History means little to UW and BYU players

SEATTLE — If anyone was hoping today’s football game between Washington and Brigham Young would have a little extra intensity thanks to a 24-year-old grudge, well, sorry, but you’re going to be disappointed.

A quick lesson for those not familiar with college-football history: In 1984, the Huskies went 11-1, beat then No. 2 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, and finished the season as the second-ranked team in the country. The Huskies didn’t win the Pac-10, however, thanks to a 16-7 loss to USC.

And the No. 1 team that year? None other than BYU, which went 13-0, but against a decidedly weaker schedule. The only common opponent between the teams was Michigan, which Washington beat 20-11 in Ann Arbor in its season opener, and BYU defeated 24-17 in the Holiday Bowl.

Husky fans at the time were upset, thinking their team deserved the national championship, and some still feel that way. Clearly the current Huskies must be aware of the venom and feel like they’re obligated to give the Cougars some payback that’s been nearly a quarter century in the making, right?

“I was completely unaware of that,” UW quarterback Jake Locker said. “So I had no idea that that had even occurred.”

“No, not at all,” guard Jordan White-Frisbee said when asked if he knew about it.

“Sorry, haven’t heard about that,” linebacker Donald Butler said.

Here’s the problem. The controversy may be 24 years old, but almost none of the players are.

Tyrone Willingham, who was an assistant coach at North Carolina State in 1984, had to be reminded of what happened that year when asked who should have won the national title.

“Obviously Washington,” he said, giving the only answer the current Huskies coach could.

So much for a grudge match.

Even Robert Anae, BYU’s current offensive coordinator and a guard on that 1984 team, said there’s nothing to it. In the 24 years since his team won that title, he’s never had a current or former UW player, coach or fan give him a hard time about that title, or anyone tell him his team didn’t deserve it.

“You know what’s funny about that deal?” he said. “We were done playing and I was back home in Hawaii, and I didn’t even know we’d won the national championship. The final votes came out (and) there we were. Some of us were already graduated and gone. It wasn’t the celebrated crescendo event that it is nowadays.”

Still, plenty is at stake when the two teams face off at noon today. Washington — and here’s some news you surely haven’t heard already this week — has a coach on the hot seat and desperately needs a win. BYU, meanwhile, is hoping for an undefeated season that could lift the Cougars into a BCS bowl.

The school’s media guide calls this season the team’s “Quest for perfection,” and the players know the pressure is on.

“It’s good and bad,” BYU quarterback Max Hall said of the pressure of the so-called quest. “It can be bad if we think about it too much and get ahead of ourselves, but it’s good because it forces us to prepare and work hard ever single week and not take any game lightly, because we know every one counts.”

The fact that Utah, Boise State and Hawaii, also non-BCS conference schools, have made BCS bowl games gives the Cougars hope.

“If we do that, we have a chance to win all of our games, then at the end I think we should have a shot,” Hall said. “We know we’ve got to be perfect or almost perfect to get there, so every game counts.”

Even though Las Vegas likes the Cougars as 9.5-point favorites against the Huskies, Washington has some recent history on its side.

Like BYU this season, Boise State came to Seattle in 2007 with the nation’s longest winning streak. And like BYU this season, Boise State was a team that hoped to contend for a BCS Bowl. Both the streak and the BCS hopes died with a 24-10 UW victory.

Brigham Young’s last non-conference road win was six years ago, and that was at Utah State, a school located just 130 miles north of the BYU campus in Provo. The Cougars haven’t beaten a BCS-conference opponent on the road since 2001, when they defeated Mississippi State. Since then the Cougars have lost non-conference road games at Hawaii, Nevada, USC, Notre Dame, Stanford, Boise State, Notre Dame again, Arizona, Boston College, UCLA and Tulsa.

“We’ve had some struggles with our non-conference road games in the past, but we’re really concentrating on that this year to put that behind us,” Hall said. “This is a new team, a new year, and this is an important game for us if we want to reach our goals.”

Contact Herald Writer John Boyle at jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more on University of Washington athletics, check out the Huskies blog at heraldnet.com/huskiesblog

Talk to us

More in Sports

Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III celebrates after scoring against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of Sunday’s game in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
Grading the Seahawks in their 37-27 win over the Panthers

Seattle turns in a solid all-around performance in front of the 2013 Super Bowl winners.

Arlington’s defense stuffs Ferndale running back Talan Bungard on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at Arlington High School in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Arlington steamrolls Ferndale in 3A Wesco North showdown

The Eagles light up offense in the first half, finish business to earn a 46-14 win.

Lake Stevens High School head football coach Tom Tri hoists his team’s championship trophy during a community parade and celebration Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
The Herald’s 2022-23 Man of the Year in Sports: Tom Tri

The Lake Stevens coach guided the Vikings to Snohomish County’s first large classification football state title in more than 30 years.

West Linn’s Ryan Vandenbrink (23) runs with the ball during a football game between Lake Stevens and West Linn at Lake Stevens High School in Lake Stevens, Washington on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. West Linn won, 49-30. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Turnovers cost Lake Stevens in loss to Oregon power West Linn

The Vikings’ run of 35 straight home wins in the regular season ends in an interstate showdown of big-school state champions.

Marysville Pilchuck’s Christian Van Natta lifts the ball in the air to celebrate a turnover during the game against Marysville Getchell on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 22

Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 22: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report… Continue reading

Lynnwood teammates mob senior Abbie Orr (4) after her impressive dig led to a point against Jackson during a volleyball match Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, at Lynnwood High School in Bothell, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lynnwood volleyball team continues rise to prominence

After ending a 20-year state drought last season, the Royals are surging again and have vaulted to No. 3 in Class 3A in the new WSVCA poll.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) scrambles up field during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Seahawks set to host Panthers, honor past while focused on present

Seattle will honor the 10-year anniversary of its only Super Bowl championship during Sunday’s game.

Jackson High’s Ben Lee lunges to get to the ball against Kamiak on Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022, at the Kamiak Tennis Courts in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Prep boys tennis season preview: Players and teams to watch

A look at the area’s top athletes and teams on the tennis court this fall.

Fall prep sports roundup.
Prep roundup for Saturday, Sept. 23

Also, Friday’s non-football prep results.

Most Read