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College Football – "The Immaculate Footception" Will Live Forever in Washington Husky Lore – Part 2
(Editor’s note: This is part two of a story about the life of a college football team season in just two games: one was abject heartache and the Another extreme joy. The team was the University of Washington this season, and the events that unfolded were reminiscent of Charles Dickens’ novel “A Tale of Two Cities. Here’s what really happened, and when .)
As disheartening as Washington’s loss to Notre Dame was, what was about to happen was more than the Huskies could have imagined or imagined. He will forever live on in the annals of Washington Husky football lore.
With their season record now at 2-3, the Washington Huskies would return home and await the arrival of the Arizona Wildcat’s brilliant 3-1 record with wins over Central Michigan and Northern Florida. Arizona at home and Oregon State on the road. . Their only loss was 10 points to the 12th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes in another away game.
Arizona coach Mike Stoops (brother of Oklahoma Sooners coach Bob Stoops) compiled an 8-5 mark last year capped by a win over Brigham Young at the Las Vegas Bowl. The Wildcats were finally gaining national prominence and didn’t want to take a step back.
Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian had quarterbacked Brigham Young in 1995, leading the Cougars to a 13-1 regular season record, beating Kansas State 19-15 at the Cotton Bowl and becoming the Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year. His BYU team became the first in NCAA history to win 14 games in a season. Sarkisian’s 162.0 career passing efficiency rating is 3rd all-time in the NCAA.
‘Sark’ needed to convince his players to keep playing hard and believe that Notre Dame was just a flash on the screen in their march to success.
Going into the game, the Huskies looked willing but not always able. Arizona moved the ball at will, racking up 461 yards on offense and managing to throw enough “bubble” passes to start a gum-making business.
Wildcats quarterback Nick Foles has made a career out of taking the ball under center, running back and sending rockets wide at the line of scrimmage. Arizona receivers responded by looking for a short yardage before defenders could come in and tackle, stopping a long gain.
Arizona had exposed a weakness in Husky and was exploiting him like a trader with an insider stock market tip. Washington just doesn’t have the talent right now to play one-on-one receivers, so they have to play off the line of scrimmage to avoid being beaten deep and giving up a long-range play. .
Foles would go 39 of 53 for 384 yards and a touchdown before the night was over, leaving Arizona with a grand total of just 77 rushing yards on 30 carries.
The Wildcats had built a 33-21 lead with less than 3 minutes left and it looked like Washington was floating dead in the water. But, again, it wasn’t last year’s 0-12 Husky team.
Washington’s offensive 11 was still playing strong and believing when a scrambling Jake Locker found tight end Kavario Middleton in the corner of the end zone for a 25-yard TD strike to bring the Huskies within 5 at 33- 28 with 2:55 to go.
Sark then did what many coaches wouldn’t do, he opted to kick off the Wildcats rather than go for an onside kick and eventual immediate possession of the ball. It’s called believing in your defensive coordinator – Nick “The Wild Man” Holt – and his turn, but don’t break the hardliners.
All night, the Huskies had been beaten over and over and over on the wide bubble fast pass. You could hardly blame the Arizona coaching staff for not recalling the game; conventional wisdom says you call a play that works until the defense can stop you.
So once again Nick Foles missed a pass for Delashaun Dean, but Foles’ pass was low and behind the receiver, who fell to the turf trying to catch the pigskin. Linebacker Mason Foster had deliberately overshot the defensive end, and words are a very poor substitute for what happened next.
Foster’s aggression had pushed Foles to the limit and his pass bounced off the receiver’s foot and into the air where Foster juggled him momentarily, then turned and ran untouched for a 37-yard interception and a touchdown return, putting the Huskies up 34-33 with 2:37 remaining.
The Washington faithful, who had come to life when the Huskies scored earlier in the game, went wild with frenzied excitement. And the players? Well, let’s just say the reaction was extreme joy. And the coaches? Perhaps frantic, joyous and unstoppable in their belief that the Huskies can and will win by playing hard, playing well and having fun.
There were no discernible priests at the time, and the mythical “Jesus touched” photo visible from Notre Dame Stadium had not been transported from Notre Dame to Husky Stadium for the game, but under our eyes, a miracle of the football gods had happened. . They had had enough of the Arizona bubble passes and it was time to make amends.
Call it luck, call it bouncing the ball, or call it what I do – “The Immaculate Footception”, a bit clunky in expression but pretty accurate. Whatever you call him, he will forever go down in Washington football history for years to come. If the Huskies qualify and win a bowl game this year, the happy event and Mason Foster will be cemented in legend.
Sark went for the 2-point conversion and Jake Locker teamed up with sophomore wide receiver (and budding star) Jermaine Kearse to make it happen, putting Washington up 36-33.
Mason Foster had an awesome night with 11 tackles, a pair of key saves on Arizona’s last drive and an interception and moment of glory that will take at least a lifetime to forget and a million years to replicate exactly. .
Washington’s miracle play brought back fond memories of “The Immaculate Reception” in a 1972 playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders. Late in the game, a Pittsburgh receiver was hit hard as he tried to make a catch, the ball was deflected and just before it hit the ground, it was caught by Franco Harris, who picked it up in the air then ran it for the game-winning touchdown for the Steelers.
Pittsburgh had struggled for 4 decades to win a playoff game, and The Immaculate Reception – called by NFL movies as the greatest game of all time – led to the Steelers finally winning 4 Super Bowls before the decade was out. .
The icing on the cake came when Arizona got one last shot at the victory that should have been theirs.
The Husky defensive line, which hadn’t done much all night, came to life when its top passing thrower, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, reconnected with his Samoan roots and sacked Nick Foles on a play. critical. On the next play, real freshman cornerback (and future NFL player) Desmond Trufant intercepted a Foles pass with 36 seconds left to seal the Dawgs’ improbable 36-33 win.
Trust me when I say University of Washington football and Husky madness are on the rise. Look for plenty of lost Dawgs to return to Husky Stadium in upcoming home games.
Husky fans in the great Pacific Northwest don’t drink the Kool-Aid as the saying goes, they enjoy the sweet taste of success. Even the football gods are so happy that they decided to order a cable connection with high definition.
(Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series.)
Copyright © 2009 Ed Bagley
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