Huskies 1991 flashback: Tommie Smith's interception in Apple Cup sealed big win
The 1991 Washington Huskies had already sewn up their first goal of any season — the conference title and a Rose Bowl berth ...
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The 1991 Washington Huskies had already sewn up their first goal of any season — the conference title and a Rose Bowl berth — by the time the Apple Cup rolled round.
But the biggest goal for that once-in-a-generation team — the national title — remained.
And it was that hunt that colored everything about that year's Apple Cup, which on paper ended in a comfortable 56-21 UW win on a typically wet day at Husky Stadium.
On the field, though, it was a little more complicated.
WSU became just the second team all season to lead the Huskies at the end of one quarter — Nebraska being the other — a 7-6 lead built on a touchdown pass by sophomore Drew Bledsoe. In fact, Bledsoe would lead WSU to 430 total yards, the most allowed that year by the Huskies, which would foreshadow the big season he and the Cougars would have in 1992.
Washington's offense, though, was unstoppable, and while Bledsoe got his yards, he also made some mistakes: Walter Bailey returning a second-quarter interception of a tipped pass for a touchdown that helped give UW a 28-7 halftime lead.
Still, the game was mildly in doubt — about as much in doubt as any UW home game that year was, anyway — when Bledsoe led the Cougars to the Washington 27 early in the fourth quarter with the Huskies ahead 35-14.
Huskies safety Tommie Smith, though, ended any remaining drama with an interception and an 86-yard return to the WSU 9 before being tackled by two Cougars receivers. It remains the longest nonscoring interception return in UW history. Mario Bailey caught his second touchdown pass a few plays later and the game was over.
"I wasn't very pleased with the way we played," UW coach Don James said later. "I don't think we could play like that and expect to win a lot of games."
The score, however, looked good to voters — UW won by exactly the 35-point spread by which it was favored — especially when compared to Miami's 19-14 win that same day over Boston College. That allowed the Huskies to creep that much closer to the Hurricanes in each poll, and actually pass Miami the following week (when the Hurricanes beat San Diego State with UW's regular season over).
Apple Cup:Washington 56, WSU 21
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