Don James commands great respect from 1991 Huskies
When Don James addressed a gathering of about 80 former players from the 1991 national co-champion Husky team at the crew house, the players reflexively grew rapt in their silence.
Seattle Times staff reporters
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Not surprisingly, Don James received a thunderous ovation when he was introduced before Saturday's game, as he and his wife, Carol, joined the Husky captains for the coin toss.
On Friday night, James was accorded a starkly different reception, but one that conveyed just as much respect and affection: Silence.
When James addressed a gathering of about 80 former players from the 1991 national co-champion Husky team at the crew house, the players reflexively grew rapt in their silence.
"When you get everybody together, everybody's hugging and shaking hands," said Terry Redmond, a wide receiver from the '91 team. "But when Don James talked, the whole place went quiet. It was like we were back to 17-, 18-, 19-year-olds again. The room got quiet, and we listened to every word that man said."
Redmond said James' address centered on family, friends and trust, the latter a staple of the undefeated '91 squad.
"We trusted everything we did with each other, on and off the field. We want to bring that same culture back," Redmond said.
Lineman Lincoln Kennedy said the team's reverential attitude toward James is a product of a bygone era.
"Back in our day, when Coach James came around, everybody was quiet," he said. "It's completely different. Now when Sark (current Husky coach Steve Sarkisian) is around, everybody's very jovial. It's a complete 180.
"Even to this day, even me — three of Don James equate me (in size) — and I still shut up when I see him. I'm a grown man. He can't control me anymore. He can't make me run anymore. But when he comes into the room, it still has its lasting effects."
The camaraderie of the '91 team is also lasting, and the players who returned this weekend — the majority of the squad — were thoroughly enjoying the festivities. They were honored between the first and second quarters in recognition of the 20-year anniversary of their team. Standing in the west end zone, they surrounded James in a celebratory scrum.
"I forgot how close we were as a unit," said quarterback Billy Joe Hobert, who didn't attend the 10-year reunion. "This has probably been the most fun I've had in Washington in a long time. Seeing everybody, telling stories and jokes. It's the first time I've been able to tailgate with my family. I'm really excited about being here. I'm really excited about having the opportunity to be part of something that was so great in the past, and also being part of something for the future."
Joked Hobert, "Often times, you forget how good you used to be. I always picture myself kind of a Trent Dilfer-type quarterback — do your job, don't make mistakes, let the defense win it for you. But I might as well start believing the hype. Everyone tells me I was good. The truth of it is, I was just part of a great team. It's been absolutely a blast being back here and talking to the boys."
Kennedy hopes the bond forged by the '91 team can be translated to the current players.
"When I talk to some of the players, I say, 'You guys weren't even born when I was here.' Just like I told the guys, you stand on the shoulders of the generations before you, just like I did when I was here. There's a lot of pride and a lot of influence you have to take personally when you come here. It really means something to the community. This team always has. This school always has."
Renovation a 'necessity'
Hobert said he's going to miss the old Husky Stadium, which is being renovated and will be replaced by a state-of-the art version in 2013.
"You're talking to one of the biggest traditionalists you'll ever meet in your life," he said. "I liked the old broken-down chairs and the gritty locker rooms. But I can understand after seeing what's happening across the country. It's certainly going to help with recruiting. It's certainly going to help with appeasing (the fans), because I'm pretty sure it's not the best place in the world to watch games in."
Kennedy said a new stadium is "a necessity these days. You have to have the facilities to support the magnitude of the program. Without it, you're behind the eight-ball. And not in a good way."
But Kennedy's affection for the old facility is as strong as Hobert's.
"For people like me, it's iconic," he said. "It's a part of the scenery as much as the Space Needle is."
Ducks seize momentum
Oregon coach Chip Kelly felt a huge key to the Ducks' victory was their crisp, 90-yard touchdown drive to start the second half.
"It was big, and that's what we talked about at halftime," he said. "We were up 7, but they got momentum because they scored late. That always happens — whoever scores late in the second quarter looks like they have momentum."
Compounding matters was the fact Oregon missed a 45-yard field goal as the first half expired.
"They ran off the field real excited," Kelly said. "We knew we were getting the ball in the second half. That was the big thing — could we stem the tide and try to keep the crowd out of it, if we drive down the field and score. To do it the way we did, coming off the penalties on the kickoff return, the offense kind of went boom, boom, boom. When we get into a rhythm, they play with a lot of confidence."
The Huskies came back with a touchdown drive, but Oregon responded with another long drive, and was never threatened again.
"The way we played in the third quarter, I was really impressed with our guys and how we handled that situation," Kelly said.
Williams makes his mark
With James Johnson out with a sprained ankle, true-freshman receiver Kasen Williams moved up in the rotation and got the most significant playing time of his career, including a 10-yard TD on which he toed the sideline.
The Skyline graduate tied his career high for catches in a game with three in the first quarter alone.
Williams' biggest catch in the quarter came on a 7-yarder that converted a third-and-four.
Williams, who has been bothered by an ankle injury since the win at Utah on Oct. 1 but has improved in recent weeks, also handled punt returns.
Sarkisian applies the ice
Sarkisian used all three of his timeouts with one second left in the first half as Oregon lined up for a 45-yard field goal, attempting to ice Ducks kicker Alejandro Maldonado.
And whether it was the timeouts, or simply a bad kick, something worked for UW as Maldonado's kick came up far short.
That allowed the Huskies to take a healthy dose of momentum into the locker room at halftime, down just 17-10.
And Sarkisian might have felt Maldonado a worthy target for such a strategy. The native of Colton, Calif., was a commit for UW for about half-a-year in 2009 before deciding at the last minute to change his mind and sign with Oregon shortly before signing day in 2010.
• The Huskies honored 18 seniors before the game, preferring to do it in the last game at Husky Stadium than at CenturyLink Field before the Apple Cup. Included in that group were two players who have been listed as fourth-year juniors, safety Greg Walker and receiver Luther Leonard.
• Late in the third quarter, Oregon freshman cornerback Terrance Mitchell stripped the ball from Michael Hartvigson after a completion from Keith Price.
"That's something we work on in practice," Mitchell said. "I did it before, like in high school. I saw a big, tight-end type guy. I felt if I could run up and try to take it, my team was coming right behind me. So I went for the ball and took it."
• The Huskies began the game in a three-tight-end set, which gave redshirt freshman Evan Hudson the first start of his career.
• Tim Tucker, a sophomore fullback who converted from linebacker early in the season, made the first catch of his career in the second quarter, a 5-yarder that kept alive the drive that resulted in Washington's first touchdown.
• Against an Oregon team that has just about trademarked the no-huddle offense, the Huskies matched them for much of the first half, often going with a hurry-up.
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