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Wilted Roses (1944 & 1950), a ploy and a play
Rich Linde, 9 September 2011

People living during World War II encountered many hardships: the great depression, all kinds of rationing, travel restrictions and the heartfelt pangs of loved ones serving their country in battle.

They will tell you about the fake community built on top of the Boeing Aircraft Company and all the barrage balloons used to intercept low-flying aircraft in the Seattle area.

For Husky fans, the sports world was rather meaningless back then but for one exception, the 1944 Rose Bowl.

In prior Rose Bowl games, Washington had tied Navy, 14-14, in 1924, lost to Alabama, 20-19, in 1926, and lost to Pittsburgh, 21-0, in 1937.

Though the Huskies lost the game in 1944, it's best remembered for a psychological ploy that resonates with the Gil Dobie era at Washington.

And try, try again.

Six years later, in 1950, Washington increased its stadium capacity, adding Cassill's castle (dubbed so after UW AD Harvey Cassill) to its south side. The Huskies also increased the impact of their air and ground forces, adding the accurate arm of the Bremerton bazooka, Don Heinrich, and the swift, powerful legs of Hurricane Hugh McElhenny.

Washington (8-2) played California (9-1-1) in its seventh game of the 1950 season, a game in which many people believed would determine the Rose Bowl representative for the Pacific Coast Conference.

Both the 1944 Rose Bowl and the 1950 matchup with Cal share a significant place in Husky history, the 1944 game because of the psychological ploy used by USC coach Jeff Cravath and the 1950 game because of a controversial play called by Don Heinrich.

The 1944 Rose Bowl

On January 1, 1944, unbeaten Washington (4-0) met USC (7-2) in the Rose Bowl, with war-time travel restrictions forcing the matchup. Prior to the meeting the Huskies had beaten the March Field Fliers, 27-7; whereas, the Trojans had lost to them 35-0. Based on the comparative scores, Washington was a 15-point favorite to win the matchup. (UW coach Ralph Welch, photo left)

"That naturally set the Huskies up, and we did our best to keep them there," USC coach Jeff Cravath said." It gave us just the psychological level we needed to send our team into battle today in perfect shape mentally and physically," he added, ironically echoing the same words Washington coaching legend -- and master psychologist -- Gilmour Dobie might have used after an important game.

Cravath admitted, after the game, that he'd deliberately allowed the odds-makers to underestimate his team and to establish Washington as a big favorite. Fortunately, Cravath was not a betting man.

Psychology had its day, as an underdog USC team thrashed UW, 29-0, with Cravath stealing a page out of Dobie's playbook on gamesmanship.

"I send my boys into a game thinking they have a fine chance of being whipped and only a small chance of winning. That makes them fight," Gil Dobie.

All four of the Trojan touchdowns came through the air, with Cravath's men -- three TD's via QB Jim Hardy -- giving "Pest" Welch's Huskies a tutorial in passing.

While the Huskies outrushed the Trojans, 134 yards to 117, 'SC won the aerial dual, 112 yards to 51. The Huskies, beating their collective heads against a stone wall, completed just 4 of 23 passes, while  'SC went 9 for 16 and picked off 3 Husky passes and recovered 2 Husky fumbles.

The Trojans were plus-5 in turnovers on the day.

The fact Washington switched from a ground game to a passing game in the first quarter was questioned, as UW QB Gerry Austin's passes were low and wild for the most part.

Had Austin not recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a USC safety in the fourth quarter, the score would have been more lopsided.

Having played just four games previously that season had to adversely affect Washington's preparedness. For example, UW's pass defense was woeful. 

"Washington left the field with its record of never having won a Rose Bowl game unblemished," the Seattle Times wrote. "Brethren and cistern, that was no defeat;  it was a shellacking--with four coats."

For fans, whose ears were always glued to Husky radio, listening to Bill Stern announce the game, his calling  it "this enormous, huge Rose Bowl," was a Husky highlight they never forgot. The legendary Stern referred to Washington tackle Don Deeks (6-foot-4, 238), as "Tiny" Deeks. "Tiny" is shown in the photo below, wrapping up USC running back Milford Dreblow in the '44 game.



'44 Rose Bowl Lineup, UW


Jack Tracy


Don Deeks


Frank Saksa


Gordon Berlin


Bill Ward


Tag Christensen


Dick Hagen


Gerry Austin


Sam Robinson


Al Akins


Wally Kramer


Team 1 2 3 4 Total
USC 0 7 13 9 29
Washington 0 0 0 0 0

The 1950 game with California

With Hurricane Hugh, the Bremerton Bazooka and Rollicking 'Rol (Roland Kirkby) in the same backfield what could go wrong for Washington's coach, Howie Odell (photo left)?

First of all, Cal's coach Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf had coached the Bears to a 35-3 record since assuming the coaching job in 1947. Secondly, his Bears had logged 20-straight conference victories. (See the Pappy Waldorf statue).

A potential-student-athlete's tour of the Washington campus should first visit Gilmour Dobie, his likeness, and his meaning to the glory of Washington.

