Thursday, October 7, 2010

Flashback to the 1998 thriller in the desert

By Kshell

This week the Washington Huskies take on the Arizona State Sun Devils. As I like to do with other games I'll preview an epic game in the past. I'm going to reflect on the 1998 opening week contest between the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Washington Huskies. This game was a thrilling game which ultimately allowed one team to go bowling and another team to miss out on the bowl game.

#18 Washington Huskies 42 at #8 Arizona State 38

Washington came into this game in rebuilding mode. Having lost 12 guys to the NFL from the previous years 8-4 dissapointment the hopes of the Huskies were down. Brock Huard decided to come back and was rated as the top quarterback in the nation at the time of the game. This was back in the days when Washington didn't rebuild they just reloaded.

Arizona State came into this game with Rose Bowl hopes and was hoping to challenge UCLA for the Rose Bowl. Coming off a Rose Bowl season in 1996 the Sun Devils took third in the Pac-10 in 1997 and Bruce Snyder appeared to have the program headed in the right direction.

Arizona State got on the board first behind quarterback Ryan Kealy who had hit Kendrick Bates for a 13 yard touchdown. Washington quickly responded when Brock Huard hit new tight end Reggie Davis for a three yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7. Kelly found future NFL pro bowler Todd Heap for a touchdown to give the Sun Devils a 14-7 lead. The Huskies would tie the score at 14 on a 16 yard touchdown run by little used sophomore fullback Pat Conniff to end the first quarter.

Arizona State then erupted with two touchdowns the last being a 22 yard run by halfback J.R. Redmond to give Arizona State a 28-14 lead. In 1996 Arizona State led the Huskies 42-21 but then freshman quarterback Brock Huard came off the bench to tied the game at 42 but ultimately ASU won 45-42. Well flash forward to 1998 and Huard lead another comeback hit highschool teamate and former Western Washington star Dane Looker for a three yard touchdown to cut the lead to 28-21 at halftime. This game resembled the 1996 high scoring game.

The Huskies tied the score in the second half when Huard again connected with Looker for a 9 yard touchdown pass. Dane Looker in his first game with the Huskies set a then school record with 11 receptions and had two touchdowns on the game. The Huskies would finally take the lead 35-28 on a five yard touchdown run by wide receiver Gerald Harris.

The Sun Devils would kick a field goal to pull within 35-31 in the 4th quarter then on a Redmond 61 yard punt return would set up the go ahead touchdown when Kealy would hit Tariq McDonald on an 8 yard touchdown pass giving ASU a 38-35 lead. The game had appeared Washington would lose another heart breaker to Arizona State down in the desert.

The Huskies had one final drive left. Inexplicably the Huskies ran an option play on 3rd down with slow footed Brock Huard. Huard made a poor pitch which set up a 4th and 18 on their own 33 yard line with roughly 40 seconds left in the game. The Huskies basically needed a touchdown to win because in the 90's the kicking game was horrible. Huard then went back to pass and found Reggie Davis the new tight end who had replaced Cam Cleeland. Davis then rumbled down the sideline and scored the 67 yard touchdown with 28 seconds to go. The whole Huskies bench was going crazy as was I when I saw this live. The Huskies would win the game 42-38.

Brock Huard finished the game passing for 321 yards on 27 of 47 passing with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Brock Huard had he left after his sophomore year would have been the third quarterback taken behind Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf but decided to come back. Huard was looking like he could be the first pick overall in the 1999 draft given that he was a top prospect and coming off a sophomore season that saw him throw 25 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions(5 was in one game). The season for Huard and the team kind of went to crap as the Huskies finished 6-6 the first non winning season since 1976. Arizona State who began the year ranked 8th finished the year 5-6 and missed a bowl game.

This game was the last great win under then head coach Jim Lambright. Little did Lambright know or the fans for that matter this would be his last season. Regardless of how both teams played the rest of the year this game will always be remembered as a great win in this Pac-10 rivalry. There has been other great games in the past from the 1996 win for ASU or 2006 when ASU beat UW in overtime 26-23 in Husky Stadium. In 1982 the Huskies beat then #3 and undefeated Arizona State down in the desert 17-13 in a big upset. The last win for Washington against Arizona State was won on a last second game winning field goal by John Anderson in 2001.

When these two teams play the game typically ends in crazy fassion. No game ended more wild for Husky fans than the 1998 thriller on a 4th and 18 pass to tight end Reggie Davis from Brock Huard.

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