Oct. 21, 2005
By CJ Bowles
Seattle -- There have been 14 instances where the Washington Huskies have faced a player that went on to win the Heisman Trophy. However, Saturday will mark the first time in the program's history that they will lineup opposite a player who has already won college football's top honor.
Of the 13 juniors that have won the prestigious award prior to last season, most returned for their senior seasons. However, of the nine juniors to be called Heisman since 1982, just two returned to college while the rest sprung for the greener pastures of the National Football League. The two players to return were BYU quarterback Ty Detmer, who won the award in 1990, and Oklahoma quarterback Jason White, who won the Heisman two seasons ago.
Now Detmer and White have company thanks to USC quarterback Matt Leinart.
Both of the previous returning players went on to have stellar senior campaigns with both of the quarterbacks finishing third in the following season's Heisman voting.
So far in 2005, Leinart is keeping the tradition alive. Through six games, he ranks eighth in the nation in total offense (328.2), is first in the Pac-10 in passing efficiency (160.7) and has led his team to a 6-0 record and a No. 1 ranking in both the Associated Press and BCS polls.
Those are numbers that have experts talking about the Trojan signal-caller becoming just the second player in history to receive two Heisman Trophies.
Hope is not lost though. The Huskies have risen to the occasion and defeated an eventual Heisman winner three times and have taken several more teams with top players down to the wire before coming out on the losing side of the ball.
The most recent instance was in the 1992 Rose Bowl when the Dawgs squared off against Desmond Howard and the Michigan Wolverines. The second-ranked Huskies frustrated the speedy wide receiver and allowed him to make only one reception for 35 yards.
In the meantime, the Huskies had little trouble scoring on the fourth-ranked Wolverines as quarterback Billy Joe Hobert ran for a touchdown and threw two more. UW's final touchdown came when backup quarterback Mark Brunell connected with Mario Bailey for a 38-yard scoring strike. After the catch, Bailey defiantly struck the Heisman pose in the end zone. The Huskies won the game 34-14 to cap a 12-0 season and a share of the National Championship with Miami (Fla.).
Before Marcus Allen broke records in the NFL, the speedy running back won the Heisman Trophy while playing at USC in 1981. His greatness didn't seem to bother the Huskies though as UW shocked the third-ranked Trojans with a 13-3 win at Husky Stadium. The unranked Dawgs went ahead 6-3 on a 46-yard Chuck Nelson field goal and then extended the lead to 10 when USC fumbled the ensuing kickoff and UW recovered it in the end zone for the only touchdown of the game. Allen rushed for 155 yards on 38 carries, but was unable to put the ball in the end zone.
The only other time the Huskies have defeated a team with a future Heisman winner on it was in 1962 when they upended Oregon State 14-13 at Husky Stadium. Ranked seventh at the time, the Dawgs had a hard time containing Beaver quarterback Terry Baker who passed for 144 yards and two touchdowns and accounted for another 85 yards on the ground. But when OSU's kicker missed an extra point to leave his team's lead at six, the Huskies capitalized with a game-winning scoring drive that Junior Coffey capped with a touchdown run. To complete his performance, Baker punted seven times for 271 total yards in the game.
Washington has also had several close calls when facing Heisman players. In 1941, Minnesota's running back Bruce Smith scored two touchdowns in his team's 14-6 win at Husky Stadium. In 1960, a last-second field goal was needed for 17th-ranked Navy and running back Joe Bellino to defeat the third-ranked Huskies 15-14. Another close finish came in 1968 when O.J. Simpson and No. 1 USC forced a UW fumble at the Trojan seven-yard line to preserve a 14-7 win. And finally, in 1979, the Men of Troy again squeaked one out by holding the Huskies at the two-yard line to protect a 24-17 lead. Trojan running back Charles White ran wild on UW for 243 yards in that game en route to the Heisman Trophy.
Huskies vs. Heisman Winners
1941 - Bruce Smith, RB, Minnesota (14-6, L)
1949 - Leon Hart, E, Notre Dame (27-7, L)
1960 - Joe Bellino, RB, Navy (15-14, L)
1962 - Terry Baker, QB, Oregon State (14-13, W)
1965 - Mike Garrett, RB, USC (34-0, L)
1967 - Gary Beban, QB, UCLA (48-0, L)
1968 - O.J. Simpson, RB, USC (14-7, L)
1970 - Jim Plunkett, QB, Stanford (29-22, L)
1979 - Charles White, RB, USC (24-17, L)
1981 - Marcus Allen, RB, USC (13-3, W)
1991 - Desmond Howard, WR, Michigan (34-14, W)
1995 - Eddie George, RB, Ohio State (30-20, L)
2002 - Carson Palmer, QB, USC (41-21, L)
2004 - Matt Leinart, QB, USC (38-0, L)