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‘The score tells the story’: Remembering Washington’s greatest beatdown

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‘The score tells the story’: Remembering Washington’s greatest beatdown

One hundred years ago this Friday, the Washington football team — then not even officially the Sun Dodgers — took the field like it had 161 times before and have 1,000 times since. What followed that day included a vital missed field goal, a uniform delay in the first quarter, and an extinct football team.

The Daily referred to what happened as a “slaughter.” The Seattle Daily Times called it “inevitable.” The Seattle P-I could only assume that “it was probably a conference record.”

This is the story of 120-0.

Washington opened its 1919 season Oct. 18 against a team from the U.S.S. New York, beating the sailors 35-0. This was back in the days of games at Denny Field; Husky Stadium wouldn’t be built for another three years. The game featured three themes: strong blocking at the line of scrimmage, a passing attack that hadn’t even worked in practice becoming “the acme of perfection,” and a whole lot of fumbles by the UW ballcarriers. 

The following Monday, head coach Claude “Jump” Hunt, who was only quoted as saying his team needed “an awful lot of work” after the win, sent his starters out for a full-contact scrimmage against the UW third team. The top line had a tough time scoring, starting halfback Rea J. Butler nearly killed a backup defender on an open-field block to the head, and quarterback Robert Abel and fullback Gerald Waechter did enough to earn starts the following week against Whitman.

When the UW took the field against Whitman in 1919, the first radio broadcast of a football game was still two years away. The only way to see what happened — aside from going to the game — was to read the newspapers the next day.

Because of this, the stories the papers ran were less recaps than long lists of drives and plays. Luckily, two newspapers — The Seattle Daily Times and The Seattle P-I— both ran such articles the next day, painting a picture of what happened.

Unluckily, the two recaps only agree on what happened about half the time. So here’s a decent-ish guess of how it went down.

Waechter fumbled Whitman’s opening kickoff but recovered in the end zone for a touchback. Five plays later, Ervin Dailey was running wild down the left side for the first touchdown of the day. Ted Faulk missed the extra point, but Washington was off and running. The onslaught had started.

Washington kicked off, Whitman went three-and-out, and the next UW drive ended the way the first one had — in the end zone. 

Whitman got its first first down of the day on its second possession before ultimately punting, but this time the Missionaries held strong on defense, forcing Washington to punt.

And on the first play of the Whitman drive, Bill Grimm picked off a pass and took it all the way back. 20-0.

At this point, something weird happened. Today after a touchdown is scored, the scoring team kicks off. Back then, the team that was scored got to choose whether to kick or receive, like a coin toss after every single touchdown. This time, Whitman chose to kick off and give the ball right back to Washington. After two 20-yard gains and a 15-yard run, Dailey ran it in for his second touchdown of the day.

Somewhere around here — The Daily Times only specified it as “in the first quarter” — came “the humorous high light (sic) of the game,” as UW right guard Gus Pope tore an 11-inch hole in his pants. The game was stopped momentarily as Washington trainer Hec Edmunson — yes, that Hec Edmunson — ran out and sewed Pope’s pants back “into some semblance of order.”

After a quarter, the UW led 26-0. Those of you doing the math in your head will figure out that the pace is only going to speed up. 

By halftime, it was 76-0.

According to the UW record book, Washington’s most points in a single quarter is 31, set in the second quarter of the Huskies’ 2012 beatdown of Portland State. That capped a 45-point first half that is officially the highest-scoring half in UW history.

Washington scored 50 points in the second quarter against Whitman. And unlike that game against Portland State 97 years later — in which the Huskies scored just seven points in the second half — it wasn’t going to stop.

After Dailey opened the third quarter with an 80-yard touchdown, Hunt pulled most of his starters — but not Dailey. The only effect this ended up having was that now without Faulk, its starting kicker, Washington began a streak of missed extra points that meant it was scoring in six-point increments instead of seven. 

With the UW up 93-0, Whitman finally, finally found some semblance of offense. The Missionaries opened up the passing attack, with seven completions on a drive that got all the way down to the Washington 20-yard line. On fourth down, Whitman lined up for a field goal to cut the deficit to 90 points.

It was missed. A few plays later, a Whitman returner fumbled the UW punt, and Stanley Sutcliff recovered it and didn’t stop running until he hit the end zone. After another missed extra point, Washington went into the final quarter up 99-0.

At that time, reaching triple-digits wasn’t as quite an unheard of occurrence as it is now. Washington had done it six years prior, putting up an even 100 on Whitworth. Twelve different schools ended up scoring at least 100 points in a game in 1919, and Nevada did it twice.

The main reason for the beatdowns was the lopsided nature of most college schedules. Without the structure of the FBS — or even the NCAA — and the lack of commercial air travel, schools ended up scheduling closer but way lower-level competition. And in this case, lower-level doesn’t usually mean the FCS. Of the 13 schools to allow 100 points in 1919 — it happened to Oklahoma Baptist twice — one still has a Division I football program, two have Division II programs, one is in Division III, two don’t have football teams anymore, one got shut down entirely in 1922, three were military stations, one was a high school, and two were insignificant enough to not currently have Wikipedia pages.

There’s no point in writing much about the fourth quarter. The papers that next day certainly didn’t. When Whitman elected to kick off again following the UW touchdown that made it 113-0, Washington took advantage of one last possession to finish the game on a nice, round number: 120-0.

After the game, Whitman coach Raymond Vincent “Nig” Borleske declined to give any comment on his team’s performance, only saying the Missionaries “had done as well as could be expected.” He admitted that not only were his players on average 30 pounds lighter than their UW counterparts — the Whitman line averaged 158 pounds per man — but four of them had never even played football before at any level.

On the UW side of things, the reporters and fans were reportedly nearly as ambivalent about their team as Borleske was of his. 

“Fumbles were too frequent,” The Daily Times reported. “Spectators commented that if a heavier eleven, such as Oregon, should open up with an aerial attack similar to that uncovered by Whitman in the third quarter, it would be all off with the Varsity.”

The P-I simply ended the analysis portion of its Sunday recap with “Washington’s next game is the Oregon [sic], when the Purple and Gold will be given its first real test.”

As it happened, Oregon would give the UW a test, beating the Purple and Gold 24-13 the next week in what ended up being Washington’s only loss of the season. 

Washington went on to win a share of the Pacific Coast Conference title. Hunt left the program following the season — just his second on Montlake — to begin his second stint at Carleton College in Minnesota. He spent the next 11 seasons there before retiring, and the C.J. Hunt Award has been given annually to the Division III Knights’ most improved player since 1954.

The UW hit the 100-point mark once more, beating Willamette 108-0 in 1925. It’s the most recent time a team from an FBS’ Power Five conference has hit triple-digits.

In 1977, Whitman dropped its football team for fiscal reasons. Alumni donations plummeted, and it took over three decades for the college to see them return to pre-1977 levels. 

Denny Field is currently a construction site near the new North Campus dorms.

Reach Managing Editor Josh Kirshenbaum at Twitter: @J_Kirshenbaum

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