There are two American cities that genuflect to no one in their uncontrollable—one could even say undying—affection for the home-town football team. When citizens of these two cities, Seattle and Minneapolis, assembled for a contest between their Washington Huskies and their Minnesota Gophers on the green grass of Pasadena, sensible natives took shelter. The less sensible—97,000 of them—were at the Arroyo Seco, where the Rose Bowl sits, and everyone but the ushers appeared to be related to a player on one or the other team. In its long history, the Rose Bowl had never been shaken by such passion from the stands.
Luckily for this ardent gathering, each team won half of the game. However, Washington won the first half 17-0, whereas Minnesota won the second half by only 7-0, so Washington won the game. Because Minnesota has been ranked as the No. 1 team in the country by the wire service polls, the result might be called an upset, although actually the game was much too even for that.
Before Monday, lots of people were saying that Washington lacked the bowl-game incentive. Twenty-six of Washington's players had been in last year's 44-8 stampede over Wisconsin. Never in the history of the Rose Bowl had a team returned with so many veterans of a previous bowl game. The prevailing opinion was that they might take the game a little too casually.
Bob Schloredt, the Husky quarterback who came back to this game after half a season spent healing a broken collarbone, didn't agree at all. On the day before the game, the Washington team drove up from Long Beach in their buses to have a look at the empty Rose Bowl. Dressed in their blue-blazer-and-gray-slacks uniforms, they walked up and down the green turf and toed the hard earth underneath. They climbed up the aisles in small groups and wandered among the empty seats. Some sat in the shade of the press box in the very last row to see what the field looked like from there.
January 9, 1961
Schloredt stayed down on the field, taking pictures of his friends and squinting the length of the gridiron at the northern goal posts. "We made our first touchdown against Wisconsin up there," he said. "And we made another there in the third quarter. And we kicked our field goal up there. But you know, I'm more nervous for this game than I was for Wisconsin. Minnesota's better than Wisconsin was. You can see that in the movies. There's nothing complacent about this team."
Bob Hivner, who has alternated with Schloredt as the starting quarterback since they were sophomores and who started the game Monday, was talking to a friend near by. "The field looks the same as last year," he said. "I sure hope the scoreboard does, too."
The tone in the Minnesota camp was not so wistful. Indeed, after a slow start in their preparations, the Gophers were confident. Coach Murray Warmath clearly had his mind set on the timing of his offense and the spirit of his players. The Gophers were rated No. 1 in the country and they knew they were good. Some of them got sore legs and blisters on their feet from the hard surface of their practice field, but Warmath worried more about fat heads than about that. And on their last big practice before the game, the future began to look bright. Sandy Stephens, the 215-pound Minnesota quarterback and one of the very few Negroes ever to hold the quarterback's job on a major college team, felt just fine. "We've had two real good practices in a row," he said with great confidence. "Not a mistake. We're ready."
Warmath seemed to agree, in a restrained sort of way. A gruff, matter-of-fact sort of man from Tennessee without a trace of Dale Carnegie in his big frame, he spent hours in his Huntington Hotel press room talking to the dozens of reporters who kept arriving on every inbound plane as the game approached.
"They're wonderful boys, most of them seniors," Warmath told the group that surrounded him, pencils poised. "They all wanted to come out here. I know Washington is fast, but they aren't any faster than Iowa was, and we contained them. Our only worry is whether we are up mentally. Physically we're fine."
"We're about like we were before the Wisconsin game," Sandy Stephens explained a few minutes later. "For that one we got up just a few days before the game. It wasn't like Iowa, when we were up for a whole week. We had a lot of diversions when we first got here, but now we're ready to play football."
Stephens was just a bit—one half of a football game, to be precise—ahead of himself, and Murray Warmath was not quite right about what would make the difference. The real difference between these two excellent, finely tuned teams, it developed when the game began, was speed. When Washington was moving the ball, as it did so smoothly in the first half, its backs were fast enough to carry for long distances. A quarterback sneak by Bob Schloredt in the middle of the second quarter, for instance, went for 31 yards when it was only supposed to go for one or two (opposite page). It set up the second and final Washington touchdown that Schloredt himself scored a few plays later from the one-yard line.
While Washington was moving in that fine first half, it seemed able to do everything well. George Fleming and Charlie Mitchell, the two elusive and explosive Washington halfbacks, were always on the verge of breaking clear of the big but somewhat ponderous Minnesota players. The Huskies' lighter line was somehow overwhelming even the great Minnesota guard, Tom Brown. Coach Jim Owens had installed a double-wing offense especially to surprise and confuse the big Gophers, but the Husky linemen were getting such a jump on the Minnesota line that Washington could revert to its reliable bread-and-butter plays off the wing T it had been using all year.
In the second half the floor of the Rose Bowl had cooled off from its midday temperature of 71°. Some of the Minnesota players felt that this gave them new vigor. Whatever it was, the team suddenly began to dominate the game completely. Sandy Stephens could do no wrong. Combining with Bill Munsey, the Minnesota left halfback and the only really fast man on his team, Stephens moved the ball at his pleasure on option plays to the left and then countered with handoffs to Fullback Roger Hagberg going the other way.
Yet despite appearances and actuality, Minnesota never managed to put its new found vigor to great effect. The Gophers got their only touchdown soon after the second-half kickoff, but the clock ticked away as they picked up a few yards here and a few there. Whenever they needed the yardage most, the Huskies always seemed to be in the way. "We played a little softer defense," is the way Coach Owens explained it later. "Their superior size told on us, so we couldn't very well meet them head to head."
Schloredt was, of course, ecstatic over the result of the last game of his college career, but not entirely satisfied with himself. "I made too many defensive mistakes," he said without losing the grin he was wearing around the dressing room. "They ran a touchdown around me, and I was on my back half the time when I should have been making tackles."
Whatever his shortcomings on defense, Schloredt more than made up for them when Washington had the ball and for the second year in succession he was named the game's most valuable player.
There has been some talk that this may have been the last Rose Bowl game between the West Coast colleges and the Big Ten. If so, the Westerners should raise some kind of monument to the Washington Husky. After so many years of mistreatment at the hands of the Middle Westerners, the Seattleites finally vindicated the honor of the Pacific Coast with their consecutive victories over the Big Ten.