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Tui and the Tree
Malamute, 10 May 2005

As this story is told sometime in the future.

“Once upon a time there was woodsman named Tui. One crisp fall day, Tui saw a tall Tree wandering near a large lake -- miles from The Farm. As a brisk wind lifted its branches, with needles shooting upwards before swirling lazily to the ground, he chopped the Tree down in tempo to 'Bow Down,' using a double-bit axe, not the single-bit hatchet he supposedly carried.” 

“The University of Washington Junior quarterback, who had been penciled in as a defensive back on most 1997 recruiting charts, proved again he could pass as well as run.”

On October 30, 1999, Stanford (5-2, 5-0) traveled to Husky Stadium, unbeaten in the Pac-10 and ranked twenty-fifth in the country. The week before Washington (4-3, 3-1), had narrowly beaten California, pulling out a win in the last two minutes, 31-27.

Against Stanford, Marques Tuiasosopo, passed for 302 yards and ran for 207 yards, becoming the first player in NCAA Division I-A history to rush for 200 yards and pass for 300 in the same game.

But that stat needs a painful asterisk.

On the second play of the game, Tuiasosopo hit the turf with a resounding thud, suffering a severe bruise to his gluteus maximus. After that injury, he limped noticeably for the rest of the game. (The injury balances the Tree’s poor defensive ranking -- 111th in Division I-A football at that time).

“With all due respect to Tui, the Gods of Football handicapped the game with his bum. Well, it could have been a leg, a shoulder or an arm.”

And the Cardinal led 17-12 at half.

Despite the injury, Tuiasosopo figured in all of Washington’s first half scoring. He ran key plays on both of true freshman John Anderson’s field goals: a 28-yard option keeper that led to his 49-yard boot and a 12-yard run on a fourth-and-two option that led to a 40-yarder. Engineering a 92-yard drive, Tui carried for 29 yards after being flushed from the pocket on a third-down play, and finished the drive off with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Gerald Harris.

"I mean, he could hardly walk at halftime. I was definitely wondering if he (Tuiasosopo) could come back for the second half, and to see him do what he did, it was inspiring," WR Dane Looker was quoted as saying. "But I'll tell you what. He went out there and pulled off one of the greatest performances in Husky history."

He was hurt so badly his boss considered scrapping the option play to salvage as much of Tui as he could. The brave woodsman he was Tui nixed the idea and pulled a Paul Bunyan, eventually delivering some chops of his own. 'If I'm going to come out, they are going to have to take me out,’ he told his boss, lumberjack Rick.”

To start the third quarter, quarterback Todd Husak connected with receiver DeRonnie Pitts on 26-yard touchdown pass, the first of 10 straight plays by Stanford of 10 yards or more.

His team trailing 23-12, Tuiasosopo capped a 99-yard drive with a 30 yard gallop -- the play of the game -- to put the Dawgs within 4 points of the lead after Anderson’s kick. On that drive Tui ran for 53 yards and passed for 27 yards, figuring in 8 of the drive’s 11 plays.

Washington’s current coach, Tyrone Willingham, then Stanford’s coach, played a significant role in the game.

On the ensuing series, the Cardinal had a chance to widen its lead of 23-19. Stanford drove to the UW 33-yard line, where it was fourth-and-6. Instead of opting for another pass, which had worked so well on the drive, Willingham elected to go with a 50-yard field goal, which ended up well short.

Later, UW kicker Anderson said he thought the wind had bothered kicker Mike Biselli.

"Usually, when I make those decisions," a quintessential Willingham tersely told the media, "I think we have a chance to make it."

Anderson added a 40-yard field goal later in the quarter to bring the Huskies within a point, 22-23.

“At the end of the third quarter, members of the 1959 Rose Bowl team, along with Jim Owens, lined up on the goal line at the west end of the stadium. Behind by a point, the 1999 Huskies huddled at mid-field and waved to Owens and his team (McKeta, Schloredt, Fleming…)”

“Under the ‘Bear,’ the ‘Big Fella’ was the head assistant coach at Junction. The main lesson of the Junction training camp was all about fourth-quartering people, and Owens brought “fourth quartering” to Montlake in 1957, coloring it purple.

