on to lead this Oregon team as an emergency fill-in for veteran quarterback Tom Blanchard, who went down for good with knee and shoulder issues. 

Fouts , a future NFL hall of famer, quickly established himself by helping the Ducks rush back from a 40-19 deficit to beat UCLA 41-40 and then upset USC 10-7.

Collins, on the other hand, had thrown all of 12 passes coming into this game. He was the backup, the second-teamer, the Gold unit quarterback in practice. He was ready for his moment in the spotlight.

"We called him 'Solid Gold,' " Sixkiller said. 

Collins entered the fray with specific instructions from UW coach Jim Owens as the third quarter was winding down at Husky Stadium.

"Coach said to move the ball, stay calm, don't lose your head and move it into the end zone," the super sub said.

Collins took the team down the field in eight plays for the tying points, a Herman Houston 7-yard TD run and a two-point conversion pass to Ralph Bayard early in the fourth quarter.

The replacement quarterback put the Huskies on the scoreboard twice in 29 seconds. After Fouts threw an interception to cornerback Bob Burmeister on the first play of the next series, Collins fired an 18-yard scoring pass to fullback Bo Cornell for a 22-15 lead.

This one was far from over. 

Five plays later, Fouts pitched the ball to Bobby Moore, who pulled up and threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to reserve quarterback Steve Bailey. The Ducks went for two and took a 23-22 lead.

Moore hailed from Tacoma, Washington, and would later rename himself Ahmad Rashad while becoming an NFL standout, actor and broadcaster. 

Even though he was a local product, Moore refused to play for Washington because the football program in a highly publicized ordeal had suspended his cousin, Husky running back Donnie Moore, for reasons not totally fair four years earlier.

Donnie Moore, who had rushed for 221 yards and two touchdown in a 38-22 victory over powerful Ohio State on the road, had the potential to become one of the greatest runners in Washington football history. Instead, he was banished from the program for what some suggested were racially motivated reasons. Officially, he was caught in a tavern drinking a beer.

Either way, Bobby Moore wore an Oregon uniform now and his team had the ball and took a one-point lead into the game's final 90 seconds.

On a broken play, Fouts fumbled the ball after a UW helmet hit his arm on a broken play. The Huskies' opportunistic Burmeister recovered on the UW 41 and this Sonny Sixkiller-less team was still alive.

Collins, who completed 7 of 13 passes for 86 yards in his fill-in role, was up to the task. He threw 20 yards to tight end John Brady on first down. He handed the ball to Houston, who dashed 23 yards to put the Huskies on the Oregon 16. Cornell ran three times, pounding the ball down to the 9. 

With 30 seconds left, sophomore Steve Wiezbowski, who at one time competed with Sixkiller and Collins as freshmen quarterbacks, kicked 19-yard field goal for a thrilling 25-23 Huskies victory. 

"Sixkiller is a good quarterback," Oregon coach Jerry Frei said, "but Collins did a heckuva job."

Even with Colllins proving highly capable, Sixkiller had to get well quick. He had a Rose Bowl showdown with Stanford and Jim Plunkett coming next.

Comments (1)
No. 1-1

My brother told me that Greg Collins was really good. He said that Collins would have been the starter at many, many other schools. Great article.

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