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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 my resolve.

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 catch."

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 Grimm."

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 conservatism, literally 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 1900-1953.)

In 2009, Coyle was inducted into the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame.

University 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 ).


Locker's pass-efficiency rating:

Until someone gets Jake Locker's pass statistics correct, the debate about his career pass-efficiency rating will rage on and on.

The 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 simple.

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.

Richard Linde can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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