At 8 o’clock tonight, as part of its Pac-12 Classics series, the Pac-12 Networks will air a replay of the Huskies’ 34-29 victory over Miami at Husky Stadium in September 2000.
Here’s a preview of the show, featuring interviews from several Huskies at the time.
“They were as close to an NFL team as I’ve ever seen in college,” Rick Neuheisel said of Miami.
Here’s the game story from Sept. 10, 2000 from The Seattle Times’ Bud Withers:
When it was over, when Washington players had frolicked back onto the field for a curtain call, it was easier to pinpoint what it all meant than how it all happened.
Without an edge in yardage, without an inside running game, without Miami’s skill-position personnel, theHuskies somehow stabbed the fourth-ranked Hurricanes in enough important places to piece together a rousing 34-29 victory yesterday in a cauldron of serious decibels at Husky Stadium.
“I think they’ve been waiting for this game forever,” said tight end Jerramy Stevens, referring to the roaring crowd of 74,157. “And waiting for a victory in a big game.”
Waiting, perhaps, since Sept. 24, 1994, when theHuskies, as a 15-point underdogs, stunned Miami at the Orange Bowl. The Huskies have had important victories since – the opening-game win at No. 8 Arizona State in 1998 – but they hadn’t had a win over a Top 10 team at this stadium since the memorable, 31-0 swarming of quarterback Todd Marinovich and USC in 1990.
These things don’t normally happen when the highest rushing total among your top three tailbacks is 13 yards, or when you allow a 21-3 halftime lead to melt to five points in the first 12 minutes of the third quarter.
“We take punches, sometimes needless punches,” said Rick Neuheisel, the UW coach, “and we don’t seem to blink.”
It was hard to say just where the upset germinated, but it happened, giving the beleaguered Pac-10 victories over the Nos. 3 and 4 teams in the country in consecutive weeks.
Perhaps it began when the Huskies worked on offensive sets that featured no running backs, a formation that consistently flummoxed the talented Hurricanes.
“Just to cause some confusion and create some space in the secondary,” Neuheisel said. “We do it with the same personnel. It might have surprised them.”
Maybe it happened Friday night at the team hotel, when Neuheisel delivered the speech of his life to the team.
“He called out every player on the team,” said Larry Tripplett, who was magnificent on the defensive line. “He said, `This is why we’re going to beat Miami. We have Larry Tripplett’s quickness, and we have Derrell Daniels. He doesn’t say anything, but he makes every tackle. We have Willie Hurst’s quick feet.’
“He called out everybody. It gave us a chance to look at ourselves, and we said, `God, we’re pretty good.’ “
Or, the victory could have boiled up in the tunnel before the game, as the Huskies sat in their team auditorium and heard some Hurricanes outside, woofing.
“Puppy-dog barks,” said Jafar Williams, the UW linebacker. “We took that real personally, that they weren’t giving us any respect.”
The Huskies got the good start they needed, even as they failed to move the ball after one first down. Redshirt freshman Tyler Krambrink hit the Hurricanes’ Heisman Trophy candidate, Santana Moss, on a punt return, and wrestled the ball from him as he fell to the ground.
Taking over at the Miami 35, the Huskies scored on Braxton Cleman’s 3-yard run with an option pitch, and a pattern was established. With 8:19 left in the first quarter, the Miami offense hadn’t snapped the ball yet and the Canes trailed 7-0.
Mixing zone looks with blitzes and availing themselves of the noisy crowd, theHusky defense rattled Miami’s sophomore quarterback, Ken Dorsey. Tuiasosopo sprinted 13 yards on another option run in the second quarter, and after Dorsey was ruled to have fumbled on Anthony Vontoure’s corner blitz – a disputed call by the Pac-10 officiating crew – with 3:11 left in the half, Tuiasosopo flung a 24-yard touchdown pass to a mystifyingly open Stevens.
It was 21-3 at halftime.
“They didn’t have any answer for our `trips’ (three receivers) sets,” Stevens said. “I knew it was going to be wide-open.”
There was no such open lane to victory. Washington answered Miami’s first touchdown in the third period with freshman Rich Alexis’ 50-yard option run for a score, but the Canes then put up two touchdowns in the span of 93 seconds, the latter after Tuiasosopo was belted on James Lewis’ safety blitz, the ball rolling away from the Huskies at their 8.
But as Neuheisel said, the Huskies didn’t blink. They swatched together a strange, 13-play, 65-yard drive by converting third-and-10, third-and-14, second-and-13, helped by a pair of Miami pass-interference penalties. All of it allowed Washington to survive the last of three Tuiasosopo turnovers, an interception by Al Blades that led to Miami’s last touchdown and an ensuing, but failed, onside kick.
“When it came down to it,” shrugged Pat Conniff, the UW fullback, “when we needed to keep the rock, we ended up doing it.”
Tripplett, a co-captain, said he asked Neuheisel to remind the team that it was another game, even if it was against the fourth-ranked team in the country.
“I was here for the Nebraska games (in 1997-98),” Tripplett said. “I saw how the coaching staff approached big games. Sometimes you hype this stuff up so much, the young guys get nervous. What I was saying was, we have to take it like it’s a regular game. Sometimes you have a better chance to win if you just play your game.
“If I heard Santana Moss’ name one more time, I was going to go crazy. And their team speed. Sometime you have to focus in on us.”
Because of what they did yesterday, there will now be a lot of focus on the Huskies.