A PURPLE HAZING
Austin Murphy reports on last Saturday's Washington-Oregon game.
Decisions, decisions. Having reduced to dog meat its most formidable Pac-10 competition to date, Washington might find its greatest challenge ahead to be settling on a nickname for its fleet, carnivorous defense. On Sept. 22, the Huskies pinned a 31-0 goose egg on Southern Cal. Last Saturday they made Duck soup of Oregon in a 38-17 romp. Washington, which is 5-1 overall, is the only undefeated team in the Pac-10, and its fans, who have not been to the Rose Bowl since 1982, are phoning their travel agents.
So what would be a suitable sobriquet? Deep Purple and the Purple Wave of Pain are being bandied about in the Pacific Northwest. Nostalgic fans prefer Purple Haze, because 1990 is the 20th anniversary of the death of Jimi Hendrix, the most famous alum of Seattle's Garfield High. Out of the running is Purple Reign, the calling card of the '84 Husky defense, which sent nine players to the NFL. That team ended up 11-1 and No. 2 in the polls.
Though it was barely discernible to the naked eye, Washington sank into a slight funk after that spectacular season, averaging a mere seven wins per annum from 1985 through '88. Several things were happening at once. The nucleus of coach Don James's sterling staff left for better jobs, and the Husky brain trust whiffed on some recruiting decisions. "I'm talking about kids we could have had, but either did a poor job recruiting or rejected outright," says James. "A couple of them turned out to be All-Americas. And just like a lot of people who have some success, I guess we got a little fat."
October 21, 1990
He isn't just talking complacent fat. He's talking Mrs. Sprat fat. As in WIDE LOAD, PASS WITH CAUTION. Washington went through a period in which it coveted above all else huge offensive linemen in the 6'5" or 6'6" range. Mobility did not matter to the Husky coaches, bulk did.
James got a wake-up call at the '86 Sun Bowl. After spending the afternoon watching Alabama halfback Bobby Humphrey and linebacker Cornelius Bennett run circles around his team, James vowed to recruit leaner, faster players. The fruits of that decision were apparent early against Oregon. Six minutes into the game, tailback Greg Lewis scored untouched on a 53-yard run through a hole opened by center Ed Cunningham and guard Dean Kirkland, who both fit James's updated profile for shorter, quicker linemen.
Lewis, who ended up with 169 yards on 23 carries, has rushed for more than 100 yards in all six of Washington's games. Here is a guy who can find daylight, but for the first month of the season he couldn't find his way onto anyone's Heisman watch list. "Please, don't bring it up," said Lewis after the game. "I don't even think about it."
That, of course, is what they all say. However, something about Lewis's agenda for the upcoming week makes one believe him. "On Sunday I teach a disciple-ship class," he says. "On Monday I teach Bible studies on campus, and on Thursday night I lead a prayer group."
Oregon's Bill Musgrave, who had quietly emerged as the conference's best quarterback, passed for 302 yards against the Huskies, a heroic performance considering the thrashing he took during and after almost every throw. By land, the Ducks, who are now 4-2 overall and 0-2 in the Pac-10, gained a measly seven yards on 35 carries. "We were beaten, and I feel beaten," said Musgrave, expressing much the same sentiment as USC quarterback Todd Marinovich did when he came out of the Washington game shell-shocked, muttering, "All I saw was purple."
The Purple Haze was little more than a pale magenta wisp most of last season. After Arizona State struck for 493 yards in its 34-32 win over Washington in November, defensive coordinator Jim Lam-bright decided it was the time to give his charges more freedom to gamble and attack. Since then, the Huskies have been blitzing more and giving a blitz "look" on virtually every non-first-down play. As a result, when an opposing quarterback gazes across at them, he often sees eight or nine Washington defenders crowding the line of scrimmage like thirsty patrons at some Happy Hour bar.
But the Huskies don't always send everyone. Three days before the game, Oregon coach Rich Brooks talked about that vexatious defense. "You go through the game film and try to find a key, you think you have a key, but the key doesn't hold up," he said. "That's the biggest problem, finding out when they're coming."
Less enigmatic is where the Huskies are going. Hint: They haven't been there since 1982.
