PASADENA, CALIF., JAN. 1 -- There was little novelty in this, and no national championship aspirations to speak of. So, what to make of the University of Washington's pounding of Iowa today in a Rose Bowl that was decided before darkness?
At the very least, the eighth-ranked Huskies (10-2) proved as good a team as the coaches, Washington's Don James and Iowa's Hayden Fry, have been saying for the past week.
In a rout until the end -- the norm on 1991's first day -- Washington used four first-half touchdowns to offset an Iowa comeback and defeat the Hawkeyes, 46-34, before 101,273 in the highest-scoring Rose Bowl in history.
Before the wild fourth quarter -- in which Iowa scored three touchdowns, recovered two onside kicks and botched a fake field goal -- Washington looked as potent as Miami, which, despite a 48-21 victory over the Hawkeyes in September, didn't impress Fry as much as the Huskies.
"We seem to have a difficult time stopping people in bowl games," Fry said. "Every time we come here, the other team scores a lot of points. Maybe Washington is that good."
For two quarters, there was no disputing that. Sophomore quarterback Mark Brunell ran for one touchdown and threw for another in the first half to complement an interception and blocked punt that resulted in touchdowns.
"You could see a little bit of his feet today and what they've done for us," James said of Brunell, who added two touchdowns, one running and one throwing, in the second half. "I think he'll become an even better passer."
Brunell was helped by running back Greg Lewis, who rushed for 128 yards on 19 carries in his first game after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in November.
Washington cornerbacks Charles Mincy and Dana Hall also earned some time in the limelight with touchdowns on Iowa mistakes in the first half.
"There's nothing that can take this away from me," said Mincy, whose interception and return of Matt Rodgers's pass was the first of three consecutive Washington touchdowns. "I don't care how many points they scored."
The 17th-ranked Hawkeyes (8-4) didn't quit after the disastrous start. They scored early in the third quarter on Rodgers's seven-yard run to give Iowa hope that it could recover from a 33-7 deficit.
Iowa continued its recovery in the fourth, as Rodgers and Nick Bell had scoring runs and Rodgers threw a touchdown pass to Mike Saunders, though the Hawkeyes never got closer than 12 points. Their problem was Brunell, who tormented them from the start and threw a 31-yard scoring pass to Mario Bailey with 4:43 remaining to put a rally out of reach.
"They were really executing at the end," Brunell said. "They were throwing and making big plays. I think the whole team was concerned, and we knew we had to make some big plays."
Brunell's play was so demoralizing for Hawkeyes' fans that some left after the sophomore's 20-yard touchdown run with 3:27 left in the third quarter, extending the lead to 39-14.
Just when it seemed Iowa had settled down early in the second quarter, Rodgers threw what might have been his worst pass of the season.
With intended receiver Danan Hughes open, Rodgers threw to an equally uncovered Mincy, Washington's left cornerback. The unobstructed Mincy made the interception and ran for a 37-yard score to put the Huskies ahead 19-7.
The second-quarter carnage didn't stop there. Having forced Iowa to punt for the fifth time in the half after Brunell's touchdown, the Huskies regained possession at the Iowa 45 -- and scored again.
Brunell, proceeding without a huddle, completed passes of 6, 2 and 15 yards to tight end Aaron Pierce, then found Bailey in the back corner of the end zone for a 22-yard score to extend the lead to 33-7.
Lewis was the Huskies' other catalyst, running for 89 yards on 12 carries before halftime.
Earlier, Washington's Andy Mason ran untouched through the middle of the Hawkeyes' line to block Jim Hujsak's punt. Hall fielded the ball on a bounce and cruised 27 yards for a touchdown, only two minutes after Travis Hanson's first of two field goals.
It was the Huskies' third blocked punt of the season, and first that resulted in a touchdown.
Iowa, meanwhile, recorded only one first down in the first quarter.
The Hawkeyes didn't make a significant offensive gain until the first series of the second quarter. Rodgers, on third and 10 from Iowa's 35, spun away from Steve Emtman and Travis Richardson and completed a pass to tailback Tony Stewart, who ran to the Washington 28.
After Rodgers's three-yard pass to Lew Montgomery, Bell made runs of 10 and 15 yards, the latter for a touchdown, cutting the Huskies' lead to 10-7.
Lewis helped the Huskies add to their advantage with a 44-yard run on the first play of the next series, setting up Hanson's 38-yarder to make it 13-7.