Joe Kapp's razor-cut gray hair looked ragged now, and the square jaw was so tightly clenched it seemed to be wired shut with steel cables. The eyes were glazed. The big, strong hands hadn't yet stopped shaking. The carnage had been so complete, so total, that Kapp could barely find the words to describe it. Washington had just humiliated California 50-7 and, worse, devastated California's rookie Coach Joe Kapp—yes, that Joe Kapp—50-7, with the 7 coming only 54 seconds from the end.
"What hurt us the most was the last truck that hit us," said Kapp.
Yes, but did anybody get the number of that truck?
Well let's see, was it 16? 14? 2? 38?
October 17, 1982
"I sure saw a lot of purple out there," said Kapp.
90? 13? 31? 42?
There were two number 42s out there, weren't there? And two 67s and two 24s and two 36s and two 1s and...
Punchdrunk though they may have been, Kapp and his Golden Bears were not seeing double last Saturday afternoon in Seattle. It was, in fact, an occasion when you couldn't tell the Husky players with a scorecard.
Yes, Washington Coach Don James packed more than 100 bodies into purple and gold uniforms and then oversaw this horde as it marched up and down the gridiron in Husky Stadium. Oh, a few of the injured couldn't join the parade for instance, three starters—a linebacker, a cornerback and a tight end—plus the second-and third-string strong safeties, and the backup fullback, and the backup fullback's backup, who had injured a knee during pregame warmups. And, oh yes, Steve Pelluer, the Huskies' starting quarterback, had to leave the festivities after suffering a mild concussion in the second quarter.
But those things happen in football. Washington did just fine anyway, and James can take a large share of the credit—along with the equipment manager who outfitted James's legions. None of the players wore triple-digit numbers, and James somehow managed to keep those 66 Huskies with duplicate numerals from running onto the field at the same time as their numbersakes.
Indeed, 78 Huskies saw action, and about half of them, it seemed, scored touchdowns. The other half kept busy by blitzing and bashing Cal quarterbacks, linemen and ballcarriers. By the game's final two minutes, Cal had executed only three plays and one punt from inside Washington's territory—the Bears' deepest penetration had been to the Husky 44—but Kapp's kids still came slugging back. When the Golden Bears finally scored their touchdown, averting the shutout, they did so against Washington's third-string defense (second-string at some positions, but that was largely a result of injuries).
"How deep did I get into our depth chart?" said James. "The next running back to go in would have been me."
A Don James did in fact get into the game, in the person of Cal's second-string defensive tackle of that name. The exploits of that Don James—"Another tackle for Don James!" crooned the P.A. announcer—provided a pleasant diversion for the Husky student section, which otherwise had been dancing itself dizzy in the rare Seattle sunshine and directing renditions of that old Latin standard, Tequila, in a unisonic din at the formerly legendary, formerly hard-drinking, half-Mexican quarterback-turned-California-coach, Kapp.
There was no doubt that it was Kapp's very presence that made this game between Cal and Washington, 4-0 and ranked No. 2 by SI and No. 1 by AP and UPI, such a big one. The Bears' 3-1 start under Kapp had the earmarks of a miracle in progress. Nearly all the controversy that had accompanied Kapp's hiring last spring had suddenly vanished. Quarterback Gale Gilbert, who'd announced at midsummer that he would leave Cal after having told Kapp that he thought Kapp was incompetent, had returned in the fall and won the starting job. Of Kapp's arrival, Harvey Salem, a four-year starter at offensive tackle and a 3.2 psychology major, had said, "I was shocked. I thought, 'My God, Hollywood!' In one of our first meetings Coach Kapp was talking Rose Bowl, and we'd been 2-9. Give me a break!" Last week Salem was saying, "Joe is sincere, and it rubs off on the team."
"In the spring it was one long monsoon," says Cal Sports Information Director John McCasey. "But fall came, the clouds parted, and amazingly, it was time to play football." A season-opening 31-17 win at Colorado made a few skeptics into believers, and a 28-0 romp over San Diego State the following week brought more into the fold. Then a 26-7 thrashing of San Jose State after a tough 15-0 loss to Arizona State revived a lost religion. The ghost of Pappy Waldorf was alive in Joe Kapp. "During the San Jose game," says Kapp, "for the first time I could look down the bench and see a group of players who expected to win. You know, difficult as it is for me to comprehend this, last year these players expected to lose. Can you imagine that? Football players expecting to lose?"
