Coyle and the "Ducks"
Rich Linde, 21 February 2011
Standing in a wintry line that stretched from the Registrar to Denny
Hall, the recurring thought of "class closed" failed to roil
William (Wee) Coyle quarterbacked Washington from 1908 to 1911,
becoming the first quarterback -- and maybe the only quarterback in
college football -- to go unbeaten in four seasons of leadership. Note
that he also lettered in baseball and track, and is now honored in the
University Hall of Fame in all three sports.
Coyle quarterbacked the 1909 team, which in Gilmour Dobie's later life
would trumpet as his best team ever. Dobie (59-0-3) coached Washington
from 1908-1916, and never lost a game, a record that has never been
equaled or surpassed at any other school.
Three of Coyle's games standout in my mind, all of them against Oregon.
(1) Sawdust game.
On March 4, 1908, Coyle bested football star George Rouse in the short
distance sprints, establishing his credentials as a speedster before
enrolling at Washington.
As a freshman in 1908, Coyle led the
Varsity to 15-0 victory over Oregon in a game played at Kinkaid Field.
Although the weather was not a factor, the field had been covered with 4
to 6 inches of sawdust. Dobie blamed Oregon's track coach, Bill Hayward,
who was a trainer for the football team, for the incident, fearing the
slow field would intimidate his freshmen dominated team. Later, Coyle
credited Dobie for the team's victory. “Boys, you’re going out and get
licked, and I can’t help you, but I’ll be ashamed of you if you don’t go
out and fight ’em and fight ‘em hard," were Dobie's inspiring words.
(2) Triple pass play. The 1909 Thanksgiving game against Oregon
is memorable because of two pass plays orchestrated by Coyle. The
Centralia Daily Chronicle (Monday,
November 29, 1909)
describes left end Warren Grimm's catches in that game.
"Last Thursday, against Oregon, he (Grimm) gave the most marvelous
exhibition of catching the ball under trying conditions I have ever
seen. He was always on deck and the farther the game went the larger and
more formidable he looked to Oregon. How Grimm got down to Oregon's line
and stood there calmly waiting for the ball to come his way at the time
the varsity made its second touchdown is still a mystery to nine-tenths
of the crowd, and the Oregon boys in particular. But he was there, al]
by his lonesome, and he caught that ball In the same easy manner that an
out-fielder pulls in a fly, stepped across the line and was back of the
goal posts before anybody had time to recover from the surprise. He made
the last touchdown by a spectacular run, following another sensational
Washington won 20-6. (The original article was written by Portus Baxter
of the Seattle Post Intelligencer).
Baxter also said, "I have never bad the slightest doubt about the
ability of 'Wee' Coyle to make the team in any of the big Eastern
universities, and now I am convinced that the same is true of Warren
The pair of touchdown passes to Grimm came via the triple pass play
(Dobie's version of the modern-day flea flicker), where Coyle laterals the ball to
halfback Leonard Taylor. In turn, Taylor laterals to halfback Melville Mucklestone who throws downfield to Grimm for the touchdowns.
In 1909, an incomplete pass of less than 5 yards resulted in a turnover.
And here is Dobie, best known for his dreaded off-tackle slant and
throwing caution to the wind.
(3) The bunk play. Coyle also participated in the game against
Oregon in 1911, directing Dobie's legendary Bunk play, a play that
accentuated Oregon's defeat.
The center faked a handoff to Coyle and kept the ball while the two
guards fell down in front of him. Coyle took off his leather helmet,
tucked it under one arm and bolted around end, drawing a flock of "Ducks." After counting to 3, the center turned and handed the ball off to
the end, who scampered in the opposite direction from Coyle and scored a
touchdown. Washington won the game 29-3. Sometime later, the trick play
was declared illegal. (See the "Ghost
of Dobie," by Mike Archbold, for a humorous description
of the play and witty characterizations of Dobie.
After Dobie prematurely resigned his job at UW in 1915, Coyle, who
coached Gonzaga at the time, reportedly applied for the head coaching job at his
alma mater. Later, Dobie changed his mind and went on to coach the 1916
season at Washington. Incidentally, Dobie's 1915 team beat Coyle's
Gonzaga-led team 21-7.
In September of 1917, Coyle, 29, graduated from officer’s training camp
at the Presidio in San Francisco, California. He was awarded the
Distinguished Service Cross on July
9, 1918, for "extraordinary heroism," this in action near Cheppy, France.
He served as Lieutenant Governor of Washington State from 1921-1925. As
a Seattle resident, he served for 15 years as the manager of the Seattle
Civic Auditorium. (Guide
to the William Jennings “Wee” Coyle Photograph Collection circa
In 2009, Coyle was inducted into the State of Washington Sports Hall of
president Dr. Henry Suzzallo
fired Dobie after the 1916 season for failing to fully train character on the football
field. The life and times of "Wee" Coyle say otherwise.
In Lynn Borland's biography, "Pursuit of Perfection," the
characterizations and recollections of Dobie, the man and his
coaching methods, attributed to Coyle make for priceless reading. [See Borland].
For more on Coyle, reference my articles, "A statue for
Gil Dobie," and the "Border war,"
both of them dedicated to the memory of Coyle.
[Borland]. Borland, Lynn, "Pursuit of Perfection," Tribute Publishing,
November 2010. (Gilmourdobie.com
Until someone gets Jake Locker's
pass statistics correct, the debate about his career pass-efficiency
rating will rage on and on.
Seattle Times' numbers for Jake over his career disagree with the
NCAA's numbers, which, by the way, match the numbers I have kept for
Jake over his career.
Here are the correct ones, in my
opinion: PA =
1148, PC = 619, Yardage = 7639, Int 's= 35, TD's = 53, PE = 118.95
Unfortunately, it's not that
The Washington website and the
Pac-10 numbers for Locker in the year 2009 (394 pass attempts) are in
disagreement with the NCAA's numbers (395 pass attempts), along with the
data I've kept, which match the NCAA's.
Adding up the attempts per game
on the Washington website yields a total number of 395 attempts for
2009, yet it lists the total number as 394, in spite of itself.