Indeed, 78 Huskies saw action, and about half of them, it seemed, scored touchdowns. The other half kept busy by blitzing and bashing Cal quarterbacks, linemen and ballcarriers. By the game's final two minutes, Cal had executed only three plays and one punt from inside Washington's territory—the Bears' deepest penetration had been to the Husky 44—but Kapp's kids still came slugging back. When the Golden Bears finally scored their touchdown, averting the shutout, they did so against Washington's third-string defense (second-string at some positions, but that was largely a result of injuries).
"How deep did I get into our depth chart?" said James. "The next running back to go in would have been me."
A Don James did in fact get into the game, in the person of Cal's second-string defensive tackle of that name. The exploits of that Don James—"Another tackle for Don James!" crooned the P.A. announcer—provided a pleasant diversion for the Husky student section, which otherwise had been dancing itself dizzy in the rare Seattle sunshine and directing renditions of that old Latin standard, Tequila, in a unisonic din at the formerly legendary, formerly hard-drinking, half-Mexican quarterback-turned-California-coach, Kapp.
There was no doubt that it was Kapp's very presence that made this game between Cal and Washington, 4-0 and ranked No. 2 by SI and No. 1 by AP and UPI, such a big one. The Bears' 3-1 start under Kapp had the earmarks of a miracle in progress. Nearly all the controversy that had accompanied Kapp's hiring last spring had suddenly vanished. Quarterback Gale Gilbert, who'd announced at midsummer that he would leave Cal after having told Kapp that he thought Kapp was incompetent, had returned in the fall and won the starting job. Of Kapp's arrival, Harvey Salem, a four-year starter at offensive tackle and a 3.2 psychology major, had said, "I was shocked. I thought, 'My God, Hollywood!' In one of our first meetings Coach Kapp was talking Rose Bowl, and we'd been 2-9. Give me a break!" Last week Salem was saying, "Joe is sincere, and it rubs off on the team."
"In the spring it was one long monsoon," says Cal Sports Information Director John McCasey. "But fall came, the clouds parted, and amazingly, it was time to play football." A season-opening 31-17 win at Colorado made a few skeptics into believers, and a 28-0 romp over San Diego State the following week brought more into the fold. Then a 26-7 thrashing of San Jose State after a tough 15-0 loss to Arizona State revived a lost religion. The ghost of Pappy Waldorf was alive in Joe Kapp. "During the San Jose game," says Kapp, "for the first time I could look down the bench and see a group of players who expected to win. You know, difficult as it is for me to comprehend this, last year these players expected to lose. Can you imagine that? Football players expecting to lose?"
There were so many converts that last week the buildup for the Cal-Washington game knocked the Golden Bears' Bay Area archrival, Stanford, possessor of the best college quarterback in America, to page six of the San Francisco Chronicle sports section.
"It's a very good position to be in, playing a top-ranked team," said Cal Athletic Director Dave Maggard a little smugly on Friday night. Maggard was the man who wanted Kapp and no one but Kapp to coach his Golden Bears. "We've already beaten the skeptics who said we wouldn't win a game. Not a game. We've beaten them by three. And we've already won more games than we did all last year. It's a good position to be in," he repeated. What did Maggard mean by that? He just smiled a smile that said, "What have we got to lose?" Oh my, what an answer awaited.
Meanwhile, things hadn't been exactly rosy in Seattle. Husky fans were being mighty hard on their team, and the Huskies were being pretty hard on themselves. With James's SRO redshirt class of '82—he has 17 players who are in their fifth year at Washington—coming of age, the feeling was that the Huskies could play the regular season by mail while shopping for holiday rentals in the Pasadena area. Explain then, you Huskies, the following: After opening up with a fully expected 55-0 blowout of Texas-El Paso, why did you beat Arizona by only 23-13, and trail Oregon, which hadn't scored an offensive touchdown in 12 quarters, 21-17 in the fourth period before pulling out a 37-21 win, and get behind San Diego State—the same San Diego State that was badly beaten by Cal—14-9 in the second quarter before winning 46-25?
"I know, I know," James said on Friday at the end of a week of tooth-jarring practices. In any other season—in 1981, for instance, when the Huskies went 9-2 and mauled Iowa 28-0 in the Rose Bowl—James would have had no need to defend his team for winning however it could, but of course this year is different. Bigger and better things are expected of Washington. "San Diego State had lost to Air Force and Cal," James said. "Oregon had been scoreless. Neither team looked good on film. We didn't prepare well and we struggled. We had four senior defensive backs—three from the redshirt class—yet we'd given up six touchdowns through the air. That caused some concern. It's easy to make the team do the physical work. Just keep them out there till they do it. It's the mental thing that's tricky."
The rankings have a lot to do with "the mental thing," as every coach knows. James is a little fed up with talking about the ratings, but, he says, "You'd like to get tired of being on top. What happens when you're Number One or Two is, your opponents get higher when they play you. That's to be expected. Only, when they've gotten higher, we've gotten lower. The ratings are helping our opponents more than they're helping us." Not that James isn't doing his part. In the two weeks before the Cal game, he didn't pick his team No. 1 on his UPI Coaches Poll ballot. What he needs is a campaign manager. VOTE WASHINGTON FOR NO. 3!