There were so many converts that last week the buildup for the Cal-Washington game knocked the Golden Bears' Bay Area archrival, Stanford, possessor of the best college quarterback in America, to page six of the San Francisco Chronicle sports section.
"It's a very good position to be in, playing a top-ranked team," said Cal Athletic Director Dave Maggard a little smugly on Friday night. Maggard was the man who wanted Kapp and no one but Kapp to coach his Golden Bears. "We've already beaten the skeptics who said we wouldn't win a game. Not a game. We've beaten them by three. And we've already won more games than we did all last year. It's a good position to be in," he repeated. What did Maggard mean by that? He just smiled a smile that said, "What have we got to lose?" Oh my, what an answer awaited.
Meanwhile, things hadn't been exactly rosy in Seattle. Husky fans were being mighty hard on their team, and the Huskies were being pretty hard on themselves. With James's SRO redshirt class of '82—he has 17 players who are in their fifth year at Washington—coming of age, the feeling was that the Huskies could play the regular season by mail while shopping for holiday rentals in the Pasadena area. Explain then, you Huskies, the following: After opening up with a fully expected 55-0 blowout of Texas-El Paso, why did you beat Arizona by only 23-13, and trail Oregon, which hadn't scored an offensive touchdown in 12 quarters, 21-17 in the fourth period before pulling out a 37-21 win, and get behind San Diego State—the same San Diego State that was badly beaten by Cal—14-9 in the second quarter before winning 46-25?
"I know, I know," James said on Friday at the end of a week of tooth-jarring practices. In any other season—in 1981, for instance, when the Huskies went 9-2 and mauled Iowa 28-0 in the Rose Bowl—James would have had no need to defend his team for winning however it could, but of course this year is different. Bigger and better things are expected of Washington. "San Diego State had lost to Air Force and Cal," James said. "Oregon had been scoreless. Neither team looked good on film. We didn't prepare well and we struggled. We had four senior defensive backs—three from the redshirt class—yet we'd given up six touchdowns through the air. That caused some concern. It's easy to make the team do the physical work. Just keep them out there till they do it. It's the mental thing that's tricky."
The rankings have a lot to do with "the mental thing," as every coach knows. James is a little fed up with talking about the ratings, but, he says, "You'd like to get tired of being on top. What happens when you're Number One or Two is, your opponents get higher when they play you. That's to be expected. Only, when they've gotten higher, we've gotten lower. The ratings are helping our opponents more than they're helping us." Not that James isn't doing his part. In the two weeks before the Cal game, he didn't pick his team No. 1 on his UPI Coaches Poll ballot. What he needs is a campaign manager. VOTE WASHINGTON FOR NO. 3!
"It's been real weird, because we've been coming out flat and still winning," said Husky Linebacker and Defensive Captain Mark Stewart before taking on the Golden Bears. Added senior Split End Anthony Allen, "The main difference between this year and last is that now we're Number One and we're supposed to beat teams by 30 or 40. Last year we only had to play well enough to win, which is all you're supposed to have to do in football or any other sport. We've all been around so long, we kind of forget how to be emotional, so maybe we get behind and then get emotional for a quarter and beat them like we should beat them. I don't think we're the Number One team. It's hard to say who is."
Thus in the days leading up to Saturday's game a reversal of roles unfolded: Here came Cal and the mystical Kapp, a confident, newly minted juggernaut riding a crest, and there was highly ranked Washington believing Cal was for real and a little bit scared itself. That touch of fear was just the sort of thing James felt his team needed.
Kapp also had an extra incentive to win. He has been facing a good deal of resentment from coaches who don't like the fact that he got the head coaching job at Cal without ever having coached a down. "Does this mean Johnny Unitas gets the next job?" one noted coach had asked Maggard. James, realizing that Cal needed no more in the way of pregame motivation, tiptoed around the question of Kapp's credentials all week and instead lauded Cal Assistant Ron Lynn, who had been on James's staff at Kent State in 1974. "Ron's a great defensive coordinator, and I understand that Joe is letting him run the defense with no interference," said James. Lynn, far and away the most experienced of Kapp's aides, with eight years of major-college experience, is the sole full-time holdover from the regime of Roger Theder that fell at the end of last season. Kapp practically had to beg Lynn to stay, and he did, while others fled.
