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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

October 11, 2009 at 12:49 PM

Husky Stadium miraculous finishes and the Jim Sweeney connection

My call-out after last night’s game for old-timers to send me their list of Husky Stadium finishes as miraculous finishes brought some interesting responses.
Most said that the game it most resembled was the 1975 Apple Cup, when UW rallied from a 27-14 deficit with 3:01 remaining to win 28-27. What made that game more amazing is that the Cougars were driving, with the ball at the UW 14, before a dramatic turn of events sent the game Washington’s way (I detailed those in a story I wrote on Spider Gaines a few years ago). UW needed a 93-yard Al Burleson interception return and then a 78-yard tipped TD pass to Gaines to pull off the win.
As one reader pointed out, there are some interesting connections from that game to this one. Most notably, the coach for the Cougars that day was Jim Sweeney — it turned out to be the last game he coached for WSU as he resigned a few days later in the wake of a 3-8 season. Saturday happened to be the first college start for his grandson Nate Fellner, playing free safety for the Huskies.
Also, Don James faced the same question in that game that Steve Sarkisian did last night, each, also, in their first year at UW for the miracle game in question — specifically, whether to on-side kick after scoring to get within a touchdown?
James wrote in his autobiography he didn’t on-side kick if because UW had three time outs and he figured WSU would play it conservative, which is what happened. The Huskies forced a three-and-out and got the ball back with enough time for Gaines to score the winning TD.
Sarkisian said after the game he gave serious considering to kicking on-side after Kavario Middleton scored with 2:55 left — the Huskies had two time outs remaining.
“We just talked as a staff briefly and we had belief in our defense,” Sarkisian said. “We were bending but not breaking. There were opportunities there. I thought we had gotten better at our formation recognition, seeing what was coming, and we wanted to put pressure back on them. If we onside kick right there, it becomes a ‘that’s our one shot’ type play and by kicking it deep, you put the pressure back on them. You let our defense go play with two timeouts and see what happens.”
And we all saw what happened — an Arizona pass and deflection into the hands of Mason Foster for a 37-yard interception return and a 36-33 Washington win despite being outgained 461-256, out-first-downed 26-14, and out-time-of-possessioned 39:19 to 20:14.
(By the way, here’s a really good Arizona perspective of the last sequence from Anthony Gimino).
As for other Husky Stadium miracle finishes, a few of you mentioned the 2001 Michigan game, and that’s a really good comparison. I was there for that one, and like this game, the opponents pretty much dominated all day long and held UW without an offensive touchdown at home for the first time in 17 years. But the Huskies got a blocked field goal and an interception return for TD — Omare Lowe got both the block and the return — to pull the game out 23-18. if there’s a difference, it’s that the two Lowe plays happened about midway through the fourth quarter (at the 9:11 and 8:20 marks, respectively) so there wasn’t quite the last-minute drama, though the Huskies then had to hold on, later driving for a clinching field goal.
In my time doing this, I also thought the 2000 Cal game was pretty amazing — Cal led 24-13 before UW scored 23 points in 6:01 which included two Bears fumbles, an interception and a blocked punt. UW scored its 23 points on four drives that totaled 59 yards. If there’s a difference, there’s no question the 2000 Huskies were better than the Bears, it just took a while for that to prove itself. That was one of several fourth-quarter comebacks that year that proved critical to getting to the Rose Bowl.
Some of the other games people mentioned were on the road, such as the 1979 Oregon win where Mark Lee returned a punt for a TD with 1:59 left, the 1993 Cal game when the Huskies rallied from 23-3 to win, or the 2000 Stanford game. (And many of you already mentioning the 1998 game at ASU, which I should also have noted earlier. That’s the one where Brock Huard hit Reggie Davis for a 63-yard TD on fourth-and-17.)
(And yes, one of the most amazing finishes the other way was Arizona’s “Leap by the Lake” from QB Ortege Jenkins in 1998. Many of you have mentioned that maybe thiis was Karmic Payback for that. That’s another game, though, where I think UA was the better team that year — the Wildcats finished 12-1 — and the game finally just lasted long enough for them to pull it out. But that would also go down as one of the most amazing finishes in the history of the stadium, if not happily for the Huskies).
Feel free to chip in with any more you remember. I’ll be back later today/tonight with a look at some of UW’s stats, as well as the line on the Arizona State game.

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