By Tony Castricone (photo credit: Scott Eklund)
August 17, 2018

We’re just 15 days away from kickoff on what may be the biggest season opener in the history of Husky football. Number-6 Washington heads to Atlanta to battle 10th-ranked Auburn to open up the 2018 campaign.

Season openers are exciting as it is. But where does this one compare with the rest of the openers in Washington football history?

Here’s a brief history:

  • In the 71 years since 1947, the Dawgs are 44-24-3 in their season lid-lifters.
  • September 1st will mark just the second time UW has ever found itself in a Top 10 showdown to open up the year. Washington and Purdue battled to a 7-7 tie to open the 1962 campaign in Husky Stadium, when the Boilermakers entered the season ranked 7th and the Dawgs were ranked number 10.
  • This year’s game against Auburn is only the second time the Huskies have opened the year on a neutral field, and the first time they’ve started the season in a neutral city. UW lost to the Air Force Academy 20-17 at Qwest Field in Seattle back in 2005.
  • No Husky running back has ever gone for 200 yards on opening day. Napoleon Kaufman’s 195-yard outing against Stanford in 1993 still ranks as the top rushing performance by a Dawg in a season debut.
  • This will be just the third time the Huskies have opened the season against an S.E.C. opponent. Washington lost at home to LSU 31-23 in Steve Sarkisian’s first game as head coach in 2009, and also dropped a 27-18 decision to Mississippi State in Warren Moon’s senior season of 1977, a game the Bulldogs later had to forfeit. Current S.E.C. member Texas A&M visited Husky Stadium to kick off the 1989 season back when they were in the Southwest Conference. The Dawgs beat the Aggies 19-6.
  • Since 1947, the Huskies have faced the Big Ten Conference in season openers more than any other league. UW is 8-6-1 in its 15 premiers against the Big Ten. The second most frequent league opening opponents have been from has been… our own. Washington has debuted against Pac-8/Pac-10/PCC opponents 13 times, going 9-4 in those games.

Washington’s 2018 debut against Auburn will be just the fifth time the Huskies have ever opened the season against a Top 10 ranked opponent. The Dawgs are 2-1-1 in those games. Three of the previous four such occurrences happened against a member of the Big Ten Conference:

  • 2003 at #2 Ohio State (L, 9-28)
  • 1962 vs #7 Purdue (T, 7-7)
  • 1998 at #8 Arizona State (W, 42-38)
  • 1986 vs #10 Ohio State (W, 40-7)
  • 2018 vs #10 Auburn in Atlanta

The Huskies are kicking off the season against a ranked team for the 19th time in school history. Washington is 6-10-1 in openers against ranked opponents, not counting 1977, when Mississippi State had to forfeit its win for using an ineligible player. The Dawgs have lost five of their last six openers against ranked teams going back to 2002.

Year Site Rk Opponent Result UW Opp
2018 N 10 Auburn
2015 A 23 Boise St L 13 16
2013 H 19 Boise St W 38 6
2009 H 11 LSU L 23 31
2008 A 21 Oregon L 10 44
2003 A 2 Ohio State L 9 28
2002 A 13 Michigan L 29 31
2001 H 11 Michigan W 23 18
1998 A 8 Arizona St W 42 38
1997 A 19 BYU W 42 20
1996 A 20 Arizona St L 42 45
1994 A 17 USC L 17 24
1993 H 15 Stanford W 31 14
1986 H 10 Ohio State W 40 7
1985 H 16 Oklahoma St L 17 31
1978 H 12 UCLA L 7 10
1977 H 16 Mississippi St L* 18 27
1969 A 12 Michigan St L 11 27
1962 H 7 Purdue T 7 7

Let’s take a look at the best all-time performances by Husky offensive players in season-opening games:

RUSHING YARDS OPPONENT RESULT YEAR
Napoleon Kaufman 195 vs Stanford W, 31-14 1993
Ron Rowland 183 vs Virginia W, 38-17 1976
Hugh McElhenny 177 vs Kansas State W, 33-7 1950
Rashaan Shehee 171 at BYU W, 42-20 1997
Aaron Jenkins 162 at Purdue W, 20-6 1988
PASSING YARDS OPPONENT RESULT YEAR
Keith Price 324 vs Boise State W, 38-6 2013
Jake Locker 321 vs LSU L, 23-31 2009
Cody Pickett 318 at Michigan L, 29-31 2002
Brock Huard 318 at Arizona State W, 42-38 1998
Tom Flick 316 vs Air Force W, 50-7 1980
RECEIVING YARDS OPPONENT RESULT YEAR
Darryl Franklin 209 vs Stanford W, 31-21 1987
Roland Kirkby 184 vs Kansas State W, 33-7 1950
Jerome Pathon 163 at BYU W, 42-20 1997
Reggie Williams 134 vs Michigan W, 23-18 2001
Paul Skansi 132 vs Texas El Paso W, 55-0 1982


Most rushing TDs in a season-opener:
3, Louis Rankin (2007 vs Syracuse), Toussaint Tyler (1980 vs Air Force) and Joe Steele (1979 vs Wyoming)

Most passing TDs in a season-opener: 4, Brock Huard (1998 at Arizona State) and Don Heinrich (1950 vs Kansas State)

