(Photo courtesy of UW Media Relations)
By Derek Johnson
When Washington plays Sacramento State next month, the '84 team that won the Orange Bowl will be introduced to the crowd and honored as that week's "Husky Legend".
"We are excited about it," former running back Jacque Robinson said. "That was the best Husky team ever at that time, at the University of Washington."
That Washington team finished the season with an 11-1 record and the #2 national ranking. Robinson finished his career as the MVP of both the 1982 Rose Bowl and 1985 Orange Bowl.
But the offense of those days was not the wide-open attack fans enjoy today.
"Back then man, Coach James was very conservative," Robinson said. "We didn't use our tight ends back in the day. If those guys ever saw the ball, it was a five yard drag across the middle. We used them for blocking and a five yard drag, that's pretty much what we used our tight ends for. And we had some great tight ends: Tony Wroten and Rod Jones and Willie Rosborough. We just never opened our offenses enough to include them in it. In later years, we see tight ends getting the ball down field and catching more balls than the wide receivers. I'm like, what the hell?
"But back then, we had a big 'ol line, and weren't going to hide. We were going to come at you with a couple runs and then a play action, and that was it! And our defense was going to kick your butt and hold you to one touchdown, and that would be that."
Early in that '84 season, the Huskies traveled to Michigan to take on the #2 ranked Wolverines. Over 103,000 fans crammed into the stadium. But Washington prevailed 20-11.
"We went up there and spanked them," Robinson said. "I remember [defensive back] Tim Peoples must have had 8 or 9 unassisted tackles, wide open one-on-one on the back end. I was like, wow! And Jim Harbaugh was the Michigan quarterback. Jimmy Rogers reminds me of that all the time. We kicked his butt."
By season's end, the Huskies were 9-1 and headed to Pullman to take on WSU. Orange Bowl officials were on hand in the press box. Rumor had it that an impressive win by Washington would make the Huskies the first west coast team to ever play in the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day.
"First of all, it's Washington State," Robinson said. "It's a chance to beat up your little brother. We never liked WSU anyway. They gave me a lot of [mouthy comments], but we were laughing like, okay. Their fans were tossing dog biscuits at us and oranges. But they had an explosive offense and could put up a lot of points. My thought was if our defense could go out and handle them, I wasn't too worried. We went out there and played Husky Football. We ran the ball and controlled the ball and contained them on defense. On offense we just kept pounding the ball, and I had  touchdowns."
Washington won 38-29 and was headed to Miami to take on #2 Oklahoma.
"First play of the game, Ronnie Holmes hurt his knee," Robinson said. "And then the next series, he's back out there and on the next play POW! he causes a fumble. Next series and the next play, POW! another fumble. I saw that and was like `Oh yeah, our defense is going to dominate these guys.'"
The Huskies jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, stunning a nationally televised audience.
"Our game plan was beautiful," Robinson said. "We had a couple of big traps and some screens to go against their big rush. Every time we ran that trap play, we gained 15 yards. Every play. Their big 'ol linemen would rush at us, POW! And our linemen would trap them and we would go right under them. I remember that second half just grinding... 5 yards, 6 yards, 7yards, 7 yards, 15 yards. Every time I was barely getting tapped. I was SLIP! SLIP!, getting 5 yards. SLIP! SLIP!, getting 10 yards.
"In the second half, our defense shut them down. 3 and out, 3 and out. We showed them things they had never seen before. They were used to seeing four down linemen. But Coach James took out two down linemen on defense and replaced them with two extra linebackers. So we were out there with two linemen and six linebackers. We had the speed on the outside so they couldn't turn the corner. Everybody knew where they were supposed to be and what man they had and which gap they had, and there was nothing Oklahoma could do. We shut them down."
Like everyone else associated with Husky football, Robinson felt it was a crock when BYU was ranked ahead of the Huskies in the final polls.
But these days, as members of that '84 team plan to reunite for the Sac State game, there will be noticeable absences. Over the years, players like Fred Small, Ron Holmes, Reggie Rogers and coach Don James have passed away.
"We was all brothers," Robinson said. "Me and Ron Holmes had a friendship early on from an invitational basketball tournament we played out of high school. And me and Reggie, we were from the same state. We were brothers. And Fred Small, he was one of the first ones to pass. That was a big shock. So those guys all touched my heart. We are all brothers. And all the seniors from my class. Joe Krakoski, Jimmy Rogers, and all those guys. We've all stayed in contact for 30 years. We're all brothers, and I don't know if any other [Husky] team has stayed together like that."