The Huskies regarded Cal as the first good team they would play this year; by winning big they could confirm to themselves that they deserved their lofty ranking. Said Pelluer early in the week, "We've been a little complacent. A little overconfident. I think as early as last year we all looked ahead and realized that we would be capable of dominating most of our schedule this year. Cal is much better than we thought they'd be. Practice this week has been fun. The hitting has been hard. There's excitement in the air."
Yes, there was, and who knew what to expect? Why Washington was made a 13-point favorite no one in Husky Stadium could figure out. But someone sure knew something.
Once the game got going, Washington looked as though it was going to continue its complacent ways. Cal's offense couldn't make a dent, but for most of the first half the Huskies would march the ball into Cal territory, cross the 30 and then take a nap. This type of lapse had become a source of some concern to James, because he feared the Huskies had become overly dependent on one of those fifth-year seniors, Chuck Nelson, who came into the game as the nation's second-leading scorer, having kicked an NCAA-record 19 straight field goals, going back to last season's 10th game. On three of Washington's first five possessions against the Golden Bears he ran his string to 20, 21 and 22, with kicks from 32, 36 and 20 yards, respectively. For all its work, Washington led just 9-0 midway through the second quarter.
"The thing that really worried me was starting out with those threes again," said James afterward. "You go down the field twice and get threes, and they go down the field once and get a seven, they're ahead. There came a time when we needed a seven."
The time came with 48 seconds remaining in the half, when on the Huskies' fourth try from inside the Cal two. Fullback Chris James barely bulled his way across from an inch out. But during the previous series Pelluer had had his bell rung by Roverback Richard Rodgers and had suffered the concussion. He had taken himself-out of the game when he couldn't remember the play he'd just called. Pelluer had completed six of nine passes up to that point, and his replacement, Tim Cowan, had thrown only 12 this season and 20 last year. On Cowan's first play, he was thrown for a nine-yard loss by Golden Bear Tackle Reggie Camp. "I was pretty damn scared after that," he said. "I thought, 'Oh no!' "
For the rest of the game Cowan was merely magnificent, completing 13 of 17 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns. He became the director of the rout, which was to commence as soon as the Washington band cleared the field after halftime. First he fired an 18-yard bullet to Split End Aaron Williams to ease the Huskies across mid-field, and then he let loose a 41-yard bomb to Williams, who pulled down the pass in the right corner of the end zone, the first of his two TD catches. Tequila! Williams' second TD came 6½ minutes later on a 12-yarder. Tequila! In between Williams' TDs, Tailback Dennis Brown swept right for a touchdown set up by a 16-yard pass from Cowan to Flanker Paul Skansi, who only three plays earlier had become the Huskies' alltime pass reception leader, with 112. Along the way, Nelson, who now has a run of 49 straight extra points to go along with his field-goal string, tied Hugh McElhenny as Washington's alltime leading scorer, with 233 points. Tequila! Late in the fourth quarter Cowan threw his third TD pass on a roll-out to the right and a cross-field burner to Allen, who was streaking to the left flag. Tequila!
It was getting monotonous, but the crowd savored every drop. As for Cal, well, the first three of Washington's second-half touchdowns came after punts of 15, 19 and 28 yards by Kriss Heisinger, filling in not so ably for the regular punter, Mike Ahr, who was back in Berkeley nursing a leg injury.
What's more, the Huskies' defense could only be described as unyielding. Said California Center Pat Brady, "They didn't beat us physically, but they really did confuse our quarterbacks [Gilbert and last year's starter, J. Torchio]. They'd show blitz and drop back. They would drop back and then blitz. Whatever we played them for they did otherwise." Twenty-four of the Huskies made at least one tackle, and except for California's last-gasp touchdown drive, Washington held the Golden Bears to six first downs, 63 yards rushing and 62 yards passing.
Said Kapp, "In all my years in football I've rarely participated in that kind of butt kicking. Anybody with pride—and pride has to be a big part of football—has to have a real ugly feeling after a loss like that."
But James meant it as a compliment when he told Kapp, "Joe, you guys really got us ready to play." Ready to the extent that James's 5-year plan of using red-shirts to bring a national championship to Washington seems firmly back on track. James even allowed that he might vote his Huskies No. 1 in the UPI coaches Poll this week.