Just the same, many people felt Washington had a good chance to win. And in the minds of many long-time Husky fans, there is a controversial play that they'll always remember. ("Pappy" Waldorf, left.)

Trailing late in the game, 14-7, Washington drove from its 9-yard line to the Cal 2, where it was fourth down and goal to go. Heinrich decided on a pass play, a decision that has been second guessed throughout Husky history. As he settled in to pass, he was hit and fumbled the ball. Cal's Dick Croger picked the ball up and was stopped on the Bears' 15.

Two plays later UW had a second chance to score after the Bears fumbled the ball away on their nine. As Heinrich attempted to pass, the ball was knocked out of his hand and recovered by Cal's Bob Minahen.

Cal negotiated a long drive after the second recovery to run out the clock.

It was a close game throughout.

In the second quarter, the Huskies scored their only touchdown on a Bill Early run from 2-yards out, to cap off a 59-yard drive that followed an interception of a Jim Marinos pass by Dick Sprague.

In the third quarter, the game tied at 7-apiece, Cal quarterback Marinos hit Pete Schabaum with a fourth-down, 12-yard touchdown pass to give the Bears a 14-7 lead, in what was turned out to be the winning score.

Heinrich and McElhenny were throttled down by Cal's defense, and Marinos and RB Johnny Olszewski won individual duels with them, respectively.

Heinrich's receivers were knocked off their pass routes by the Bears' defenders, and it was difficult for Heinrich to find someone open at times. His passing efficiency on the game (97.5) paled next to Marinos' rating of 167.82.

Olszewski (Johnny O) outrushed McElhenny 119 to 66 yards. Hugh suffered an injury to a hip muscle in the first half that limited his playing time in the beginning stanzas. (See the game statistics below).

The game was shown on black and white TV, courtesy of 10 and 12-inch models, the presentation of which was kind of like the birds-eye view afforded by the new press box, sitting high atop Husky Stadium.

California went on to lose the Rose Bowl to Ohio State, 14-7. The Huskies finished 8-2 on the season and second in the PCC.


In 1950, Heinrich played in 10 games and threw 14 touchdown passes. His passing efficiency for that year of 143.6 ranks as third highest in Husky history.

In the same year, McElhenny rushed for a school record 296 yards against Washington State. His average of 14.8 yards per carry is also a school per game record.

UW allowed WSC to score a touchdown late in the game so that Heinrich would have time to break Chuck Conerly's passing record set with Mississippi in 1947. Heinrich ended up breaking the record with 134 completions.

The King's average of 6.2 yards per carry on the season is the third highest in Husky history. Hurrying Hugh posted 14 touchdowns in the 1950 season.

Both McElhenny and Heinrich are members of the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame, two of eleven Huskies to be so named. The dynamic duo are two of six Huskies to be ranked as top vote-gettters in Heisman Trophy balloting (McElhenny, eighth 1951; Heinrich, ninth 1952)


Ralph "Pest" Welch was 27-20-3 at Washington (1942-1947). He passed away on September 17, 1975, at the age of 67.

Howard "Howie" Odell coached Washington (1948-1952) to a 23-25-2 record. He passed away on October 30, 2000, at the age of 89.

Jeff Cravath compiled a 54-28-8 record at USC (1942-1950). He coached USC to 4 Rose Bowl appearances, posting a 2-2 record. He passed away on December 10, 1953, aged 50.

At California, Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf posted a 67-32-4 record, his teams appearing in 3 Rose Bowls, all of which they lost. Waldorf passed away at the age of 78, on August 15, 1981.

After graduating from Washington, Don Deeks played pro football for the Boston Yanks, the Washington Redskins and the Green Bay Packers. He passed away on September 4, 1995, aged 72.


Team 1 2 3 4 Total
California 0 7 7 0 14
Washington 0 7 0 0 7

Statistics UW UCB
Total First Downs 13 12
  Rushing 5 9
  Passing 8 3
  Penalty 0 0
Total Net Yards 240 270
Net Yards Passing 125 81
Net Yards Rushing 115 189
Completions-att-int 11-20-1 7-9-1
Punts, average  7, 36.1 7, 38.0
Kickoff Returns: number, yds, tds 4, 52 2, 37
Penalties, no., Yards 6, 30 9, 55
Fumbles; number/lost 4, 2 2, 2

Passing cmp att yds tds int
Marinos (167.82) 7 9 81 1 1
Heinrich (97.50) 11 20 125 0 1
Bears Rushing No. yds tds long  
Monachino 15 49      
Scharbarum 13 36 2*    
Olszewski 16 119      
Marinos 7 -19      
* 1 by pass; 1 by run          
Washington Rushing No. yds tds long
McElhenny 17 66      
Kirkby 33      
Early 11 22 1    
Mitchell 1 2      
Heinrich 5 -19      
UCB No. yds avg long IN20
Rosbison 7 266 38.0
Heinrich  7 253 36.1    
Attendance: 55000          

Richard Linde, aka Malamute can be reached at

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