Today, the University of Washington’s 70,138-seat Husky Stadium rises above Union Bay on picturesque Lake Washington framing what a prominent sign at a south end zone entrance touts as “The Greatest Setting in College Football.”
On a mid-September afternoon there in 1973, hard-nosed defensive coordinator Larry Price also savored the view and the moment. He was moved to declare it holy for University of Hawaii football, saying the remarkable events of that day in a 10-7 upset of the Huskies marked “a spiritual landmark” for the Rainbow Warriors.
“Move Over, Grid World: Rainbows 10, Huskies 7” headlines in Honolulu screamed the next morning. A “Titanic Upset,” the Seattle Times has called it.
This Saturday, one day short of the 46th anniversary of the ‘Bows stunning triumph, an undefeated UH team returns to the scene of one of the greatest triumphs in school history.
The Warriors will do so, www.BetOnline.ag oddsmakers said, as 22 1/2 -point underdogs to the 21st-ranked Huskies. If the Rainbows look for inspiration, it is an opening line that pales in comparison with the 50 points TV commentator Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder had the 1973 Huskies favored by.
“People thought we were crazy even playing them,” Price said in a 2011 interview. “And, you know what, we probably were.”
Back then UH was an independent and while the school had begun the paperwork to move up to Division I status, it was classified by the NCAA in the “college” division. Players were named to “Little All-American” teams.
Small wonder, perhaps, the Huskies, coming off consecutive 8-3 seasons, and many of the their fans in a crowd of 52,500 loudly mocked UH when it showed up decked out in aloha wear. It had been the ‘Bows’ policy at the time to wear aloha shirts and then change into their uniforms.
“That ticked us off, got us more fired up,” defensive end Cliff Laboy would recall later.
Then, the Huskies relentlessly attempted to run the ‘Bows into the ground. “They were determined to just keep running at us, to pound us into submission with their huge fullback (Pete Taggares),” recalled Rick Blangiardi, then Hawaii’s linebackers coach, who would later carry a scrap of the game ball in his wallet for decades.
Taggares got a touchdown on a 2-yard run, but that was it.
UH got a 27-yard field goal in the first quarter by Reinhold Stuprich and tacked on a third-quarter Casey Ortez-to-Allen Brown touchdown pass of 24 yards.
Then, the defense headed by Levi Stanley, Laboy, Jeris White, Harold Stringert, Simeon Alo and Dexter Gomes, really dug in. “You don’t just want to beat ‘em … you want to take their spirit away,” Price implored his players.
Five times Hawaii’s defense stoutly stood up and stonewalled fourth-down UW thrusts. Three came inside the UH 10-yard line and one inside the 1. UH picked off five passes and recovered two fumbles.
The defense helped UH overcome six turnovers. “We just kept telling each other we had to suck ‘em up,” said Stanley, a defensive tackle, afterward.
UH head coach Dave Holmes, a Washington native, termed it a giant stepping stone toward a Division I future, saying, “I’m tired of hearing people say we can’t beat the big programs.”
Meanwhile, a headline in the Seattle Times the next morning lamented, “Never Trust a Football Team in Aloha Shirts.”