(Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a story about the life of a college football team’s season in just two games: one was abject heartbreak and the other was extreme joy. The team was the University of Washington this season, and the events that unfolded reminded me of the Charles Dickens novel “A Tale of Two Cities. This is what really happened and when).
As disheartening as Washington’s loss to Notre Dame was, what was about to happen was more than the Huskies could have hoped or imagined. He will forever live in the annuals of Washington Husky football tradition.
With their season record now at 2-3, the Washington Huskies would return to their home soil and await the arrival of the Arizona Wildcat’s glittering 3-1 record with victories over Central Michigan and Northern Arizona at home and Oregon State in the highway. . Their lone loss was by 10 points to the 12th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes in another road game.
Arizona coach Mike Stoops (brother of Oklahoma Sooners coach Bob Stoops) had compiled an 8-5 mark last year capped by a win over Brigham Young in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Wildcats were finally getting national attention, and they weren’t eager to back down.
Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian had quarterbacked for Brigham Young in 1995, leading the Cougars to a 13-1 regular-season mark, beating Kansas State 19-15 in the Cotton Bowl and he became the Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year. His BYU team became the first in NCAA history to win 14 games in a season. Sarkisian’s career passing efficiency rating of 162.0 ranks third all-time in the NCAA.
“Sark” needed to convince his players to keep playing hard and believing that Notre Dame was just a dot on the screen on their march to success.
At game time, the Huskies seemed willing but not always able. Arizona moved the ball around at will, amassing 461 yards of offense and successfully throwing enough “bubble” passes to start a gumball manufacturing company.
Wild quarterback Nick Foles made a run taking the ball under center, stepping back and rocketing receivers in the line of scrimmage. Arizona’s receivers responded by looking for short yardage before defensemen could come in and tackle, preventing a long gain.
Arizona had exposed a Husky weakness and was exploiting it as an insider stock trader. Washington simply doesn’t have the talent right now to play receivers one-on-one, so they must play out of scrimmage to avoid getting hit deep and allow for a long-yardage play.
Foles would go 39 of 53 for 384 yards and a touchdown before the night was out, leaving Arizona with a total of just 77 rushing yards on 30 carries.
The Wildcats had built a 33-21 lead with less than 3 minutes to go and it looked like Washington was floating dead in the water. But then again, this wasn’t the 0-12 Husky team of last year.
Washington’s offensive 11th was still playing hard and believing when Jake Locker found tight end Kavario Middleton in the corner of the end zone for a 25-yard TD pass to pull the Huskies within 5 at 33-28 with 2: 55 remaining.
Sark then did what many coaches wouldn’t, he chose to kick the Wildcats instead of going for an onside kick and possible immediate possession of the ball. That’s called believing in his defensive coordinator, Nick “The Wild Man” Holt, and his duplicity, but don’t bend hardliners.
All night long, the Huskies had been beaten over and over and over again on the fast open bubble pass. The Arizona coaching staff could hardly be blamed for not calling the play again; Conventional wisdom says that you call a play that is working until the defense can stop you.
Then once again, Nick Foles threw a pass to wide receiver Delashaun Dean, but Foles’ pass went low and behind the receiver, who fell to the turf trying to catch the pigskin. Linebacker Mason Foster had invaded the defensive end play on purpose, and words are a poor substitute for what happened next.
Foster’s aggressiveness had pushed Foles over the edge and his pass bounced off the receiver’s foot and up into the air where Foster momentarily juggled, then turned and ran untouched for a 37-yard interception and a touchdown return, putting the Huskies up 34. -33 with 2:37 to play.
The Washington faithful, who had come alive when the Huskies scored earlier in the game, now went wild with frenzied excitement. And the players? Well, let’s just say the reaction was one of extreme joy. And the coaches? Perhaps frantic, joyful and overly unstoppable in their belief that the Huskies can and will win by playing hard, playing well and having fun.
There were no notable priests at the time, and the mythical “Touchdown Jesus” image visible from Notre Dame Stadium had not been transported from Notre Dame to Husky Stadium for the game, but before our very eyes, a miracle of the sorts had occurred. soccer gods. . They had had enough of Arizona’s bubble passes and it was time to redeem themselves.
Call it luck, call it the bounce of the ball, or call it like I do: “The Immaculate Footception,” a bit of a clumsy expression but pretty accurate. Whatever you call it, it will forever remain in Washington football history for years to come. If the Huskies qualify and win a bowl game this year, the happy event and Mason Foster will be cemented in legend.
Sark went for the 2-point conversion and Jake Locker teamed up with second-year wide receiver (and star-in-the-making) Jermaine Kearse to pull it off, putting Washington up 36-33.
Mason Foster had an incredible night with 11 tackles, a couple of key stops on Arizona’s final drive and an interception and a moment of glory that will take at least a lifetime to forget and a million years to exactly duplicate.
Washington’s miracle play brought back great memories of “The Immaculate Reception” during a 1972 playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders. Later in the game, a Pittsburgh receiver was hit hard while trying to catch the ball, the ball was deflected and just before it hit the ground, it was caught by Franco Harris, who picked it up in the air and then ran inside. the game-winning touchdown run for the Steelers.
Pittsburgh had struggled for 4 decades to win a playoff game, and The Immaculate Reception, called by NFL movies as the greatest play of all time, led the Steelers to finally win 4 Super Bowls before the end of the decade. .
The icing on the cake came when Arizona had one last chance to pull out the victory that should have been hers.
Husky’s defensive line, which hadn’t done much all night, came alive when their top pass-rusher, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, got in touch with his Samoan roots and sacked Nick Foles on a critical play. On the next play, true rookie cornerback (and future NFL player) Desmond Trufant intercepted a Foles pass with 36 seconds remaining to seal the improbable 36-33 Dawgs win.
Trust me when I say the UW Husky football craze is on the rise. Look for many missing Dawgs to return to Husky Stadium for upcoming home games.
Husky fans in the great Pacific Northwest aren’t drinking Kool-Aid as the expression goes, they’re enjoying the sweet taste of success. Even the football gods are so happy that they have decided to order the cable connection with high definition.
(Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a 2-part series.)
Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley