Thursday, October 21, 2010

Huskies take on Arizona Wildcats: Flashback to 2001

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies(3-3,2-1) travel to take on the #15 Arizona Wildcats(5-1,2-1) in a key Pac-10 battle aired at 7:15 PT on ESPN. When these two teams square off there has been several close games that comes down to the very end. For whatever reason when Washington plays the Arizona schools its always a nail biting game and I expect this game to be no different.

The Huskies can really help their bowl chances with a win here on Saturday. Arizona is seeking revenge from last year when Mason Foster had a miracle interception return to give the Huskies a 36-33 win in Seattle. The Wildcats will also be without their star quarterback Nick Foles. Arizona will be starting Matt Scott who was the starter before Foles beat him out last year in the fourth game of the year playing Iowa.

Last year was just one of many great games between these two schools. In 2007 in a wild game at Husky Stadium the Wildcats rallied from a 41-26 deficit to beat the Huskies 48-41. This was a typical fourth quarter defensive meltdown by then coach Tyrone Willingham. The Wildcats won by the arm of senior quarterback Willie Tuitama who set a school record with 510 passing yards while completing 38 of 51 passes(74.5%) and five touchdown passes. The Huskies in a losing effort wasted a terrific game by freshman quarterback Jake Locker who threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns including a school record 98 yard touchdown pass to Marcell Reece. Locker also ran for 157 yards with two touchdowns. Locker had 493 yards of total offense in a losing effort. That game was the standard game in this series for these two teams.

The Huskies in 2003 were picked to finish 2nd in the Pac-10 and facing a struggling Arizona team down in Arizona in late November. The Wildcats upset the Huskies 27-22 and ultimately cost the Huskies a chance at a bowl game. The Huskies would beat them in Arizona in 2005 and 2006 to get some revenge. In fact Arizona is the only Pac-10 team that Tyrone Willingham didn't have a losing record against while at Washington.

In 1992 the #1 ranked Washington Huskies traveled to face a two loss Arizona team in late November riding a 22 game winning streak. The streak ended in the desert 16-3. The Huskies were facing plenty of distractions as starting quarterback Billy Joe Hobert was kicked off the team. In 1998 the Wildcats would stun the Huskies in Husky Stadium with a 31-28 win when quarterback Ortege Jenkins would score the game winning touchdown on a famous leap into the endzone. He jumped in the air and was hit then did a full flip into the endzone the stun the Huskies.

That devastating loss would set off three straight comeback wins by the Huskies in 2000,2001 and 2002 where the Huskies trailed in the fourth quarter of all three games and were heavely favored pulled out the win. In 2000 the game after Curtis Williams was tragictally injured the week before at Stanford. The Huskies trailed 25-10 entering the fourth quarter came back to win 35-32 in the most emotional win in Husky Stadium history. In 2002 the Huskies beat Arizona at home 32-28 when Cody Pickett would hit Reggie Williams on a slant and Williams would bust it for an 80 yard touchdown to win the game.

In 2001 featured a thrilling comeback victory as well. I chose this game out of all the games in this crazy history because of everything else that was going on that day that went in favor for Husky fans. I was also at this game so this game means more to me.

October 20, 2001: Arizona(3-3,0-3) at #15 Washington(4-1,2-1)

This was a big sports day in Seattle sports. As the defending Rose Bowl champions who just had their 12 game winning streak snapped the previous week hosted the Arizona Wildcats the Seattle Mariners were battling the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. The previous Saturday was known as "black" Saturday as the Mariners lost to the Cleveland Indians 17-2 in game three of the ALDS to fall one game away from their season ending. The Huskies got rolled by UCLA 35-13.

The Huskies were getting starting quarterback Cody Pickett back who separated his shoulder two weeks earlier against the USC Trojans. Also the hated and undefeated Oregon Ducks were playing at the same time down in Eugene against Tryone Willinham(back when he won once in a while) and the Stanford Cardinals. For the Huskies this was a homecoming game and against a team who had lost eight straight Pac-10 games it looked like the Huskies should roll to victory. As I should have known in the Rick Neuheisal era there was no such thing as an easy victory.

Since the Seattle Mariners were trailing 2-0 in the ALCS and playing at New York after winning 116 games I decided to bring my walkman radio to listen to the game during the Huskies game. I wasn't alone as half the stadium had a walkman on. The Yankees got on the board first with a two run home run by Bernie Williams off of Jamie Moyer. The Yankees would lead 2-0 going into the fifth inning.

At this time the Huskies were helping ease the possible reality of the Mariners 116 win season possibly ending. Cody Pickett and the Huskies offense would march down the field and Pickett would hit senior Todd Elstrom for a 21 yard pass for the touchdown to give the Huskies a quick 7-0 lead. Arizona would respond with a four yard touchdown pass by Jason Johnson to Bobby Wade to tie the score at 7-7.

The fireworks would continue in the first quarter. On the first play of the series after Arizona would score Pickett would hit Paul Arnold who was a runningback the previous two years but converted to wide receiver for a 78 yard touchdown pass to give the Huskies a 14-7 lead. Johnson would again lead the Wildcats down there and throw a 12 yard touchdown pass to tie up the score at 14. Again the Huskies wouldn't waste anytime as Pickett would hit Pat Reddick for a 75 yard touchdown pass to give the Huskies a 21-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter featured no scoring in this game but offered plenty of excitement. First in the baseball game the Mariners were trailing 2-0 in the top of the fifth as Jamie Moyer had settled down. Brett Boone who was awful in the Cleveland series had a clutch two out two run base hit to tie the score at 2-2. It was weird watching the Huskies game on T.V. I bet because there would be some basic play that didn't change the game and over half the crowd would cheer loud like when Boone got that hit.

Then in the top of the sixth there was plenty of cheers in Husky Stadium when the Mariners offense finally erupted on the Yankees scoring seven runs to take a 9-2 lead. John Olerud hit a lead off home run to give the Mariners their first lead of the series. Later in the inning Mark McLemore would hit a bases loaded clearing triple to give the Mariners a 7-2 lead. The Husky crowd was going nuts at this point. Then Boone would hit a two run home run to finish off the Yankees that inning.

Later in the second quarter the great Lou Gellerman the Huskies PA announcer goes "We have a final score down in Eugene..." we were all dreading the score as the Ducks had a 42-28 lead against Stanford, he goes "Stanford 49, Oregon 42". The crowd starting cheering crazy at this point. The undefeated Ducks had finally lost and it was at home. To think looking back Tyrone Willingham denied the Ducks a national championship game appearance(nobody was beating Miami that year).

The Mariners would eventually destroy the Yankees 14-3 which had a Jay Buhner home run in the ninth. I bring up Buhner's home run because that would be Buhner's last home run of his career. So far it was looking like a great day as the Ducks lost, the Mariners won to pull back in the series and the Huskies led 21-14 at halftime.

Then at halftime the Husky alumni were out on the field to greet the Huskies as they come out of the tunnel. Well my dad was wondering what would stop us from going on the field and going down there. I was like no dad we can't go down on the field we might get in trouble. Well he said screw it and was on the field I noticed nobody was saying or doing anything to him so I joined him on the field. I made sure to stand in the end zone so for the rest of my life I can say I was in the end zone at Husky Stadium. Remember this was at halftime and there was fans on the field who were alumni. We stood by Husky legends such as Marques Tuiasosopo, Sonny Sixkiller and a few more that I can't remember.

Then when we stood with the other fans as the Husky captains came out and I remember touching Larry Tripplett who was the big senior that year shoulder pads. It was a great feeling to be on the field as the Huskies ran out of the tunnel and stand right now there as it happened. Then I returned back to my seat with my dad.

Arizona would tie the score up in the third on backup quarterback John Rattay's 15 yard touchdown run. Rattay was in when Huskies safety Wondame Davis knocked out Jason Johnson. The score heading into the fourth was all tied up at 21-21.

I was just a sophomore in highschool at the time so I was by no means a young innocent kid but there were kids in my section. I bring this up because despite having a record breaking game Pickett also threw four interceptions. After every interception two fans who weren't even sitting in the right seats would stand up and yell "f*** you Pickett" and throw up a middle finger and hold it there for at least 30 seconds. After the fourth interception this lady finally complained and these two idiots would finally leave our section thankfully.

Meanwhile there was still a game going on and Clarence Farmer who killed the Huskies the previous year ran for a 15 yard touchdown with five minutes left in the game to give the Wildcats a 28-21 lead. Farmer would run for 147 yards on just 21 carries on the day. On the ensueing kickoff Huskies speedster Rock Alexander would return the kickoff 74 yards to the Arizona 15. The Husky Stadium crowd was rocking but the Huskies would have to settle for a John Anderson 39 yard field goal to cut the lead to 28-24 with four minutes left in the game.

After a crucial third down sack by Ben Mahdavi the Wildcats were forced to punt to the Huskies and their passing attack who had been quiet since the first quarter. The Huskies had no running game on the day it was all passing and like usual in the Rick Neuheisel era the Huskies had one or zero timeouts. Cody Pickett would hit a huge 27 yard pass to tight end Kevin Ware who was filling in for the injured Jeramy Stevens to set up a first and goal from the three. After a horrible false start, then an incompletion, followed by a five yard yard pass to set up a huge 3rd and goal from the three. The Huskies needed a touchdown as a field goal would do them no good. The Huskies also had no timeouts. Cody Pickett from three yards out pumped faked and took off for the endzone he was only three outs out but it felt like 13 yards out. This was also at my end of the field as I had tickets on the 20 yard line on the southwest side of the stadium. When Pickett began to ran the whole stadium was nervous quiet Pickett then dove in there with 13 seconds left and the crowd went crazy.

I've been to plenty of Husky Stadium games and that was the loudest and craziest reaction I had ever witnessed in person. Had Pickett been stopped short the Huskies lose since there was no timeouts. The redshirt sophomore quarterback who was hurt the week before had an up and down game but set a Husky record for passing yards in a game. Pickett on the game would pass for 455 yards on 29 of 49 passing with three touchdowns and four interceptions. This game started a change in a bad era for Husky football. From here on out the Huskies lost that tough edge to them and up until Chris Polk came along couldn't run the ball worth a lick.

Overall that was a great weekend for me. The weekend began when I got these tickets from my Biology teacher. Her and her husband who also taught at my school ended up being a good ticket connection for me for a few more years. Also I was just a sophomore and I rarely played in the varsity football games but that Friday I got to play a few plays in a blow out which was nice. Then this day the Ducks got upset, the Mariners won a playoff game, I stood on the field and by Husky legends and then saw a thrilling fourth quarter win.

The Arizona game has always had some memorable games in football and even in basketball. With this new Pac-12 alignment we won't get the chance to see the Arizona schools every year anymore which is a shame because they offer up the best games. No game than the 2001 game given everything else that happened during the weekend for me was greater. It was a great day to be a Husky and lets hope this Saturday brings back some great memories for us.

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