Washington quarterback Hugh Millen, the hero of the Huskies' 20-11 upset of 10th-ranked Michigan last Saturday, was riding along I-94 in the team bus en route to the Detroit airport and a charter flight back to Seattle. "I read or heard somewhere," said Millen, "that the failure to achieve is more often thwarted by the failure to attempt than by the failure to excel. Boy, I always remember that."
Before 103,072 stunned Wolverine fans in Ann Arbor, and one stunned coach, Michigan's Bo Schembechler ("We didn't do anything right. We were about as bad as you can get"), the heretofore unheralded, indeed unwanted, Millen attempted, achieved—and excelled. A junior walk-on making his second start, he completed 13 of 16 passes, including a 73-yard TD strike to split end Mark Pattison that broke Michigan's back. Not bad for someone who was recruited only by San Diego State. And that was after two years of junior-college ball. No one was interested in Millen when he came out of high school.
Pattison, a senior who also caught a critical touchdown pass in the Huskies' 25-24 defeat of the Wolverines last fall, happens to be Millen's best buddy, his former teammate at Roosevelt High in Seattle, his Phi Gamma Delta fraternity brother and his roommate. Millen estimates he has thrown "a zillion" passes to Pattison at North Seattle's View Ridge Playfield and at Husky Stadium, going back to their Roosevelt days, when they would climb over the stadium's barbed wire fence. Once inside, they would pretend they were playing for the Huskies.
In real life on Saturday, Washington held a 10-3 lead with 11:16 remaining in the third quarter, but it seemed that the Wolverines couldn't continue to play as woefully as they had been. As it turned out, Michigan played worse. Anyway, the Huskies faced third-and-seven on their own 27 when offensive coordinator Gary Pinkel ordered up 51 Stop.
September 23, 1984
This pass play calls for Pattison to run directly at one safety, head-fake him and go up the right hash mark; for flanker Danny Greene to go down 18 yards and do a read curl; and for tight end Rod Jones to do a read curl 10 yards down-field. Millen fakes a draw to the tailback and then makes a six-step drop. He looks first to Pattison, but he's nearly always covered. Pattison guesses they've run 51 Stop 40 times in practice, and he has gotten the ball exactly once. That's fine, because if the safety stays with Pattison, the deep middle should be open for Greene.
In the huddle Pattison said to Greene, "O.K., Danny, it's all yours." But when Millen saw both safeties line up within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, "I thought, 'They don't realize Pattison is one fast guy.' " Pattison says that when he saw the shallow safety, "I started licking my chops." And with that, Pattison took off, and Millen fired the ball 46 yards in the air to him. Pattison slowed slightly as he caught it between cornerback Garland Rivers and safety Doug Mallory. "When I saw it coming," says Pattison, "it was floating because of the wind. So I thought they might tip it, and I said, 'O.K., I'll catch the tip.' Then it seemed like a little puff of wind came up and just jetted the ball, and I'll tell you, my eyes were so big."
And just like that, the Huskies were up 17-3. Afterward Schembechler said, "This game was an embarrassment to Michigan football." The word "ridiculous" also crept into his review. He vowed that the Wolverines, who had beaten Miami the previous week, would be better against Wisconsin this weekend, and if they weren't, "You'll find me at right tackle." Which prompted one reporter to ask, "What's your number?"
To be sure, the Michigan attack needs help. The Wolverines got their first-half points on a school-record 52-yard field goal by Bob Bergeron. Further, their sole touchdown was meaningless, a seven-yard pass from Jim Harbaugh to split end Vince Bean with two seconds to play. Harbaugh had a horrendous day. Indeed, his 17-for-37 passing wasn't a true reflection of his ineptitude; seven of his nine completions came in the final 1:40. He also threw three interceptions. So much for Bo's preseason assurances that, at long last, he had come up with a passer.
Millen and Pattison are such close pals that they could be called Pattimill. Or Humark. Pattison had an outstanding high school career and was pursued by several major schools. But Millen, well, he had always been an average player but a great fan—of Michigan's. He lived in Ann Arbor from age 1 to 4 and evidently got bitten by the Go Blue bug while he was taking naps. When he was 12 he drew a Michigan poster that showed a Wolverine tackle sacking a Washington quarterback. "Little did I know," says Millen with a laugh. For years a Michigan helmet hung over his bed.
Millen didn't go out for football at Roosevelt until his junior year, and that season he played only jayvee. As a senior on the varsity he suffered a concussion in the first game, and although he played in the school's six remaining games that year, he was hardly a bluechipper. Millen recalls that a Washington recruiter did drop by and that he wrote in his scouting report, "Every offensive lineman we have has quicker feet than him."
Other scouts were even less impressed, so Millen wandered off to Santa Rosa (Calif.) J.C., where he played second team as a freshman. The next year a back injury required him to wear a brace on the field and kept him from throwing long. Millen admits that the big schools may have been put off by his physical limitations. As a high school junior he was 6 feet, 160 pounds, ran a 5.4 40 and bench-pressed 145 pounds. Today he's 6'4", 214, runs a 4.7 40 and benches 325. Before enrolling at Washington, he had never lifted weights, had never studied game films and couldn't read defenses. "I decided a little more dedication would help me rise to some level and fit in," he says.
When Millen transferred to Washington in April 1983, he moved in with the Pattison family and immediately resumed throwing to Mark in the park. When Millen showed up unannounced at spring practice, he couldn't even get the equipment people to lend him a ball to work out with. The reason the Huskies gave him a serious look was that John Fahnestock, who had coached Millen when Hugh was a youngster and now coaches a Seattle semipro team, put in a call to the Husky staff on his behalf. Before long, Millen, who was redshirted last season, was turning heads. In his first game, a fortnight ago against Northwestern, Millen didn't achieve a whole lot, but the Huskies won 26-0.
Millen is prospering largely because he's working under Don James, a master at developing young talent. James makes sure that Millen isn't asked to do too much and that he has good help doing it. On Saturday his friends in the offensive line—a group feared to be talent-shy despite the fact that all of them are seniors—provided Millen with superior protection. Says Pinkel, "I tell the quarterbacks they're never as good or as bad as they think. Hugh did more things right this week than last week. But he has to get a lot better, because I have very high expectations for him."
Says Pattison, "Hugh is feisty, and he somehow moves the chains. He likes being in the heat of the fire. I told him he couldn't let a big game like Michigan dictate how he'd play. I think he listened to me." Says Millen, "In the course of history, Michigan versus Washington isn't a cosmic event. All I did was compete my heart out and enjoy it."