It was a season of superlatives. For the first time since 1915, the Washington football team went undefeated and untied, posting a flawless 12-0 record.
The 1991 Huskies were the first Pac-10 team to have a perfect season since the 1972 USC Trojans. When the Huskies beat Michigan 34-14, it was the first time since 1983-84 that a team had won back-to-back Rose Bowls. And when the USA Today/CNN Coaches Poll ranked Washington Number One, it was the first time a UW team had ever won an NCAA national championship.
The Jan. 1 Rose Bowl was a “Dawg” show from the opening minutes, as the Husky defense shut down Heisman Trophy Winner Desmond Howard and sacked Michigan quarterback Elvis Grbac six times. Recognizing both defense and offense, the most valuable player title was shared by UW defensive tackle Steve Emtman and quarterback Billy Joe Hobert.
The next morning saw the results of the college football polls. While the Associated Press Writers Poll put the undefeated University of Miami Hurricanes number one, it ranked Washington second by only four points—the closest vote in the poll’s 56-year history. The coaches poll from USA Today/CNN had a slightly larger spread in favor of Washington: 1,449.5 points to Miami’s 1,440.5.
Sharing the national title didn’t bother Coach Don James, who ironically is an alumnus of the University of Miami. “It’s the fairest thing that could happen,” James told a Jan. 2 press conference. “It would have been a tragedy if it had been anything else.” Asked about a national playoff game, James dismissed the sportswriter’s dream. “We’ve got enough guys banged up. They don’t need another game,” he declared.
As part of the Rose Bowl festivities the UW Alumni Association held a New Year’s Eve party and a pre-game rally for the fans who travelled to Pasadena. Nearly 11,000 alumni, students and friends attended the New Year’s Eve bash at the Anaheim Convention Center. On New Year’s Day more than 8,400 fans streamed into the Washington Warm-Up rally at the Brookside Golf Course just north of the Rose Bowl.