Sept. 11, 2007
By W. Thomas Porter
This article is the second of four parts leading up to the Washington-USC game on September 29. During the half-time of that game, the 1960 Husky team will be celebrated. The articles chronicle the team's rise from ashes -- a two year probation starting in 1956 -- to back to back Rose Bowl victories and a national championship.
In 1959, Washington recorded a 9-1 season -- losing only to USC 22-15 -- won its first conference title since 1936, and earned a trip to the Rose Bowl to face Wisconsin, the Big Ten champion. The Badgers were ranked sixth in the nation, the Huskies eighth, in the final regular season Associated Press poll.
Read part one of Tom Porter's four-part series on Washington's 1960 championship team here
In the NCAA football season statistics, Washington ranked high in several categories. The team led the nation in punt return yardage allowed, giving up only 2.9 yards per return. The Huskies were fifth in interceptions and eighth in points allowed -- 65 in ten games.
Both teams were looking to reverse their Rose Bowl fortunes. The Huskies had not won in four previous appearances and had not scored since the Coolidge administration. The 7-2 Badgers had appeared in the 1953 affair and lost to USC 7-0. It was the only loss by a Big Ten representative in the thirteen years of Rose Bowl games played between Big Ten and PCC teams after World War II.
The men from Madison fielded a typical Big Ten team, huge in the line and heavy in the backfield. The line averaged fifteen pounds more than the Husky front wall. Oddsmakers quickly established the Huskies as a six-and-a-half point underdog.
Owens and his staff were clearly focused on beating Wisconsin. They chose Long Beach for their housing and practices to get away from the entertainment and attractions of Los Angeles. Owens would let the players go to the functions required by Tournament hosts -- Disneyland and Lawry's Prime Rib House, and a few others -- but they were in Long Beach to work.
Owens wanted the practices to be tough and focused. "The purpose of my secret practices isn't necessarily to experiment with new plays. I just like to keep my players' minds on the practice, not the spectators. We can accomplish much more behind closed gates than we ever could with people hanging around."
Most of the columnists didn't give the Huskies much of a chance. Husky lineman Ben Davidson read many articles building up to the game. "I remember the newspapers making fun of us. One newspaper reported, `The Huskies are small and they are slow too.' It was going to be a mismatch of the century -- the mighty Wisconsin Badgers against the lowly University of Washington. There were just a lot of articles maligning the poor Huskies."
Early New Year's morning, the Huskies awoke to do battle. They ate, mostly in silence, as they focused on the biggest day of their lives. Some stared ahead, some talked in hushed tones. There wasn't any laughter or raucous banter. They were preparing to be assassins.
Co-captains McKeta and Schloredt met Wisconsin's Jerry Stalcup and Bob Zeman in the middle of the field. The Badgers won the toss and elected to kick off and defend the north side. When asked "why?" Coach Bruhn replied, "We've got a good kicker and there was a strong wind blowing (from the Wisconsin players' backs)." For the next few minutes, Bruhn's decision seemed sound. Fleming stood near the ten-yard line waiting to cradle the ball into his chest and return up field. He was hit on the 27, fumbled, and recovered his own miscue. After getting a first down, the Huskies were stopped. Schloredt arched a 42-yard punt down to the Badger 12 where sophomore quarterback, Jim Bakken, fielded the bouncing ball and was immediately knocked out of bounds.
The defense had stopped the Huskies and now the Wisconsin offense thought it would push the lighter foe down the field. But Washington just stuffed them on three plays. Fleming returned Hackbart's punt 14 yards to the Wisconsin 49. Already, Washington's punting advantage was paying off.
On fourth and one, Schloredt ran a keeper to the right for six yards and a first down on the Badger 34. On third and nine, Schloredt lobbed a short pass to Jackson sliding out the backfield for seven. Schloredt rolled left for a first down on the 23. Gegner was already beginning to think that Lanphear was not that good. "He tries to run around my blocks instead of hitting me head on. Our line is getting off the ball very quickly and opening some huge holes. We are sticking our helmets on their chests and driving through." Tipps added, "Lanphear was part of our scouting process. He was the backbone of their whole defensive philosophy. We went right over where he was playing. And that depressed him."
