Mason Foster returns a ball that bounces off a receiver's foot for an interception as the Huskies escape with 36-33 victory over Arizona.
The Washington Huskies spent most of the second half flailing against the Arizona Wildcats in search of a helping hand.
Then the Wildcats obliged, throwing in a fortuitous foot for good measure, allowing the Huskies to escape with one of the most improbable wins in their 120-year football-playing history.
“I don’t know if [I’ve ever seen a game] that crazy,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said after his team’s miraculous 36-33 win over the Wildcats at Husky Stadium. “I mean an interception off a guy’s foot returned for a touchdown? I don’t think so.”
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But that’s what happened as the Huskies, who looked dead in the water for most of the second half, scored two touchdowns in 18 seconds to pull out the win.
The final score came when Mason Foster plucked a ball that bounced first off the left hand of Arizona receiver Delashaun Dean, and then off his left foot and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown with 2:37 remaining.
The score came on Arizona’s first play after the Huskies had scored on a 25-yard pass from Jake Locker to Kavario Middleton.
Arizona quarterback Nick Foles tried to hit Dean on a screen pass, something the Wildcats had done well all night. Foster said he decided to “jump” the screen, meaning to take an aggressive run at it, in the hopes of making something happen.
“They were doing it all game long,” he said. “I thought [the ball] bounced off his knee. I didn’t know it was that close. I just play until the whistle blows and they didn’t blow the whistle.”
The Huskies then stopped a last-ditch Arizona drive that reached the UW 38 with a Desmond Trufant interception on fourth down to send the crowd of 61,621 into about as delirious a state as they had been three weeks ago when Washington beat USC, if for different reasons.
This time, it wasn’t shock over the opponent beaten, but how UW got it done, as the Huskies were dominated most of the second half.
Arizona scored the first 17 points of the third quarter to rally from a 14-10 UW halftime lead, and took a 33-21 lead with 4:22 left on the fourth field goal for Alex Zendejas.
“I’m sure a lot of people had counted us out,” said Locker.
But Sarkisian said none of his players were among that group.
“We kept competing, we kept battling and not only that, we were doing things right,” he said. “We got locked back in. And that’s the power of playing really hard and believing that you area going to make plays.”
Locker led a swift 59-yard drive that ended in the Middleton touchdown to then set the stage for the Foster return.
“We knew as long as there was time on the clock that we had a chance to win the game,” Locker said. “It’s great to be able to be rewarded for that kind of effort.”
Washington is 3-3 on the season and 2-1 in Pac-10 play, the only numbers that the Huskies really cared about afterward.
Good thing, as most of the rest favored Arizona, which outgained UW 461-256, getting 261 yards after halftime. Foles threw for 384 yards in just his second start.
But the UW defense again showed a knack for bending but not breaking, which kept the Huskies in the game. The Huskies held Arizona to field-goal attempts on four drives deep into UW territory. Once the Huskies stopped Arizona on downs at the 1-yard line.
“They hung in there,” Sarkisian said. “Those were some huge stops in the red zone by our defense.”
Washington’s offense consisted mostly of Locker, with tailback Chris Polk slowed by an early shoulder injury.
Locker turned in a highlight play with a 56-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 7-7 in the first quarter when he shrugged off two Arizona tacklers on a blitz and sprinted into the end zone.
“I haven’t seen that much green grass since high school,” he said later.
Arizona’s third-quarter blitz was aided by what Sarkisian said was “some sloppy football, to say the least.”
Washington let Arizona return the second-half kickoff to its 47, then dropped a punt snap to set up an Arizona field goal, and dropped a kickoff to set up bad field position and another Wildcats TD.
Arizona outgained UW 140 to 22 in the third quarter, a time when it seemed the talk of going to a bowl game seemed too heady.
Then just as suddenly, the Huskies showed again that is a new era, Sarkisian saying that breaks come when teams continue to keep playing hard.
“Obviously it was a pretty sloppy game on our part,” Locker said. “But the one thing we did do is compete and we never gave up and we played until the end and found a way to win a game.”
One that even the Huskies said they never could have imagined.
“One for the books,” said linebacker Donald Butler.