Most receiving TDs in a season-opener: 3, Roland Kirkby (1950 vs Kansas State)

Here’s a look at the different leagues UW’s season-opening opponents have been from since 1947:

Conference Number Record Most recent
ACC 1 1-0 1976 vs Virginia (W, 38-17)
Big 10 15 8-6-1 2017 at Rutgers (W, 30-14)
Big 7/8/12 6 2-3-1 1985 vs #16 Oklahoma State (L, 17-31)
Big East* 1 1-0 2007 at Syracuse (W, 42-14)
Big Sky 2 2-0 1966 vs Idaho (W, 19-7)
Big West 2 2-0 2000 vs Idaho (W, 44-20)
Independents 5 2-3 1974 vs Cincinnati (W, 21-17)
Misc. I-AA/FCS 5 5-0 2011 vs Eastern Washington (W, 30-27)
Mountain States Conf* 3 3-0 1954 vs Utah (W, 7-6)
Mountain West 7 3-4 2015 at #23 Boise State (L, 13-16)
Pac 8/10/12/PCC 13 9-4 2008 at #21 Oregon (L, 10-44)
SEC 2 0-1^ 2009 vs #11 LSU (L, 23-31)
Southwest 2 1-0-1 1989 vs Texas A&M (W, 19-6)
WAC* 7 5-2 2006 vs San Jose State (W, 35-29)

* now defunct football conference
^ record does not include game forfeited by Mississippi State

And, finally, if you’d like to take a look at each game for yourself…

Year Site Rk Opponent W/L UW Opp Conference
2018 N 10 Auburn SEC
2017 A Rutgers W 30 14 Big 10
2016 H Rutgers W 48 13 Big 10
2015 A 23 Boise St L 13 16 Mountain West
2014 A Hawaii W 17 16 Mountain West
2013 H 19 Boise St W 38 6 Mountain West
2012 H San Diego St W 21 12 Mountain West
2011 H Eastern Washington W 30 27 FCS
2010 A BYU L 17 23 Mountain West
2009 H 11 LSU L 23 31 SEC
2008 A 21 Oregon L 10 44 PAC 10
2007 A Syracuse W 42 12 BIG EAST
2006 H San Jose St W 35 29 WAC
2005 H* Air Force L 17 20 Mountain West
2004 H Fresno St L 16 35 WAC
2003 A 2 Ohio State L 9 28 Big 10
2002 A 13 Michigan L 29 31 Big 10
2001 H 11 Michigan W 23 18 Big 10
2000 H Idaho W 44 20 BIG WEST
1999 A BYU L 28 35 Mountain West
1998 A 8 Arizona St W 42 38 PAC 10
1997 A 19 BYU W 42 20 WAC
1996 A 20 Arizona St L 42 45 PAC 10
1995 H Arizona St W 23 20 PAC 10
1994 A 17 USC L 17 24 PAC 10
1993 H 15 Stanford W 31 14 PAC 10
1992 A Arizona St W 31 7 PAC 10
1991 A Stanford W 42 7 PAC 10
1990 H San Jose St W 20 17 BIG WEST
1989 H Texas A&M W 19 6 Southwest
1988 A Purdue W 20 6 Big 10
1987 H Stanford W 31 21 PAC 10
1986 H 10 Ohio State W 40 7 Big 10
1985 H 16 Oklahoma St L 17 31 BIG 8
1984 H Northwestern W 26 0 Big 10
1983 A Northwestern W 34 0 Big 10
1982 H UTEP W 55 0 WAC
1981 H Pacific W 34 14 I-AA
1980 H Air Force W 50 7 WAC
1979 H Wyoming W 38 2 WAC
1978 H 12 UCLA L 7 10 PAC 10
1977 H 16 Mississippi St L* 18 27 SEC
1976 H Virginia W 38 17 ACC
1975 A Arizona St L 12 35 WAC
1974 H Cincinnati W 21 17 Independent
1973 H Hawaii L 7 10 Independent
1972 H Pacific W 13 6 I-AA
1971 H UC Santa Barbara W 65 7 I-AA
1970 H Michigan St W 42 16 Big 10
1969 A 12 Michigan St L 11 27 Big 10
1968 H Rice T 35 35 Southwest
1967 H Nebraska L 7 17 BIG 8
1966 H Idaho W 19 7 BIG SKY
1965 H Idaho W 14 9 BIG SKY
1964 H Air Force L 2 3 Independent
1963 A Air Force L 7 10 Independent
1962 H 7 Purdue T 7 7 Big 10
1961 H Purdue L 6 13 Big 10
1960 H College of Pacific W 55 6 I-AA
1959 A Colorado W 21 12 BIG 7
1958 H San Jose St W 14 6 Independent
1957 H Colorado T 6 6 BIG 7
1956 H Idaho W 53 21 PCC
1955 H Idaho W 14 7 PCC
1954 H Utah W 7 6 Mountain States Conf.
1953 H Colorado L 20 21 BIG 7
1952 H Idaho W 39 14 PCC
1951 H Montana W 58 7 Mountain States Conf.
1950 H Kansas St W 33 7 BIG 7
1949 H Utah W 14 7 Mountain States Conf.
1948 H Minnesota L 0 20 Big 10
1947 A Minnesota L 6 7 Big 10