Our paper Sunday contained a look at the end of the decade that included this reader poll asking their thoughts on some of bests of the past 10 years.
An overwhelming winner as the best Huskies team in that decade in any sport was the 2000 football team that went 11-1, finished No. 3 in the country, and won the Rose Bowl.
Which seemed a fitting time to finally get my promised list up of the Top 10 UW games of the decade posted. So here goes:
1, UW 34, Miami 29, Sept. 9, 2000 — Probably the most memorable — for simply positive reasons, anyway — moment of that season was the win over Miami, which seemed to herald UW’s return to the national college football stage (it did, if all too briefly). That Miami team was simply loaded with talent — the Hurricanes had 19 players taken in the first round from 2001 to 2004. That list includes LB Dan Morgan and safety Ed Reed, the two leading tacklers for Miami that day, WR Andre Johnson, who did nothing but return kicks for Miami that day, and WR Reggie Wayne, who caught four passes that day. The Huskies dominated early, taking a 21-3 halftime lead, then staved off a late Miami rally — the Hurricanes actually got the ball back with under a minute left but couldn’t move. It would be Miami’s last loss until the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.
2, UW 16, USC 13, Sept. 19, 2009 — It’s really easy to get swayed by what’s most recent in sports, and I worried a bit this game was too high on the list ahead of some others that ultimately held more meaning. But for sheer surprise, excitement and joy, this game was hard to top for Husky fans, and may go down as the moment the Steve Sarkisian era truly took off.
3, UW 33, Oregon State 30, Oct. 7, 2000 — As I’ve written on here before, I think this is one of the most underrated games in UW history. UW was 0-1 in Pac-10 play at the time. Lose this one and who knows what happens to the 2000 team. But as much as people point to the Miami game — and rightly so — this one really felt like were the seeds of that season were sown as the Huskies rallied from early deficits three times to tie or take the lead, then held on for the win at the end when a final 46-yard FG attempt from the Beavers went wide. Also hard to fathom in retrospect is what would have happened had OSU won — the Beavers pretty much tore through the rest of their schedule with ease that season. Could the Beavers really have played for the national title if they’d somehow escaped Seattle with a win?
4, UW 34, Purdue 24, Jan. 1, 2001 — It’s easy to forget that UW had to do some work to win this game as Drew Brees led a Purdue comeback from an early 14-0 UW lead to a 17-17 tie in the third quarter. But then the UW won this the old-fashioned way, with a punishing offensive line leading three drives that resulted in 17 points and an eventual 34-24 win.
5, UW 29, WSU 26, Nov. 23, 2002 — The memorable three OT Apple Cup win in Pullman against a Cougar team ranked No. 3 in the nation — pointing out that it’s not just the Huskies that have fallen far this decade. There’s always been a lot of emphasis on how the Cougars let this one get away with plays such as the fake FG before halftime that netted nothing; and fate also turning against WSU (Jason Gesser’s fourth-quarter injury). But UW was far from perfect — John Anderson missed three FGs in the second and third quarters before finally connecting. And the real key was a 92-yard UW drive late in the fourth quarter, keyed by a long Cody Pickett-to-Reggie Williams pass, that drew UW to within 20-17 and set up the Nate Robinson interception that led to the tying field goal. It was a game that seemed to have about a dozen turning points.
6, UW 23, Michigan 18, Sept. 8, 2001 — Not the most artistic of efforts for UW as the Wolverines had the better of most of the stats. But a blocked field goal returned for a TD and an interception return for another led to a fourth-quarter UW rally in what were the first career starts for Pickett and Williams. the latter of whom had four catches for 134 yards. The prospects for the decade seemed awfully bright on that day.
7, UW 31, Stanford 28, Oct. 28, 2000 — Obviously, everybody will always have mixed feelings about this one. Obviously, the injury to Curtis Williams overshadows all that happened on the field that day — and one thing I think has been made more clear as the years have passed is that the offensive players didn’t really understand the gravity of the injury until later as it was mostly the defensive players who were on the field with Williams who really understood it initially. But from a football standpoint, UW had to get every win it could that season to get to the Rose Bowl, and this was the most unlikely of all the comebacks given the way UW lost a 24-6 lead then got it back with a three-play drive in the final minute.
8, UW 27, Washington State 19, Nov. 22, 2003 — Another Apple Cup upset of the Cougars, who were ranked No. 8, this one was as dramatic as any with the famous Pickett-to-Corey Williams pass putting UW ahead with 1:10 to play and then an interception return for a TD by Marquis Cooper sealing it. The crowd of 74,549 seemed at an especially fevered pitch that night as the Huskies fought to keep alive a streak of non-losing seasons that stretched to 1976. UW won despite gaining just 261 yards.
9, UW 27, USC 24, Oct. 6, 2001 — In Pete Carroll’s first season, the Huskies got what would be their last victory over the Trojans until this season and did so in dramatic fashion with Anderson kicking a 32-yard field goal as time ran out. It was also the one shining moment for Taylor Barton, who came off the bench to relieve an injured Pickett and throw for two touchdowns — including the first of Williams’ career. UW held USC to just 286 yards and Carson Palmer to just 8-14 for 152 yards. One of USC’s TDs was a 22-yard INT return by Troy Polamulu off Pickett.
10, Texas 47, Washington 43, Dec. 28, 2001 — Well, they couldn’t all be wins, could they? While one of the most frustrating losses in UW history, it was also one of the most amazing games — from a pure entertainment standpoint this one would be hard to top as the teams combined for 1,036 yards and six lead changes. UW gave up leads of 13-0 and 36-17 but also rallied from a 40-36 deficit with 1:49 left to take a 43-40 lead before Texas came back one last time.