We’ll continue our review of the Pac-10 Era of UW football — which comes to a close on Friday when the conference becomes officially known as the Pac-12 — with a look at Washington’s Top 10 games of that span. To refresh, this means the years from 1978 to 2010, so that rules out the 1978 Rose Bowl win over Michigan, which capped the final Pac-8 season before the conference added Arizona and Arizona State, and any that came before.
1, 1992 Rose Bowl win over Michigan: The post-game celebration of UW’s 34-14 win over Michigan is pictured to the right. And while this might not have been the most dramatic win in school history, it’s hard to top its import, as it capped an undefeated season and gave Washington a share of the national title — the only one for a conference team other than USC during the Pac-10 era.
2, 1991 win at Nebraska: This game may be the one that UW fans and players from that team remember most, as the Huskies rallied from a 21-9 deficit late in the third quarter to beat Nebraska 36-21, gaining an astounding 618 yards in the process, including 335 rushing. I rank this one higher than some of the bowl wins that follow because of what it meant in forging the national title season that resulted.
3, 1985 Orange Bowl win over Oklahoma: The famous “Sooner Schooner” game as UW beat the Soonerse 28-17 to cap an 11-1 season and finish No. 2 in the country behind BYU — a ranking many Husky fans will dispute forever. UW’s lone loss that year, at USC, cost it the conference title and meant the Huskies had to head to Miami, instead. Nobody was complaining by the time the game ended.
4, 1991 Rose Bowl win over Iowa: The seeds of the national title were sown in thee 10-2 season of 1990 that culminated with a dominating 46-34 win over the Hawkeyes — the game was never really close. It’s another that isn’t as dramatic as others but has to rank high for what it meant.
5, 1994 win at Miami: The famed “Whammy in Miami” served for some of the veteran players and coaches as the defacto national title game against the Hurricanes that the two teams didn’t get to play in 1991. After falling behind early, UW dominated the second half to win going away, 38-20, and not only get a measure of comeuppance on Miami but also snap the Hurricanes’ 58-game home winning streak.
6, 1981 win over USC: A Trojan team, led by eventual Heisman Trophy-winner Marcus Allen, came to Seattle ranked No. 3 in the country and seemingly on its way to a conference title and Rose Bowl berth. But in some of the most severe weather conditions ever seen at Montlake, UW got two Chuck Nelson field goals, and after the latter, a recovery of a fumbled kickoff in the end zone by Fred Small, to beat the Trojans 13-3. That was the key win as UW won its second straight Pac-10 title, capping the season by beating Iowa 28-0 in the Rose Bowl. To many longtime fans, this game epitomizes the Don James Era, finding a way to win with defense and special teams.
7, 2001 Rose Bowl win over Purdue: Marques Tuiasosopo etched his name in UW lore forever by winning MVP honors as the Huskies beat Drew Brees and the Boilermakers 34-24 to cap an 11-1 season and finish No. 3 in the country. UW rushed for 268 yards to fend off Brees’ passing.
8, 2000 win over Miami: This game might have been the real defining moment for the 2000 team as it jumped all over a Hurricane team that history proved to be vastly more talented, taking a 21-3 lead and holding on for a 34-29 victory at Husky Stadium. It proved to be Miami’s last loss for more than two years.
9, 1979 Sun Bowl win over Texas: Kind of an underrated game historically, but UW followers of the time say it had massive importance to beat the storied Longhorns in the state of Texas. This was UW’s first bowl of the Pac-10 era, and first after the 1978 Rose Bowl, giving further validity to the job Don James was doing at UW.
10, 2000 win over Oregon State: Something of a personal favorite of the time I’ve covered the team, this was a back-and-forth game between two teams that each finished 11-1 and in the top four in the country — though few knew at the time just how good that OSU team was. UW was 0-1 in Pac-10 play at the time, so this was a key win in getting the Huskies to Pasadena. And hard as it was to believe at the time, this loss was all that stood between OSU and a shot at the national title that year.
JUST MISSED THE CUT: 1990 win over USC (the “All I saw was Purple” game.” Many fans may think this one should be in top 10. It’d be No. 11 on my list simply because it turned out not to be a great USC team); 2010 Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska (a few more years may prove it belongs on the list); 1982 Rose Bowl win over Iowa (one of UW’s most dominant bowl wins ever); 1998 win at ASU (the famous Brock Huard-to-Reggie Davis pass to win it in the final seconds); 1980 win at USC (Huskies beat No. 2-ranked Trojans in Los Angeles to secure first Pac-10 title); 1983 win over Michigan (a 25-24 thriller over the Wolverines in Seattle); 1984 win at Michigan (Huskies denied Michigan revenge with 20-11 win over No. 3-ranked Wolverines); 2002 Apple Cup (the three-OT thriller over the Cougars in Pullman); 2003 Apple Cup (fourth-quarter rally to beat the Cougars for a sixth straight year); 2009 win over USC (upset over No. 3-ranked Trojans that kicked off the Steve Sarkisian era); 2010 win at USC (Huskies did it to Trojans for a second straight year); 1992 win over Nebraska (a few readers were quick to point out this one and I should include it — many remember it as loudest crowd ever at Husky Stadium).