Skip to main content
Original Issue


Ten years after the Death March, the Huskies attack again

Even on an overcast, rainy day—of which there are some in Seattle—Washington's Jim Owens can sit in his spacious office in the Graves Building and look out at his home across Lake Washington. The house is at the point of a peninsula that juts toward one of the city's two floating bridges and affords an inspiring view in all directions. When Jim built his place a few years ago, someone asked, "Do you suppose he'll commute to his office by boat?" The obvious answer was, "Of course not. He's going to walk to work."

Well, no one has seen Owens walking on water yet, but there is no doubt about the reverence he inspires at Washington. In 10 years he has had a 61-38-4 record, and it is an unusual season when his team is not in contention for the Pacific Eight championship. Every home game in the 56,000-seat Husky Stadium is a sellout, and season tickets—34,000 of them—are acquired only through inheritance.

Things have not always been this way, however. Owens, who learned his coaching as an assistant under Bear Bryant for six years, did not have a very auspicious beginning when he took over from Darrell Royal, an old Oklahoma teammate, in 1957. Attrition the first two years (still referred to by players of that time as the Death March) was frightful. But the hard core that remained learned to play the game "from the heart," as Don McKeta, a former Washington halfback, once phrased it. In three years Owens had the Huskies in the Rose Bowl, and they have been back twice since then.

Washington just could be ready for another one of those years. One person who thinks this is possible is Owens himself, who is normally an unrestrained pessimist. "Sure, USC and UCLA will be the favorites, they always are," he says, "but we'll be right up there with them. We have more depth, more speed and more experience now."

The source of Owens' hope is an unusual number of good returning lettermen and a surprising group of sophomores and junior-college transfers who are taking some of the veterans' jobs away. To exploit his wealth of offensive talent to the fullest, Owens has developed a new offense, known variously as the "Flexible T" or "Evil I," that offers unusual diversity. Instead of the conventional split end, the Huskies will have a five-man backfield—quarterback, halfback, fullback and two flankers, called swing men. "Our swing men are going to know how to catch the football and what to do with it when they catch it," says Owens. "We'll be shifting around a lot, too. We can flank both men, or we can put one in the slot. And we'll bring either one of them in from time to time to carry the ball on counters and sweeps."

Washington lost one of its swing men—or maybe it was only three-quarters of a swing man, since he was 5' 8" and 160 pounds—when Dave Dinish was ruled ineligible last month, but Harvey Blanks, a bigger and faster transfer from Shoreline Junior College, will fill the hole well enough. The other swing man is Harrison Wood, a tall, thin and very fast junior who has moved up from the third team. He showed so much improvement in the spring that he cost Jim Cope, last year's leading receiver, his starting job. Along with them will be Jim McCabe at fullback and either Carl Wojciechowski or Gerald Wea at halfback.

Another indication of Washington's depth is that a sophomore, Tom Manke, has taken over the quarterback position from Tom Sparlin, last year's starter. Sparlin had 1,086 yards in total offense, but he also threw 19 interceptions, which is 19 more than Owens cared to see. So, Manke, a six-footer who brings back memories of Bob Schloredt, the quarterback on the 1960 and 1961 Rose Bowl teams and now an assistant coach at Washington, had his opportunity, and took it. Manke has a strong arm and gets the ball away quickly. He is also a hard runner who can force his way around end.

Two more sophomores may break into the offensive line. Dennis Stanchfieid, 6'2" and 215 pounds, is giving holdover Jeff Hugel a run for the tight-end position, while Roger Flewelling is fighting it out with Vic Janowicz, a converted end, at guard. The other starters up front will be Bob Richardson, an All-Coast star, and Dick Zatkovich, both 235, at the tackles, Rick McHale at guard and Ron Hudson, an ex-tackle, at center.

There will even be some new faces in a defense that is loaded with lettermen. This delights Defensive Coach Tom Tipps, a demanding former Army sergeant whose charges wage daily battles for purple helmets that are awarded only to those players "who give 110%." The competition sometimes turns into private wars and the player who loses his purple is apt to show up at the next practice with a red neck. Tipps's newcomers include Otis Washington, a junior-college transfer, and sophomore Clyde Werner, who are vying for All-America End Tom Greenlee's old spot, and Augie Rios, a squat sophomore transfer, at guard. The holdovers in the line are Tackles Steve Thompson, 230 pounds, and Bill Glennon, both of whom are pro prospects, End Dean Halvorson, Guard Mike Maggart and two strong linebackers, George Jugun and Cliff Coker. Halfbacks Al Worley and Frank Smith and Safeties Dave Dupree and Bob Pederson are all back for the deep secondary.

A final Washington plus is a player who never gets his uniform dirty, Don Martin. Few teams have anything like him. Last season he made 10 of 11 field goal attempts, and he punted five times in this year's spring game for an average of 50.4 yards.

Washington fans would seem to have very little to kick about, even if Jim Owens can't walk on water.