On the next play, Schloredt faked to McKeta, rolled right and weaved 17 yards to the Badger 6. On the tenth play of the drive, the entire right side of the Husky line sealed off Wisconsin's left side by driving their opponents back and inside. Left guard Chuck Allen pulled to the right and hit the cornerback on a perfect block. Jim Skaggs fired out from the left tackle spot and drove the left outside linebacker almost into the end zone. McKeta cut up inside Allen and raced untouched into the end zone. McKeta thought "this is too easy." Fleming's kick put the Huskies up 7-0.
Schloredt's strategy was simple -- get Wisconsin off balance and keep them there. "We hit them with plays forcing them to adjust to our strong side. Then we hit them on the weak side."
The Huskies were attacking aggressively on every play. The linemen were ramming the Wisconsin front wall with their helmets. The Badgers were back on their heels. On the Badgers' first play from scrimmage after returning the kickoff to their 23, they met the Huskies' alternate unit. They got a rude welcome. Halfback Billy Hobbs fumbled after colliding with end Stan Chapple and Brent Wooten recovered for the Huskies on the 29. A double reverse, Hivner to Don Millich to Wooten, gave the Huskies a first down on the 19. On fourth down on the 18, Fleming kicked a 36-yard field goal into the wind to put Washington ahead 10-0.
Four plays later, the Huskies were on the scoreboard again. On Wisconsin's next series, Bakken set up to punt on third down from the 16. At dinner, several days before the game, the athletic director's wife, Beth Briggs, was seated next to Tipps and Walker. The Husky coaches told her that they planned to block a punt because they saw something on film that suggested they could do it. Mrs. Briggs watched the next play with some anticipation. With a vicious charge, Kinnune knocked his opponent into the backfield and stretched out and blocked the ball. Bakken recovered and was hit by Meyers on the four-yard line. Mrs. Briggs was out of her seat leading the cheers. On fourth and 17, Bakken punted again, this time booming it 49 yards. Fleming took it on the second bounce on his 47, raced laterally to the far side and cut inside the first would-be tackler. He then picked up some initial blocks to clear a lane. He sped through the next wave of defenders and kept his eye on Gegner. The German immigrant was blocking Bakken inside and Fleming darted outside and cruised the last 15 yards into the end zone.
No celebration. He had been in the promised land before and didn't need any high fives or hugs or to spike the pigskin. He calmly tossed the ball to the official and trotted back to get the kicking tee. After the 53-yard play, the Huskies had really popped the Badgers' balloon. The score was 17-0 and Wisconsin didn't have a first down. Husky fans were giddy with delight. In the middle of the second quarter, after Hivner's punt went out of bounds on the Wisconsin 31, the Badgers mounted a nine-play drive to score and add a two-point conversion to close the lead to nine.
On Wisconsin's next possession, Hackbart sent Fleming back to his 18 to field a 44-yard punt. The ball bounced high and Fleming leaped to grab it. He started right toward the far hash mark and cut inside the first Wisconsin defender. Folkins' block to the inside opened up a lane near the sideline. Just as a Badger was ready to stop the Dallas Dodger, Gegner was coming back on the inside and stretched his 6'2" frame out to strike the surprised Badger down. Now at full speed, Fleming did the rest on his own. He bowled over several defenders at the 32, stiff-armed another at midfield, and was finally caught from behind by Tom Wiesner, the last Wisconsin defender, on the Badger 27.
On third and six, with a little more than two minutes to go in the half, Schloredt teamed up with Folkins on the most spectacular play of the game. Schloredt rolled right. "What I was taught was that when I came to the corner, I am coming to run and unless the defensive back leaves somebody open, I'm running the football. I would run with the ball high most of the time and throw the baby right at the last moment. I ran on two-thirds of the pass plays I called. So the coaches designed a play where the right halfback would roll left and I would drop back and semi-roll to about the tight end spot on the right side of the line. We would have several pass routes. One was a post -- usually the split left end. The right halfback would swerve the other direction and go down the far sideline. The tight end would look like he was going the other direction from the roll-out." It was the Utah Special.
"As I rolled right, I was looking to see where the safety was and the safety gave me room down the middle. I saw Lee and he was pretty even with the safety and I just led him into the post." Folkins raced left to right between two defenders. The Husky quarterback threw it up high and Folkins launched his 6'5" frame and long arms as far as he could and caught the ball on his finger tips. "I threw the ball where he had a chance of getting it and the defensive backs didn't. Lee goes up and makes one of those damn finger tip catches." Folkins deftly brought the ball into his chest as his outstretched body landed in the end zone to complete one of the most amazing touchdown catches in Rose Bowl history .
