‘For All You Fans Who Left Early …’

“For all of you fans who left early …”

Those words are haunting me .

As I write this, it’s been almost 24 hours since the Miracle on Montlake, and I can still hear the voice of Husky broadcaster Bob Rondeau. I was in my truck with my buddy. We scadaddled from Husky Stadium with about four minutes left in Saturday’s game. Arizona had just kicked another field goal, putting the Wildcats up 33-21.

Hey, it’ s a long drive back to B-town. Beating the traffic seemed like the smart thing to do.

It was the first time I’d been to a Husky football game as a fan in a long time. I ended up with two tickets to the Arizona game months ago, out-bidding some folks at a silent auction. So when the kickoff was switched to a 7:15 p.m.start, I figured this would be a good one to take in without my computer. Besides, those late starts make for lousy columns, or in my case, lousier columns than usual. Sometimes, if the game’s decided early, you can find an angle and pull it off. Sometimes you even have time to grab a quick quote. But on nights like Saturday, when the Huskies turn defeat into victory with a deadline staring you in the face … well, let me just say that I was glad I wasn’t facing that stress.

I spent the night munching on popcorn and peanuts, critiquing the game with my friend, marveling at the spectacle of college football. Before the game we toured the Fan Zone, wondered why they couldn’t put a sander to the old wooden seats, and admired Husky Softball Stadium. What a cool facility. He hadn’t been to a game in several years, and like I said, I’m usually in a working mode when I head across the Sound to take in a game in Seattle. So I was thoroughly enjoying the clear, crisp October night, but feeling for my peers who were going to be dealing with the dreaded Mr. Deadline. The only thing I had to face was the bumper-to-bumper traffic getting out of the University District and a long drive home.

So with the clocking ticking down, and Arizona dissecting the Huskies defense with bubble screen passes — they scored on five straight second-half possessions at one point — and Washington’s offense going nowhere, I posed the obvious question to my buddy: “Whaddya think, wanna beat the traffic?”

And we were gone, faster than the Huskies could score two touchdowns in 62 seconds.

The truck wasn’t far away, and as we rolled out of the parking garage, Jake Locker hooked up with tight end Kavario Middleton for a 25-yard touchdown pass. The extra point made it 33-28.

I turned the radio up louder. We wondered, like everyone else, if the Huskies should try an onside kick. Why not? At the time, it seemed like Washington didn’t have the answers when it came to stopping Arizona’s offense. An onside kick seemed like the only option.

UW coach Steve Sarkisian, as we later learned while listening to the postgame show (we were whizzing by Port Orchard on Hwy 16 by then), knew his team had timeouts left. I don’t know how, but he figured his defense could get the ball back. So he opted to kick it deep, and that turned out to be a helluva decision.

“We just wanted ’em to run the bubble screen one more time,” UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt joked while talking to the Husky Honks afterward. “We were baiting them.”

By now, everybody knows what happened next. Washington burst Arizona’s bubble. You’d almost have to see it to believe it. And, since I wasn’t there, choosing to leave early, I had a hard time believing what Bob Rondeau and his sidekick, Chuck Nelson, were telling us as we crawled from 45th Street towards the I-5 ramp.

A pass intended for Arizona’s Delashaun Dean bounced off Dean’s foot. Linebacker Mason Foster swooped in to not only catch it, but hauled it in and ran 37 yards for a game-winning touchdown. I remember Rondeau saying, “Are you kidding me?” I think I might have said the same to my buddy, who was looking at me in disbelief. We couldn’t believe what we’d just heard. Since I didn’t see it, here’s how the play was reported: by The Sporting News, the Seattle Times, and if you want to see it for yourself, like I did, here’s a YouTube video of the Huskies’ version of the Immaculate Interception.

It was surreal, sitting in my truck, fully aware of what we’d just missed. Ten minutes ago, we’d been sitting in the stands, wondering if people were still going to be drinking the Sark Kool-Aide on Sunday. This would have been Washington’s third straight loss since that win over USC, and frankly, their third-quarter performance against Arizona didn’t give you a lot of confidence about the direction of the program. Perhaps that’s too cynical, but that was the feeling at the time. Reflecting upon it later, you realize that Washington’s defense wasn’t all that pretty, but it was pretty when Arizona got inside the Dawgs’ 20. The Huskies gave up field goals, not TDs, and a goal-line stop on a fourth-and-inches play in the first half was huge.

And somehow the Huskies managed to score 36 points despite a time of possession of just 20:41. Jake Locker had a magical 56-yard TD run, and tossed two touchdowns. Receivers dropped at least three of his passes, including one that ended up being intercepted and another that would have gone for a touchdown.

Just three Saturdays ago, I’d been on the field, watching the final minutes of Washington’s upset of the mighty Trojans. Considering Washington was 0-12 the year before, that Miracle on Montlake was described by some as the greatest victory in Husky history.

You really had to have been there to feel the energy and pure joy in the stadium that day.

For the Miracle on Montlake II, I could only feel numbness … as I listened to the radio.

Sure, I wish I would have hung in there for those final four minutes.  But, you know what, if I was there, I still would have had a hard time believing it.

Now, I can only wonder: Do these Dawgs have a Miracle on Montlake III in ’em? Oregon visits in two weeks (and it’s a day game, 12:30 p.m. kickoff). A last-second comeback win on a crazy play to beat the dreaded Ducks would be nice. Like the guy in the row behind me said, “I’d rather beat Oregon than Bin Laden.”

And that guy, I’m sure, didn’t miss Saturday’s ending like somebody I know.

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