It has become almost an annual rite for Washington to play in a bowl game, what with 12 appearances in the last 13 years.
Moreover, as Pacific 10 Conference champion, Washington will be playing in the Rose Bowl game Jan. 1 for the fourth time since Don James became the school’s coach in 1975.
Asked to compare this year’s team with other bowl teams he has coached, James said:
“The thing that has changed is that players are just getting bigger and stronger. We have had big lines before, but our offensive line (averaging 288.6 pounds) would test out at lower body fat, stronger physically and just as fast as any we’ve had. This is the strongest team we’ve had. Fourteen players have benched over 400 pounds.
“I also think this team has as much balance as any team we’ve brought down here.”
The Huskies led the Pac-10 in almost every meaningful statistical category and were No. 1 nationally in turnover margin (plus-2.09) and rushing defense, an average of 66.8 yards.
Iowa, Washington’s opponent New Year’s Day, compares favorably to the Huskies in several statistical categories.
For example, Washington has scored 394 points, Iowa 393. But the Huskies have yielded only 150 points, compared with 242 for Iowa.
If Iowa upsets Washington, the Hawkeyes probably will celebrate by doing the hokey pokey in their dressing room.
The hokey pokey?
It may be pure Iowa corn, but Coach Hayden Fry also joins in the dance that was the rage when your grandmother was a little girl.
Defensive back Merton Hanks recoiled the first time he was introduced to the postgame ritual.
“I’m like, ‘The hokey pokey? Come on. Nobody does the hokey pokey.’ But it’s a traditional thing now.”
Said strong safety Brian Wise: “You feel weird thinking about it. But everybody is doing it. The coaches are doing it. So nobody is going to look at you like you’re crazy. It’s just our unique way of celebrating. We don’t want to be like everyone else.”
Trivia time: In 1944, two Pacific Coast teams played in the Rose Bowl because of World War II travel restrictions. What was the result?
Lincoln Kennedy, the Huskies’ 6-foot-7, 315-pound offensive tackle from Morse High in San Diego, was recruited by Oregon and Oregon State, among other schools.
But Kennedy had his own reasons for rejecting the schools.
“I couldn’t see myself being called a Duck or a Beaver,” he said. “Not to put a school down or anything, but if you’re running onto the field and you’re trying to show everybody what you’ve got, can you imagine being called a Duck?”
Nick Bell, Iowa’s 6-3, 255-pound senior tailback, is an art major, which he relates to football.
“When you paint a stroke, you can never repeat that action,” he said. “It’s the same with football. You can never repeat a play, no matter if it is good or bad.”
Bell, who played at Clark High in Las Vegas, shares the position with another senior, Tony Stewart.
As a tandem, Bell and Stewart, who is 6-1 and 209, have rushed for 1,768 yards this season--945 for Bell, 823 for Stewart.
An indoor sprinter in track, Stewart needs only 16 more yards to become Iowa’s all-time leading rusher. He has 2,541 yards. Owen Gill is the school leader with 2,556.
Trivia answer: USC beat Washington, 29-0.
If James could take one play back in his team’s 25-22 upset loss to UCLA Nov. 10 in Seattle, it would be a safety blitz in the first quarter.
“Our problem was that they happened to be in a wide-slot formation instead of a tight end formation,” James said.
UCLA tailback Brian Brown stunned the Huskies by bolting through the line for an 88-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead.
“We had the gaps covered, but they still blocked it very well, and (Brown) could have run to Spokane and no one was going to catch him.
“What we should have done was take the blitz off, and that would have stopped (the long run) and it would have been a lot different game.”
Maintaining a Big Ten tradition, Iowa’s practices are closed to the media, but Washington’s are open.
The exclusion policy hasn’t helped Big Ten teams recently. The Pac-10 has won 17 of the last 21 Rose Bowl games.
Washington tailback Greg Lewis worked out Monday for the first time without wearing a brace on his left knee. Lewis, the Pac-10’s leading rusher, injured his knee Nov. 10 in a 25-22 loss to UCLA at Seattle and had arthroscopic surgery to remove torn cartilage.