The word from Washington coach Don James to his troops was "anger." As he played dictionary with the Huskies last Thursday, he made it clear that he wasn't interested in "hate" or "revenge" as team motivators. When they met ninth-ranked Brigham Young on Saturday, James wanted good old-fashioned, blue-choler bile. On Saturday, before a record Husky Stadium crowd of 61,197, several dozen angry young men in a purple rage routed BYU 52-21. Even with the two TDs the Cougars scored during garbage time, it was the worst BYU defeat in 13 years.
But what was it that had the James Gang so darned perturbed? Hadn't the Huskies crushed 13th-ranked Ohio State 40-7 to open the season? Hadn't they risen to No. 7 in the polls? Goodness, for once the sun was even peeking through in Seattle.
The fact was, the Huskies, James in particular, were still nettled by last year's 31-3 loss to BYU, the sharpest thorn in a disappointing 7-5 season. Many fans had considered that game a playoff of sorts for the 1984 national championship: BYU and Washington had finished 1-2 in the final polls in '84.
The Huskies purged themselves Saturday in particularly satisfying fashion. After all, their opponents were hardly pantywaists. Senior tackle Jason (the Almighty) Buck, who was named the 1985 WAC Defensive Player of the Year last season, leads a defense that opened this fall by shutting out Utah State 52-0. The next week, despite six turnovers, the Cougars beat New Mexico 31-30. On Saturday it was BYU for all of 12 seconds, which was the time Robert Parker needed to run back the opening kickoff 94 yards to give the Coogs a 7-0 lead.
September 28, 1986
Washington wasn't ruffled in the least, though, and midway through the first period, quarterback Chris Chandler ended a 64-yard drive with a two-yard keeper to tie the score. The Huskies then cashed in two BYU turnovers for a pair of field goals to go ahead 13-7, and then the tents of the vaunted aerial circus from Provo folded.
With the ball on his 20, BYU quarterback Steve Lindsley was sacked by linebacker Steve Roberts for a 12-yard loss. On the next play, defensive tackle Reggie Rogers (a brother of Cleveland safety Don Rogers, whom cocaine killed this summer) bagged Lindsley for a safety. Rogers had broken through BYU's line as part of a two-man rush.
Welcome to Mr. Rogers' neighborhood. Can you say "angry"? I know you can.
Rogers rattled Lindsley, a fifth-year senior who has inherited the rather heavy quarterback mantle at BYU. Lindsley had completed 52 of 77 passes for 730 yards in his first two games. Against the Huskies he was sacked eight times, four times by Roberts.
"I wasn't scared, but I probably paid too much attention to what people were doing up front," Lindsley said after the game. "They got to me a couple of times, and I took my eyes off of what was happening downfield and started watching the line."
Chandler was having no such problems. In the second quarter he capped a 50-yard drive with a 6-yard strike to tight end Rod Jones. On his next possession, Chandler read the blitz, checked off and connected with wide receiver Lon Zell (Mo) Hill for a 27-yard score.
Chandler was a high school All-America whose arrival at U-Dub from nearby Everett was loudly trumpeted. In fact, the Everett paper put out a 16-page tab section on Chandler after he graduated from high school. (One part of this collector's edition was called The Early Years. Chandler was 17.)
Despite his sterling notices, Chandler struggled, developing a reputation as a poor practice player. He redshirted one year and rode the bench for nearly two more. But he replaced the injured Hugh Millen in the final three games of 1985, engineered a dramatic win over USC and earned the MVP award in Washington's Freedom Bowl win over Colorado.
Chandler finished with 13 completions in 22 attempts for 202 yards with no interceptions, but Washington has a balanced attack: In two games, the Huskies have rushed for 406 yards, passed for 415. They have an interior line that averages 278 pounds, making it just smaller than its Seahawk counterpart. Fullback Rick Fenney is 6'3", 241 pounds, and runs a 4.55 40. But it is the reed among these redwoods, the 205-pound Chandler, who makes the offense go.
Hill, Chandler's favorite receiver, has already caught four touchdown passes this season. He learned to catch from a tough taskmaster, his father, former NFL wide receiver J.D. Hill. Hill's nickname, Mo, is a childhood shortening of his middle name, Ramon. The name also stands for M.O.E., Master Of Everything, a tag he picked up in second grade from a playground counselor. The name helped toughen him; in high school, he rarely went to the foul line at a road basketball game without hearing the taunt, "You can't make a mountain out of a Mo Hill."
Just now James and his Huskies are reluctant to make a mountain out of the season. They face unbeaten USC this week. And a feeling lingers that the team was burned reading its clips last year after SI ranked the Huskies No. 1 before the season. "Let's play a little longer," James says. "Let's see how good BYU is, how good Ohio State is, how good we are."
With the Huskies reluctant to talk Rose Bowl and rankings, they could do worse than to pick up Hill's watchword. At spring practice he wore a headband with KAATN emblazoned on it. He said the letters stood for his goals for '86, but he was keeping them secret. It is, however, a matter of public record that last weekend Hill and the Huskies, for the second week running, "kicked ass and took names." So far, the names have been Ohio State and Brigham Young.
Angry? Right now, the Huskies are frightening.