“Inspired by the tradition of the fourth quarter, the Huskies painted the Cardinal purple.”

“‘Follow, C-gap on two. Pat, you lead the way.’”

“’Cover it up, Tui, cover it up.’”

“’Ready; break.’”

With 9:54 to go in the game, Tuiasospo finished a 72-yard drive with a 10-yard run, faking to FB Pat Coniff and then following his lead, ducking and weaving his way into the end zone, to put the Huskies on top, 28-23.

Victory would not be easy, as the two teams traded interceptions.

Safety Tim Smith intercepted Tuiasosopo to give the Tree some life on the Dawgs’ 47. However, cornerback Anthony Vontoure made his second diving interception of the game, picking off Todd Husak with 7:02 left.

Six plays later Tuiasosopo optioned left, taking the ball to midfield and a critical first down.

A couple of plays later, the Huskies pulled away, 35-23, following a 48-yard burst by Maurice Shaw, who ended up with 113 yards rushing. "The O-line just opened up a hole and I ran behind my fullback. It was open through the middle so I got to show some of my old track speed,” Shaw said.

“Starting at the 12:28 mark in the third quarter, the Huskies had posted a 23-0 run on the Tree over 26 minutes of clock time. The woodsman had done his job.”

A Todd Husak touchdown pass ended the scoring, with the Dawgs prevailing, 35-30.

TE Jerramy Stevens said, "The crowd (70,308) was in it. They pushed the limit. Every time there was a big play you could feel it on the field. Guys didn't want to give up and we didn't want to let the crowd down."

Offensive linemen Chad Ward said, "They (the Stanford defense) call themselves the ‘trench dogs’ and they bring dog collars and chain them up before the game.”

“In those days, no one barked in Washington’s tunnel but the Huskies.”

The offensive line and Ward accounted for 368 yards rushing against the Tree.

The Huskies rolled up 670 yards of offense, while holding Stanford to 481. Tuiasosopo completed 19 of 32 passes, with 2 interceptions and 1 touchdown.

Husak passed for 300 yards, completing 22 of 41 passes, for 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Vontoure recorded both picks, his fourth and fifth of the season.

Defensively, Curtis Williams of Washington was credited with 6 solo tackles, 8 in all.

Later, tragedy would strike Williams and Vontoure.

The next year against Stanford, Curtis Williams suffered a severe cervical spinal cord injury that eventually cost him his life on May 6, 2002. Saddened by his teammate’s death and having just attended his funeral, Anthony Vontoure lost his life under controversial circumstances on May 31in Sacramento, California.

“Their loving memory lives on, as does their profound presence in that game.”

The Cardinal (8-4, 7-1) went to the Rose Bowl that season, losing to Wisconsin 17-7; second-place Washington (7-5, 6-2) lost to Kansas State (11-1) in the Holiday Bowl, 24-20.

“It’s time for dinner, sonny,” and the old man set his grandson down from his lap.

“Finish the story, Grandpa.”

He went on, “In 1999, the Huskies wore deep purple and their logos bore genuine Huskies – the lavender and weasel still a figment of someone’s silly imagination.”

“Tui’s brilliant day is another chapter from the Glory of Washington. The roar of Husky Stadium -- that purple seaplane with folded up wings revving for takeoff on the shore of Union Bay – lingered on in Tyrone Willingham’s mind. He was exposed to ‘Husky Fever' that day.”

“And, later, he restored the purple and he restored the logo but, most of all, Willingham returned to Glory...”

The front door opened for another of his grandsons. Shyly, he lowered his head in the presence of the old man, but Grandpa’s pleasant welcome melted the boy’s reticence.

Gathering courage,” Grandpa, tell me that story again, the one about ‘Tui and the Tree.’”

“Come here, sonny, and sit on my lap.” Lovingly, he held his grandson in his arms. “It can’t be told enough.”

 

Credit: Quotes from the players and coaches were taken from The Seattle Times.

Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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