MILDCATS NO MORE
The big news in the Big Eight last week wasn't Nebraska's 69-21 win over a Missouri team that was still trying to get over its loss to Colorado in the infamous "five-down" game of Oct. 6. No, it was Kansas State's 23-17 victory over Oklahoma State. Only last year the Mildcats—er, Wildcats—had to live with the ignominy of being big-time college football's least successful program (SI, Sept. 4, 1989). But the Oklahoma State win gave Kansas State a 4—2 record (not since 1982 have the Wildcats won four games in a season) and its first victory over a Big Eight team other than Kansas or Missouri since 1984. The win also snapped a string of 17 consecutive conference losses and inspired, no kidding, bowl talk in Manhattan.
Look at the schedule. Kansas State's next three games are at 2-4 Missouri, 1-4-1 Kansas and against 2-3-1 Iowa State at home. No cinches there, but also no certain defeats. Should the Wildcats win all three, they could absorb the usual drubbings by Oklahoma and Colorado in their last two games (they have already lost to Nebraska) and still get invited to a bowl for the second time in the school's history. If so, that would be a fitting reward for fifth-year quarterback Carl Straw, who completed 14 of 21 passes for 182 yards against the Cowboys and scored the winning TD. "Guys like me came here to play Big Eight football," said Straw after the game. "I think Kansas State finally belongs in the Big Eight."
BACK IN THE SADDLE
Texas's 14-13 win over previously unbeaten Oklahoma before the usual sellout crowd of 75,587 at the Cotton Bowl bore an eerie resemblance to the Longhorns' 28-24 victory over the Sooners last season. Once again, Texas quarterback Phil Gardere passed for the game-winning TD in the final moments. Once again, the man who got burned was Sooner corner-back Charles Franks, who could only say, "Two years in a row, and it had to be me." The only difference was that Johnny Walker, the receiver who caught last year's game-winner, was a decoy this time, opening the way for Gardere to hook up with flanker Keith Cash on a crossing pattern with 2:00 remaining. The play capped a gritty 91-yard drive.
The Longhorns, however, didn't lock up the win until defensive end Shane Dronett, who had blocked an R.D. Lashar field goal attempt earlier in the quarter, forced Lashar into missing a 46-yarder in the final moments. At least, that's the way Dronett saw it. "I think he was thinking of me blocking that other kick," Dronett said. "I think that's one of the reasons he kicked it left."
The Longhorns are now 3-1 and entertaining ideas of being...No. 1? Really? "I'd rank us Number One because we've played tough teams," says Longhorn running back Phil Brown. That's pushing it a bit, but Texas does deserve to be somewhere in the Top 20.
After Ole Miss improved its record to 5-1 with a 28-12 win over Georgia in Athens, Rebels coach Billy Brewer had this to say when asked if his program had turned the corner: "I don't know if we've turned the corner, but we've turned on our blinker."
...Davidson, 8-63 for the previous seven seasons, is 4-2 this year after beating Methodist College 49-7 in a Division III game. The miracle worker is coach Dave Fagg, a Davidson alum who was an associate head coach at Arizona last season....
After his team's 45-21 loss to Pitt, Rutgers coach Doug Graber left the field without shaking hands with Panther coach Paul Hackett, apparently because he felt Pitt had run up the score. Graber pointed out that the Panthers were throwing deep passes while ahead 35-0....
Speaking of running it up, BYU's Ty Detmer was still on the field with his team leading Colorado State 52-7 early in the fourth quarter of a 52-9 victory. The reason? Detmer needed nine yards to break Jim McMahon's NCAA record of 12 consecutive games with more than 300 yards total offense. After he got the yardage, Detmer gave way to backup Joe Evans. "Putting Ty back in there had nothing to do with the Heisman Trophy," said Cougar coach La Veil Edwards, who also said he would never play Detmer just to pile up numbers. Right, coach, and excuse us for snickering.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: Sophomore quarterback Troy Kopp of the University of Pacific completed 31 of 52 passes for 515 yards and a school-record seven touchdowns in the Tigers' 67-37 romp over Cal State-Fullerton.
DEFENSE: Kenny Perry, a junior strong safety for Houston, had 10 tackles, six of them unassisted, and made two fourth-quarter interceptions in the Cougars' come-from-behind 36-31 victory over Texas A&M.
SMALL SCHOOLS: In a 48-43 win over Elmhurst, North Park senior quarterback John Love completed 29 of 51 passes for 533 yards to break by one yard the Division III record set by Bob Monroe of Knox College in 1986.