Was Saturday night's Miracle at Montlake — Washington scoring 15 points in 18 seconds to beat Arizona 36-33, the final touchdown coming on one of the craziest plays anyone could remember — maybe the greatest day in Huskies history? That was a debate the UW players were happy to let others settle.
Perspective was left for others, those with longer memories of great days in Huskies football.
Was Saturday night’s Miracle at Montlake — Washington scoring 15 points in 18 seconds to beat Arizona 36-33, the final touchdown coming on one of the craziest plays anyone could remember — maybe the greatest of all?
More amazing than the 1975 Apple Cup, when UW scored 14 points in the final 3:01? Or the 24-point second-half comeback against California in 1988? Or another rally against the Bears in 2000 when Washington scored 23 points in a six-minute span of the fourth quarter? Or the 2001 Michigan game when a blocked field goal and a tipped interception in the fourth quarter beat the Wolverines?
That was a debate the UW players were happy to let others settle.
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“It’s just nice to get a win,” said Huskies quarterback Jake Locker.
Especially since it seemed, for most of the night, that UW was headed for a rather pedestrian loss. Arizona looked the better team, outgaining the Huskies 461-256, getting 26 first downs to Washington’s 14, and holding the ball for 39:19 — including 21:44 in the second half.
Arizona scored the first 17 points of the second half to seemingly take control, while the Huskies were mired in special teams mistakes — a dropped punt snap, a botched kickoff return, blown coverage on an Arizona return.
“That was sloppy football, to say the least,” said coach Steve Sarkisian.
But while that kind of performance might have broken past UW teams, the Huskies on Saturday perfected the art of “bend but don’t break.” They forced Arizona to kick field goals on four drives that reached the 12-yard line or deeper, and another time stopped the Wildcats on fourth down at the 1.
And when fortune looked their way, the Huskies were close enough to have it mean something.
“When you play hard and do things right, you catch breaks,” Sarkisian said. “That’s how breaks occur — when the other team makes mistakes, you are there to capitalize on them; you are not out of position. That’s what showed up in this game.”
So while the Huskies had been dominated statistically, they were only down by five points when Arizona quarterback Nick Foles tried to throw a bubble-screen pass to receiver Delashaun Dean on a first-down play with 2:49 left in the game.
It was a play Arizona had run successfully maybe a dozen times, and Huskies linebacker Mason Foster said he was intent on stopping it this time. Sarkisian said an unsung hero on the play was VA, who the coach said “went and took away the initial bubble screen that made the quarterback pull the ball down.” That forced Foles to throw to Dean.
“I jumped it, just trying to make a play, take a shot,” Foster said. “It worked in our favor.”
The ball glanced off Dean’s left hand, then his left foot, then up to Foster, who gathered it and ran down the sideline for a score with 2:37 left.
“I thought it bounced off his knee at first,” Foster said. “I didn’t hear no whistle, and we play to the whistle.”
Foster and Sarkisian said they never doubted that the play was legal, though the replay review seemed momentarily ominous in light of the occurrences a week ago at Notre Dame. But even replay was in UW’s corner on this night.
“It was just a weird bounce that went their way,” said Foles. “It’s a crazy thing. I don’t know how to explain it. They got a lucky bounce.”
A shocked Wildcats team regrouped enough to drive to UW’s 38. But the drive stalled there thanks to a Daniel Te’o-Nesheim sack and a Desmond Trufant interception.
“I don’t know how to explain a win like that,” said Huskies tight end Kavario Middleton, whose 25-yard TD reception from Jake Locker cut Arizona’s lead to 33-28 with 2:55 left. “But it feels great to pull out a win when everyone probably thinks you can’t.”
Afterward, when asked the importance of the win, Sarkisian mentioned staying in the hunt for the Pac-10 title and the Rose Bowl, completely embracing the “expect to win” mantra he has sold to his players. More realistically, it kept the Huskies alive for a postseason berth. With the Pac-10 having six guaranteed bowl slots, a 6-6 record will probably be enough to get a bid.
“It was big in that we had just lost two ball games and last week [against Notre Dame] was obviously an emotional, gut-wrenching loss,” Sarkisian said. “And for us to come back and get this keeps us revitalized and keeps us upbeat about what we are doing.”
• Starting LG Greg Christine is likely out for the season after breaking his fibula. He was replaced by sophomore Nick Wood.
• TB Chris Polk left for a while in the first quarter with an injury to his left shoulder. An injury to the same shoulder caused him to miss last season. But he returned to action, and Sarkisian said it’s not serious.
• LB E.J. Savannah and DT Cameron Elisara each left with stingers but neither is serious, Sarkisian said. The coach reported no other injuries.