On January 1, 2001, the University of Washington Huskies defeat the Purdue Boilermakers 34-24 in the annual Rose Bowl game in Pasadena, California. The Rose Bowl pits a football team from the PAC-10 conference on the West Coast against one from the Big Ten conference in the Midwest. This game is the 14th Rose Bowl in which the Huskies have played and the sixth they have won.
The first East-West game occurred on January 1, 1902, when Stanford was invited by the Tournament of Roses committee to play against Michigan. Pasadena's Tournament of Roses began in 1890 to celebrate the southern California town, and early tournaments included such events as ostrich races, bronco busting demonstrations, and a race between a camel and an elephant.
Committee members had hoped that a rousing college-football game would be a nice addition to the festivities. Initially, it wasn't. Michigan steamrolled over Stanford, running up the score to 49-0 by the third quarter, at which point the humiliated Stanford team gave up and quit. Based on this less-than-stellar game, the Tournament committee decided to forego football for a few years, opting for Roman-style chariot races instead.
In 1916, the committee tried football one more time, this time inviting Washington State to play against Brown. Washington State won 14-0, and there have been New Year's Day Rose Bowl match-ups between top college teams ever since, with three wartime exceptions: In 1918 and 1919, armed-services teams, rather than college squads, met in Pasadena, and the 1942 "Rose Bowl" game between Oregon State and Duke was held in North Carolina, because officials feared that the West Coast might be attacked by Japan.
Rows Upon Rose
The games proved to be so popular that within a few years demand outgrew seating. A 57,000-seat stadium was constructed, and was christened the Rose Bowl in honor of the Tournament. The first Rose Bowl game there was played on January 1, 1923, with the University of Southern California beating Penn State, 14-3.
Over the years the popularity of the yearly contest led to expansion of the stadium. Originally horseshoe shaped, the stadium added seats in the open section in 1928, increasing the capacity to 76,000. Other additions over the years included capacity expansions in 1932 (83,677), 1949 (100,807) and 1972 (104,696).
Run for the Roses
In the early years of the Rose Bowl, the Tournament committee invited a Western team, which in turn selected its Eastern opponent. Beginning with the 1946 season (the January 1, 1947, game), the old Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) and the Big Nine (later the Big Ten) selected their own representatives. The practice continued after the PCC broke up and was replaced by a successor league known successively as the Big 5 Conference, the Big 6, then the PAC-8, and in 1979 the PAC-10 (it became the PAC-12 in 2011), although the advent of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system in 1998 meant that teams from other conferences also occasionally played in the Rose Bowl, which hosted several BCS title games.
\Washington had played in 13 Rose Bowl games prior to 2001, beginning in 1924 when the Huskies tied Navy, 14-14. As of the 2014 game, the UW team had not returned to the Rose Bowl game since 2001. The years, opponents, and scores of all Rose Bowls in which the Huskies have played through the 2014 game are as follows (Husky scores are shown first):
- 1924 Navy 14-14 (Tie)
- 1926 Alabama 19-20 (Loss)
- 1937 Pittsburgh 0-21 (Loss)
- 1944 Southern Cal 0-29 (Loss)
- 1960 Wisconsin 44-8 (Win)
- 1961 Minnesota 17-7 (Win)
- 1964 Illinois 7-17 (Loss)
- 1978 Michigan 27-20 (Win)
- 1981 Michigan 6-23 (Loss)
- 1982 Iowa 28-0 (Win)
- 1991 Iowa 46-34 (Win)
- 1992 Michigan 34-14 (Win)
- 1993 Michigan 31-38 (Loss)
The 2001 game was Purdue's second trip to the Rose Bowl. In 1967, the Boilermakers beat USC in a squeaker, 14-13. They finished the 2000 season with a 6-2 conference win-loss record (8-3 for the season), and were ranked 14th in the Associated Press football poll. Washington finished the season with a 7-1 conference record (10-1 overall), and was ranked 4th in the nation. The Huskies had a dramatic season in which they won 5 conference games in a row with come-from-behind, fourth-quarter touchdowns. They were also the only team to beat Miami during the regular season, knocking that team from its number one spot and raising Oklahoma to the top-ranked position.
Coming Up Roses
The 2001 Rose Bowl got underway just after 1:00 p.m, on January 1. Purdue came to play, with the highest-ranked offense in the country, but Washington also came with a powerful offense, along with a blazing defense. Both teams had stellar quarterbacks -- Marques Tuiasosopo for the Huskies and Heisman Trophy finalist Drew Brees for the Boilermakers. Brees received much media attention prior to the game, but as the game progressed many eyes were on Tuiasosopo.
Tuiasosopo had an impressive game. He carried the ball 15 times for 75 yards and a touchdown, and completed 16 out of 22 passes for 138 yards and a score. He gave up no interceptions, and was not sacked. On top of that, he played with a shoulder injury throughout much of the second half.
The rest of the Husky offense helped tear up the field. Freshman Rick Alexis had 10 carries for 78 yards. Willie Hurst carried the ball nine times for 53 yards, including a touchdown. The defense performed well, holding Purdue to only 76 yards rushing. The Huskies rushed for 268.
For the Boilermakers, Brees played a very good game, with 23 passes completed out of 39, two of them being touchdown passes to teammate Vinny Sutherland. At one point in the 3rd quarter, the two teams were tied 17-17, but the Huskies followed this by racking up 17 unanswered points. Purdue scored its final touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, but couldn't break through the Husky defense for more. The final score: Washington 34, Purdue 24.
Much of the Huskies' powerful drive to win this Rose Bowl game was in honor of a fallen comrade. Two months earlier, safety Curtis Williams suffered a severe spinal cord injury in a game against Stanford. He had to undergo surgery, but lost all voluntary muscle movement. For the rest of the season, his teammates wore his initials on their jerseys, and vowed to win the Rose Bowl just for him.
Although in a rehabilitation center in San Jose, Williams was flown in, and attended the game in a wheelchair. Wearing his Number 25 game jersey, he visited with his buddies in the locker room before the game. Emotions ran high as his fellow players whispered their thoughts in his ear and kissed him lightly on the head. Williams was barely able to whisper his thanks, but the appreciation showed in his tears. During the game, he watched from the press box level.
After receiving the Rose Bowl trophy seconds after the win, Washington coach Rick Neuheisel held it aloft, but couldn't hold back his own tears. Facing the press box with trophy and head held high, Neuhiesel's voice boomed out over the stadium: "This was for you, C.W."
Sixteen months after the victory dedicated to him, Curtis Williams died in May 2002 at age 24 of complications from his injury.