Don James, Washington’s football coach for 17 years, wasn’t sure if he ever would have an unbeaten and untied team.
Saturday, his Huskies completed their 1991 regular season and Pacific 10 Conference play that way.
“It took a long time to get here,” James said after second-ranked Washington scored a 56-21 victory over Washington State in the schools’ annual Apple Cup game.
“It’s so hard to go undefeated in this league because it’s got so much balance. It’s a tremendous accomplishment. I’ve never had this feeling before.”
James, 58, has a reputation of being a perfectionist and he found something wrong with the Huskies’ defense, particularly the secondary.
“I sure wish our pass defense would have played better,” James said. “I don’t think we can expect to play like that and win any more ballgames.”
Washington (11-0 and 8-0 in the Pacific 10) will play fourth-ranked Michigan in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Billy Joe Hobert passed for three touchdowns and backup Mark Brunell passed for a touchdown and ran for a score. Washington’s Beno Bryant rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown in 24 carries. Hobert completed 16 of 26 passes for 236 yards and was intercepted once.
The Cougars’ Drew Bledsoe passed for three touchdowns and 295 yards, completing 18 of 35 passes and being intercepted twice. Washington State (4-7) had 430 yards, the most against the Huskies this season.
The 77 points were the most ever in this rivalry, which began in 1900.
Washington completed the school’s seventh unbeaten regular season but first since 1915. The Huskies will go to the Rose Bowl for the second year in a row.
Washington’s players said the victory proved they were better than top-ranked Miami, which struggled to a 19-14 victory over Boston College.
“I don’t see how anyone can say they’re better than us,” defensive tackle Steve Emtman said. “Just take a look at the stats and how we played this year.”
Added Bryant: “I feel we’re the best team. But I’m not going to be like Miami and say we’ll play them anywhere, any time. I just feel we’re the best.”
Hobert had scoring pass plays of 69 yards to Orlando McKay in the first quarter, four yards to fullback Darius Turner in the second quarter and seven yards to Mario Bailey in the fourth quarter.
Brunell passed 20 yards to Bailey for a touchdown during the second quarter and ran five yards for a touchdown during the fourth quarter.
Bledsoe had scoring passes of 33 yards to Augustin Olobia during the first quarter, three yards to Shaumbe Wright-Fair during the third quarter and 15 yards to Philip Bobo during the fourth quarter.
Washington led by 28-7 at halftime after trailing by 7-6 at the end of the opening quarter.
Washington came out in the second half and drove 67 yards in nine plays for a touchdown for a 35-7 lead, Bryant scoring on a 21-yard run.
But the Cougars came back for their second touchdown on Bledsoe’s scoring pass to Wright-Fair.
After Washington made the score 42-14 on Hobert’s seven-yard pass to Bailey, the Cougars scored their last touchdown, the 15-yard Bledsoe-to-Bobo score.
Washington capped the scoring on Jay Barry’s eight-yard run and Brunell’s five-yard run during the fourth quarter.
Washington had seven sacks. Bledsoe was sacked six times, and has been sacked 50 times in his sophomore season.