Nov. 23, 2002
By TIM KORTE
AP Sports Writer
PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) - John Anderson kicked five field goals, including the game-winner from 49 yards out in the third overtime, and Kai Ellis forced and recovered a fumble to secure Washington's 29-26 victory over No. 3 Washington State on Saturday night.
It was one of the most dramatic finishes in the history of the Apple Cup, the annual game between the in-state rivals.
It also spoiled Washington State's chance to secure a Rose Bowl berth with a victory. Now the Cougars (9-2, 6-1 Pac-10) must win at UCLA on Dec. 7 to capture the conference title.
The ending was bizarre, a finish that's sure to be debated for years among fans of both teams.
Washington (7-5, 4-4) had the ball first in the third overtime, and after a sack and two incompletions by Cody Pickett, it was up to Anderson. He trotted out for the 49-yard attempt, and a collective groan arose from Martin Stadium when his kick sailed true.
"I just wanted to make sure I made it," Anderson said. "I knew our defense would get the job done."
The Cougars took over, and it was all over on their first play. Matt Kegel, who in the game because starter Jason Gesser was knocked out in the fourth quarter with an injured right shin, dropped back and tried to throw. The ball came loose, and Ellis leaped on it.
Although it was unclear whether it was a fumble or an incomplete pass, the Huskies began to sprint off their sideline to celebrate. But they slowed as officials huddled near the pile at the 40-yard line. After about one minute, a hush went over the crowd when referee Gordon Riese turned on his microphone.
"The ruling on the field was that it was a backward pass. Washington recovered that pass, and the game is over," Riese announced.
Cougars coach Mike Price didn't see it that way.
"That was just a bad pass. It was a forward pass," he said.
The Huskies swarmed the field, and their fans spilled out of the stands in a mix of purple and white. The dejected Cougars headed through the tunnel leading to the locker room.
"That's wrong," Price told a referee as he walked off the field.
Taking advantage of Gesser's absence, the Huskies rallied to force overtime by scoring 10 points in the final four minutes.
"It's not the way you want to finish up your career," said Gesser, a senior. "I don't get hurt, we would have won that game."
Washington State had taken a 20-10 lead on a 22-yard field goal by Drew Dunning with 4:41 remaining. But Pickett directed a six-play, 92-yard drive that he capped with a 7-yard scoring pass to Paul Arnold, pulling Washington to 20-17 with 3:13 to play.
The key play on the drive was a 48-yard bomb from Pickett to Reggie Williams.
Still, the Cougars would have been safe if they could have taken some time off the clock. But Nate Robinson gave the Huskies another chance when he intercepted Kegel's pass toward Mike Bush, giving Washington the ball at Washington State's 35.
The Huskies reached the 12 as the clock ticked down to 20 seconds. And Anderson, who had missed four earlier field goal attempts, calmly connected on a 27-yarder with 15 seconds remaining in regulation to tie it at 20-all.
"It's all about redemption," Anderson said. "We came together as a team. Fifteen seniors and everyone else bought into the coaches. After I missed three in a row, I got down on myself. But the guys on the sideline picked me up.
"Then I made five in a row," he said.
One of Anderson's misses came on the possession that ended with Pickett's TD pass to Arnold. A Cougars player ran into Anderson's kicking leg, and Anderson hobbled off. But a roughing penalty was called, extending the drive.
Pickett completed 35 of 57 passes for 368 yards with one touchdown. Williams caught 12 passes for 169 yards.
Washington won its fifth straight in the series, and coach Rick Neuheisel improved to 4-0 in the Apple Cup. The Huskies also extended their streak of winning seasons to 26, a mark that seemed in jeopardy when they lost three straight last month.
"I'm very proud of John," Neuheisel said. "He's been our go-to guy since he was a freshman. He came through when it counted."
The Cougars, meanwhile, weren't nearly the same team after Gesser left, slipping into a seemingly endless succession of false-start penalties as the line adjusted to Kegel and his cadence.
Gesser was injured when he got sacked by Washington's Terry Johnson for a 16-yard loss with 9:50 remaining. He watched the finish from the sideline, and X-rays were planned after the game.
Gesser was helped off the field and taken to the bench. After trainers worked on his leg, he was clearly in pain. He stood and tried to walk about 15 feet, but he was grimacing.
"If I could have played, you would have seen me out there," he said.
Gesser was 14-of-24 for 226 yards with one interception and one touchdown, while Kegel finished 5-of-7 for 20 yards with one interception.
The Huskies could have won in regulation if Anderson had connected earlier. Washington State led 17-7 at halftime, but only because Anderson was wide left on a 50-yard attempt, and his 51-yard try bounced off the right upright.
Anderson also was wide right on a 34-yard attempt on Washington's first possession of the second half.