SI Vault
Alfred Wright
January 09, 1961
An invading horde of friends and relatives watched Washington and Minnesota win half a game apiece, but in the end the Huskies ran the higher score with a swift and artful offense
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January 09, 1961

The Wildest Rose

An invading horde of friends and relatives watched Washington and Minnesota win half a game apiece, but in the end the Huskies ran the higher score with a swift and artful offense

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There are two American cities that genuflect to no one in their uncontrollable—one could even say undying—affection for the home-town football team. When citizens of these two cities, Seattle and Minneapolis, assembled for a contest between their Washington Huskies and their Minnesota Gophers on the green grass of Pasadena, sensible natives took shelter. The less sensible—97,000 of them—were at the Arroyo Seco, where the Rose Bowl sits, and everyone but the ushers appeared to be related to a player on one or the other team. In its long history, the Rose Bowl had never been shaken by such passion from the stands.

Luckily for this ardent gathering, each team won half of the game. However, Washington won the first half 17-0, whereas Minnesota won the second half by only 7-0, so Washington won the game. Because Minnesota has been ranked as the No. 1 team in the country by the wire service polls, the result might be called an upset, although actually the game was much too even for that.

Before Monday, lots of people were saying that Washington lacked the bowl-game incentive. Twenty-six of Washington's players had been in last year's 44-8 stampede over Wisconsin. Never in the history of the Rose Bowl had a team returned with so many veterans of a previous bowl game. The prevailing opinion was that they might take the game a little too casually.

Bob Schloredt, the Husky quarterback who came back to this game after half a season spent healing a broken collarbone, didn't agree at all. On the day before the game, the Washington team drove up from Long Beach in their buses to have a look at the empty Rose Bowl. Dressed in their blue-blazer-and-gray-slacks uniforms, they walked up and down the green turf and toed the hard earth underneath. They climbed up the aisles in small groups and wandered among the empty seats. Some sat in the shade of the press box in the very last row to see what the field looked like from there.

Schloredt stayed down on the field, taking pictures of his friends and squinting the length of the gridiron at the northern goal posts. "We made our first touchdown against Wisconsin up there," he said. "And we made another there in the third quarter. And we kicked our field goal up there. But you know, I'm more nervous for this game than I was for Wisconsin. Minnesota's better than Wisconsin was. You can see that in the movies. There's nothing complacent about this team."

Bob Hivner, who has alternated with Schloredt as the starting quarterback since they were sophomores and who started the game Monday, was talking to a friend near by. "The field looks the same as last year," he said. "I sure hope the scoreboard does, too."

The tone in the Minnesota camp was not so wistful. Indeed, after a slow start in their preparations, the Gophers were confident. Coach Murray Warmath clearly had his mind set on the timing of his offense and the spirit of his players. The Gophers were rated No. 1 in the country and they knew they were good. Some of them got sore legs and blisters on their feet from the hard surface of their practice field, but Warmath worried more about fat heads than about that. And on their last big practice before the game, the future began to look bright. Sandy Stephens, the 215-pound Minnesota quarterback and one of the very few Negroes ever to hold the quarterback's job on a major college team, felt just fine. "We've had two real good practices in a row," he said with great confidence. "Not a mistake. We're ready."

Warmath seemed to agree, in a restrained sort of way. A gruff, matter-of-fact sort of man from Tennessee without a trace of Dale Carnegie in his big frame, he spent hours in his Huntington Hotel press room talking to the dozens of reporters who kept arriving on every inbound plane as the game approached.

"They're wonderful boys, most of them seniors," Warmath told the group that surrounded him, pencils poised. "They all wanted to come out here. I know Washington is fast, but they aren't any faster than Iowa was, and we contained them. Our only worry is whether we are up mentally. Physically we're fine."

"We're about like we were before the Wisconsin game," Sandy Stephens explained a few minutes later. "For that one we got up just a few days before the game. It wasn't like Iowa, when we were up for a whole week. We had a lot of diversions when we first got here, but now we're ready to play football."

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