Keith Jackson, KOMO's Sports Director, said the press corps was buzzing during the intermission They were asking "Who are these jackrabbits? Who is this guy Fleming?"
Washington would receive the kickoff to open the second half. As the players returned to the field, Owens took Schloredt aside and stressed the importance of the Huskies' first possession. "This is a very important time. We have to go down and drive and let them know they are not going to get back in this ball game." He told Schloredt if the Huskies' scored, it would break the Badgers' hearts and souls.
Fleming got the Huskies in good field position by returning the kickoff 29 yards to the Washington 34. The Huskies executed Owens' directions perfectly. In just over four minutes, Washington ran 11 plays, most of which were just smash-mouth football. Barry Bullard and Meyers cleared the way over the right side and Jackson followed. He ran the football five times through that side for 47 of the 66 yards. After Jackson's first carry over right guard where Lanphear was defending, Bullard and Meyers came back to the huddle and told Schloredt, "We think we hurt Lanphear on that last play." Schloredt decided to take advantage. "I was calling the plays and we ran the next three over Lanphear's side." Lanphear eventually went out of the game.
On his third straight carry, Jackson's 25-yard rumble put the ball on the Wisconsin 16. Schloredt then threw the only pass of the drive to Folkins in the end zone. This time it fell incomplete. So he went back to Jackson for six to the 10. Then the drive appeared doomed. Schloredt rolled right down to the four where he was hit. The ball popped loose back to the 11. But there was Fleming. Trailing the option play, he recovered the football. Again, Schloredt faked the pitch, kept the ball, and muscled his way around end down to the six. After the play was dead, Hackbart came up out of his defensive back position and tried to level Fleming who was standing out of bounds. The referee threw his flag and the Badgers were penalized for a personal foul down to the two -- half the distance to the goal from the spot of the transgression. Jackson shook off Stalcup, Wisconsin's all-conference guard, with ridiculous ease to score standing up. Fleming again for the conversion. The modest Jackson commented on the drive. "When they called my number, I just ran. I never remember individual plays."
The Huskies scored two more times in the fourth quarter to record a 44-8 victory.
In the post-game analysis, people in the press box were very impressed with Washington's tremendous pursuit. They observed that a Husky player might have been knocked to the ground, but he never stayed there. Wisconsin's Hackbart sighed and said, "It was discouraging to see our guys put some good blocks on the Washington players and then have them get up and run back to the play. We've never seen tigers like that in the Big Ten -- NEVER!"
Newspapers reports were full of praise for the Huskies -- none more so than Lloyd Larson's column in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Sentinel. "What an unhappy New Year's afternoon. Really unhappy and just as shocking. Yup. It's true what they say about Bob Schloredt. And George Fleming. The same can be said about all those Huskies from Washington. As a group, they were quick, alert, poised, aggressive, and razor sharp. Man, O Man, were they ever ready." He finished his column. "At no time during the regular season did our Wisconsin Badgers run into an outfit like that. In fact, I doubt seriously that any college team in the country had that misfortune."
Fleming and Schloredt were named Co-Most Valuable Players for their outstanding performances. The Husky halfback gained only five yards on three carries. But he racked up 122 yards on punt returns, including one for a touchdown, and 80 yards on kick-off returns. He caught one pass for 65 yards. His place-kicking was perfect -- one field goal for 36 yards and five conversions. He had 272 all-purpose yards. His teammate passed and rushed for 183 yards, completing four of seven passes. He scored one touchdown and averaged almost 40 yards on four punts.
A distant observer of the game on national network television called Owens after it was over. It was Owens' former coach, Bud Wilkinson. After congratulating his pupil on the stunning victory, he said, "It would be hard to find a club anywhere, anytime, that played a 60-minute period any better than that team that day."
Tom Porter has written three books about Husky athletics. He co-authored with Jim Daves The Glory of Washington: The People and Events That Shaped the Husky Athletic Tradition and Husky Stadium: Great Games and Golden Moments. His latest book -- A Football of Band of Brothers: Forging the University of Washington's First National Championship can be purchased from Amazon.com, the Husky Team Shop, the University Book Store, and directly from the publisher -- Trafford Publishing (Trafford.com/06-2420). To order a personally inscribed book for yourself, a family member, or your favorite Husky fan, please contact Porter at BoB.firstname.lastname@example.org