Thursday, September 30, 2010

My very first Husky game ever: Flashbacks to 1995 vs USC

By Kshell

When the Washington Huskies(1-2) travel to Los Angeles to take on the 18th ranked USC Trojans(4-0) many fans will look back fondly of the great games between these two programs. When these teams faced off in the 80's and 90's typically the winner would go on to the Rose Bowl. The Huskies have had many great victories over the Trojans in years past.

Look no further than last years shocking win when UW coming off a 0-12 season and had lost the previous year to the Trojans 56-0. Steve Sarkisian who was the offensive coordinator at USC along with Nick Holt who was the defensive coordinator that game were now at UW. UW had shocked the #3 ranked Trojans 16-13 in the biggest upset win in Washington Huskies football history.

The Huskies under Don James had several great battles with the Trojans. They upset Marcus Allen and the Trojans 20-10 in 1980 down in Los Angeles for the first victory down in LA since 1964. The Huskies defeated the Trojans again in 1981 13-3 in a rain soaked game. Both victories helped UW go to the Rose Bowl.

In 1985 making his first career start sophomore Chris Chandler led a 98 yard game winning touchdown drive to defeat the Trojans 20-17. Then the Huskies would lose four consecutive times to the Trojans setting up the 1990 showdown when the 5th ranked Trojans came to town. UW led by Greg Lewis who ran for 126 yards a touchdown and was named Pac-10 player of the week. The Huskies shut out the mighty Trojans 31-0. Todd Marinovich was 7 for 16 passing for 80 yards and offered the most famous Husky Stadium quote an opponent has ever stated. When asked about the game his response was "I just saw purple, that's all, no numbers. Just purple."

Yes the Huskies have had plenty of great victories over the Trojans but I'm going to talk about a game in which the Huskies did not win. They also didn't lose this game either.

October 28, 1995: #13 USC Trojans(6-1,4-0) at #17 Washington Huskies(5-2,4-0)

This was the very first Husky football game I ever attended. I had just turned 10 years old the previous month. I was so excited when my dad got the tickets and instead of taking a friend he chose to take me to the game. At show and tell I brought the tickets and the tickets were by far the coolest thing on show and tell. The teacher asked me the odds of the Huskies winning and because I was a stupid 10 year old I said 50-50. Little did I know I would be sort of correct.

This game was a huge game for Rose Bowl aspirations. Washington coming off two years of probation was finally set to be eligible to play in a bowl game. Due to probation still this year in 1995 they were only allowed four games on T.V. all year long and this was obviously one of the games picked(Along with the opener vs ASU, at Ohio State and vs Notre Dame). This was back in the day when both programs were great Pac-10 powerhouses. The Trojans from 1987-1989 went to three consecutive Rose Bowls then the Washington Huskies went to three consecutive Rose Bowls from 1990-1992. This was the homecoming game for the Huskies.

At the time of this game the Huskies had lost just three games total in Husky Stadium dating back to 1990(UCLA November of 1990, USC November of 1993, and Notre Dame a few weeks earlier in 1995). USC had national championship hopes featuring future #1 pick overall in the draft wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson. The Trojans were picked to win the Pac-10 going into the year and started the year off hot going 6-0 but coming into this game they had lost to Notre Dame 38-10. The Washington Huskies had just two losses on the year both were competitive losses at Ohio State and a special teams meltdown at home to Notre Dame.

There was plenty of famous alumni on both sidelines. On the Washington Huskies sideline featured the all-time leading rusher in school history Napoleon Kaufman who was enjoying a bye week for the Raiders. On the USC sideline was former Trojan and at the time Mariner great Randy Johnson. He was the only guy wearing USC gear in Husky Stadium history to record a standing ovation since he had just saved Seattle baseball the previous months.

Former Husky defensive end standout Jason Chorak reflects on the game, "Yes a game of two powerhouses in the Pac 10 with a great receiver on one side Keyshawn Johnson a lot of missed field goals which cost us another Rose Bowl and two great traditions."

The Huskies raced out to a quick 21-0 lead. The man who had replaced Napoleon Kaufman, Leon Neal would rush for over 100 yards including a long touchdown run. The Huskies up 13-0 scored a touchdown and faked the extra point. Then backup quarterback Shane Fortney kept the ball and ran it in for a 2 point conversation giving the Huskies a commanding 21-0 lead. It had appeared the Trojans were going to get blown out in back to back weeks on the road. The Huskies defense led by Lawyer Milloy was shutting down Keyshawn the first three quarters. The Huskies offense was clicking behind Damon Huard who would pass for 209 yards and have zero interceptions. Then the fourth quarter happened.

" A goal line stance from the UW defense and a Pac-10 championship outright to the Rose Bowl instead it was a co-championship and the Sun Bowl. We started fast and the offensive could not move the ball than the defensive played conservative instead of out attack style defensive." reflected 1996 Pac-10 defensive player of the year Jason Chorak.

The Huskies would stall on offense and go conservative that entire fourth quarter. The defense played kind of a prevent defense. I remember not hearing that stupid USC fight song hardly at all first three quarters to hearing it non stop in the fourth. I remember all the fans getting that uneasy feeling. Next thing you know Keyshawn can't be stopped and is taking the game over. The game was cut to 21-14 when USC had the ball led by quarterback Brad Otton who had led Tumwater to the state championship in 1989 over Cheney 27-7.

USC was facing a 4th and six from its own 46 yard line, Otton scrambled for a 19 yard run to the UW 35 yard line. Then with 33 seconds left in the game Otton found Johnny McWilliams for a two yard strike to make the score 21-20. Knowing USC had held tiebreaker due to more non conference wins than Washington had John Robinson elected to kick the extra point to tie it at 21-21. Washington head coach Jim Lambright elected to run out the clock and end the game in a tie. This was the last year before college football had overtime.

I remember leaving the stadium surprised as a kid. The Husky fans were leaving the game as a loss while the USC fans were loud and cheering. That shows there are no ties in sports regardless of the scoreboard. Due to tie breakers and the fact USC overcame a 21 point deficit on the road in a hostile stadium which featured 74,421 which at the time was the largest in the series history including the games down in L.A.

It was a hard fought battle which featured plenty of great players on both teams. This game featured a ton of Rose Bowl possibilities and with good reason. From 1960-1992 the winner of this game went to Rose Bowl 23 times(15 by USC, 8 by Washington). These programs at the time were the class of the Pac-10.

"When you watched that game you where watching two traditions go at it like football is supposed to be played," recalled Chorak.

The Huskies the next week took on the Oregon Ducks at home and after trailing 24-0 rallied to pull within 24-22 but two missed field goals in the final minutes would cost the Huskies a win and ultimately a chance at the Rose Bowl. USC would drop its last game of the year to UCLA giving the Huskies a Co Pac-10 championship. USC would finish the year 9-2-1 after defeating Northwestern in the Rose Bowl. The Washington Huskies would finish the year 7-4-1 after losing to Iowa 38-18 in the Sun Bowl.

Had the Huskies not collapsed in the 4th quarter of either the Notre Dame game(tiebreaker was non conference record remember) or the USC game blowing a 21-0 lead they would have gone to the Rose Bowl. Had the Huskies simply just defeated Oregon at home they would have gone to the Rose Bowl. Ultimately the 1995 Huskies had three games where they went 0-2-1 all of which took place at Husky Stadium where they were prior to those games they were 31-2 at Husky Stadium dating back to 1990.

That was my very first Husky game. What are the odds that my first game would end in the last tie in UW history? It was a great game by two great teams and when I think of USC I have fond memories and hopefully this Saturday the Huskies can create some new memories.

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