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The story behind what could have (should have?) been: Washington’s 1984 championship

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BYU Cover

This cover of the Jan. 8, 1985 edition of the Daily — the first issue after the Orange Bowl and the declaration of BYU as the National Champions — led with Ron Holmes' quote.

At the conclusion of the Apple Cup in late November 1984, it seemed all but certain the Washington Huskies would be playing for the national title. After the 38-29 victory, the players rushed into the locker room where they were rewarded with the Apple Cup by Sen. Daniel Evans.

“Even though you won’t be going to the Rose Bowl this year, you may be doing something better —  like playing for the national championship,” Evans said at the time.

The UW had been knocked out of Rose Bowl contention by No. 4 USC on the road that year, which was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect 11-win season.

It was later announced that the No. 4 Huskies would face off against the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl, and it seemed to be everyone’s understanding that the winner would become the national champions.

Well, everyone but No. 1 BYU.

BYU was unbeaten against a slew of underwhelming opponents, mainly consisting of WAC challengers. The only quality win was when BYU beat No. 3 Pittsburgh in the season opener. Pitt finished the season 3-7-1, so that team may have been a tad overrated.

The Cougars were set to play in the Holiday Bowl against a 6-5 Michigan team, and capped the perfect season with a 24-17 victory on the neutral site. A good win, but not as impressive as beating Michigan in Ann Arbor by nine points, which Washington did in its second game of the season.

Speaking of Washington, The Daily covered the Orange Bowl in which the Huskies defeated Oklahoma 28-17. Former Daily Sports Editor Jim Caple described the scene in his postgame recap.

“The players swarmed the field, fingers in the air, voices chanting, ‘NT! NT! NT!’” Caple wrote.

This was 13 years before the inception of the BCS era, which pitted the top two teams against each other for the national championship. So while it seemed that Washington walked off the field champions, it was still up to the AP voters to decide who would sit atop the rest in their final poll.

It didn’t take long for the poll to come out, and the result had BYU at No. 1 and Washington behind as the runner-up. The Cougars finished with 1160 points, and the Dawgs tallied 1140 points.

The outcome was shocking, particularly for the Huskies, who believed the voters got it wrong.

“BYU is not the best team in the nation. We are,” Orange Bowl co-MVP and defensive tackle Ron Holmes said.

Even Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer lobbied for the winner of the Orange Bowl to be named the national champion.

“I’ll tell you this, Washington is the best team we’ve played this year. They deserve to be No. 1. They’re a more talented team than Brigham Young,” Switzer said.

At the end of the day, know there could very well could have been a third year plastered in Husky Stadium between 1960 and 1991.

Reach contributing writer Josh Eddy at Twitter: @JoshTreEddy 

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