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Janie Harris | | December 1, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Washington posts undefeated championship season in 1991

  Quarterback Mark Brunell led Washington to an undefeated 1991 season.

In Tuesday’s release of the new College Football Playoff rankings, Washington found its way back into the top four, giving Husky fans a greater hope of their chance to head to the Playoff.

It is fitting that Washington would find itself in the Playoff this year, for 2016 is the 25th anniversary of the Huskies’ last national title.

In 1991, the Washington football team spent the season unbeaten and ended the year claiming their first national title since 1960, so we throwback to the top moments of the Huskies’ latest national championship season.

The Killer Comeback

On Sept. 21, 1991, according to, over 75,000 fans piled into Memorial Stadium to watch the No. 4 Huskies battle No. 9 Nebraska.

Just after halftime, Husky fans may have believed an undefeated season was out of their grasp, for Washington trailed Nebraska 21-9. But the Huskies regrouped and within the final 16 minutes of the game, Washington erased the lead and was able to post a 36-21 win over the Huskers.

The Huskies finished with more than 600 yards of total offense, which is the third-most on record against Nebraska. While it was only the second game of the season, the win propelled Washington to continue into one of its best seasons.

A Pair of Shutouts

As the season continued, Washington continued to dominate opponents, posting a 53-point margin of victory over Kansas State. However, the two games that followed illustrated just how overwhelming the Husky football team could be.

The Huskies shut out Arizona and Toledo back to back, but not only did Washington’s defense stop the two from scoring, the offense posted 54 and 48 points, respectively.

The Closest Game

Washington had its closest scrape against California in Week 6, according to the Seattle Times.

  Defensive lineman Steve Emtman, who finished fourth in the 1991 Heisman Trophy voting, was vital to the Huskies' success.
Coming in at No. 7, the Golden Bears put major pressure on the Huskies, and had it not been for an incomplete pass in the last five seconds of the game, Washington would have walked away with a tarnished record.

Still, with Beno Bryant’s 65-yard touchdown run on the board, the Huskies came out on top 24-17.

The Apple Cup

As the regular season came to a close, Washington went up against their rival, Washington State. The Huskies struggled to take the lead and pull away until the game was well into the second quarter.

Still, the scoreboard read 56-21 with the Huskies on top by the conclusion of the game. With this win, Washington had officially gone an entire regular season undefeated for the first time since 1915.

The Rose Bowl

Michigan, who secured the Big Ten title and lost just a single game in the regular season, came into the Rose Bowl ready to end Washington’s perfect season. However, they are unable to do so, losing 34-14.

According to Michigan Athletics, the Huskies and Wolverines competed evenly, posting a scoreless first quarter, but Washington put up the first points with a two-yard touchdown. Michigan tied it up, but a pair of field goals put the Huskies ahead once again.

From there, Washington pulled away, eventually making Michigan’s 53-yard touchdown in the fourth far from able to win the game.

This Rose Bowl win allowed the Huskies to top the USA Today Coaches poll. However, in the Orange Bowl, the Miami Hurricanes shut out Nebraska, so the Canes took the AP poll. This forced the two teams to share the 1991 national title.

With the way the College Football Playoff is set up, a shared title is no longer an option, and had they used this system in 1991, football fans could have experienced these two dominating, undefeated teams battle for the title. But, that was not the case, so we are left with the memories of the phenomenal season the Washington Huskies had in 1991. But, could 2016 be the year for Washington to nab an unshared national title? They are in the top four of the CFP rankings and may have the chance to take on other dominate teams in the country. It could happen.

However, let’s say college football gives us another dose of the unexpected, and the Huskies don’t find themselves in the CFP or they are taken down in the first round. It isn’t the end for Washington football.

In fact, the Huskies current record of 11-1 is similar to that of Washington’s 1990 season. Former Washington linebacker Donald Jones told Washington Athletics that it was the seasons leading up to 1991 that propelled the Huskies to the national championship. In those years building up to the national title, the Huskies competed in three consecutive Rose Bowls.

So, while the Huskies look like they are going to make a solid run in the CFP this season, it may also be a build-up year, and we may be seeing much more of the Huskies in the coming years of college football. 

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