An incalculable number of small things had to go right for Washington to be invited to the Holiday Bowl. The Huskies shuffle in as a 6-6 team that outscored opponents 183-133 in six wins, and were outscored 241-82 in six losses. In many respects, Washington appears to have carried a horseshoe made out of seven four-leaf clovers.
Three of Washington’s wins — at USC, against Oregon State and at Cal — were decided on the final play. There were also an improbable play earlier in those games to setup the end-game drama. Here’s a look:
Price is right
In order for Washington to do it again to USC, two unlikely teammates had to combine.
Backup quarterback and redshirt freshman Keith Price was inserted in the fourth quarter after Jake Locker took a bell-ringing followed by a sideline pause. Washington trailed the Trojans 28-23 with 14:00 remaining in the fourth quarter. It was first-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
He had thrown just one pass this season, a 3-yard fling during the game against Syracuse when the result was determined.
Yet, Price lined up in the shotgun. Chris Polk came in motion from the left side and Price faked the fly sweep handoff to him.
Meanwhile, tight end Chris Izbicki leaked off the line and trickled to the back left of the end zone. Price jumped while passing, chucked it into Izbicki’s gut, and the tight end tumbled for the score. It was the last pass Izbicki would catch during a disappointing regular season. He finished with two catches for 16 yards. Receiving tight end was supposed to be a critical position in the offense of Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian. Instead, it has been a hole.
A failed two-point conversion followed. Eventually, Erik Folk knocked through a 32-yard field goal as the clock ran out.
“I think a lot of people thought it was interesting, our own staff,” Sarkisian said of the shotgun call. “I just didn’t want to put him under center. He hadn’t gotten a real snap yet, I wanted to put him in the gun, and felt like it was a good call for him. He made a good play; it was a nice throw.”
Price’s quarterback rating for the game? 438.40. It was his lone touchdown of the season. Same with Izbicki. The 32-31 win was a large step toward 6-6.
Washington was locked up by Oregon State during the second half. After 21 first-half points, the Huskies scored zero prior to overtime.
The Beavers trekked to the Washington 5-yard line to present first-and-goal with the third quarter winding down. After Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers was stuffed and Hau’oli Jamora sacked Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz for a loss of seven yards, it became third-and-goal.
Katz was having a lousy day. Normally accurate, he finished 17-for-31 with three interceptions. The most crucial came on Oregon State’s final shot at the end zone in regulation.
Out of the shotgun with three wide receivers to his left, Katz was forced to step up by the right side rush of Washington defensive lineman Cameron Elisara. Katz is capable, but would prefer not to be on the move. Sauntering to his left, Katz looked into the end zone and decided to flip a pass back a bit to his right. It was a sidearm wing.
It headed right for freshman safety Sean Parker, on the field because Washington was using its nickel package. Parker caught the ball and collapsed in the end zone. It was Katz’s third interception of the day. He had thrown one in the previous five games.
The 11 plays 47 yard drive ended with the interception. Oregon State didn’t make it across the Washington 50-yard line in the fourth quarter, making Parker’s pick stand in the 35-34 double-overtime win against Oregon State that ended when tight end Joe Halahuni dropped the game-winning pass.
Washington trailed Cal 3-0 during its second must-win at the end of the season. After dispatching UCLA the previous week, the Huskies were in the midst of the second step toward resurrection for bowl eligibility.
The offense had stunk. Washington had 52 passing yards at the half. Setting up with four wide receivers during their opening drive of the second half, the Huskies were moments away from a heave, tip and run that should have never happened.
Locker rolled right after faking a pitch. His check-down receiver, Devin Aguilar, was covered. But Locker had loads of space to stop and set his feet. He chopped stepped to a halt at the his own 15-yard line, brought both feet together, squatted to load up, then stepped and launched a pass up the right sideline.
Washington wide receiver D’Andre Goodwin turned and leaped at Cal’s 33-yard line, Locker’s heave traveling 52 yards. Goodwin tipped the ball with the back of his right hand, deflecting a would-be interception for Cal’s defensive back Marc Anthony who had Goodwin covered the entire way. Goodwin’s hand went up between Anthony’s outstretched fingers for the deflection. While the ball was in the air, Anthony waved at it with his right hand and missed.
The ball spun and Goodwin snagged it. He turned to run the remaining 30 yards, leaving Cal stunned and Washington elated.
The Huskies went to Polk for the game-winning fourth-and-goal play. It wouldn’t have mattered without Goodwin’s magic.
Those three plays prefaced the end-game heroics. Without them, Washington would not be spending the holidays in the sun.