UW linebacker Ben Mahdavi raced untouched around Arizona's offensive line and laid his shoulder into the Wildcats' back-up QB for a punishing sack as time expired.
Before Washington's 31-28 triumph Saturday afternoon at Husky Stadium that might have seemed a likely ending to a Husky victory. It was the other 59 minutes and 58 seconds of the game that did not go as expected.
The Wildcats (0-4 Pac-10, 3-4 overall) had lost eight straight conference games and were dominated three consecutive weeks coming into Saturday. Their defense was banged up and they lost their starting quarterback to a concussion in the first half. Nevertheless, unranked Arizona managed to take a fourth-quarter lead against No. 12 Washington (3-1, 5-1).
The Huskies were forced to pull out the win in the game's final seconds, as quarterback Cody Pickett dove into the end zone for the go-ahead score with 13 ticks left on the clock.
Pickett's heroics may not have been needed were it not for his four interceptions and the Huskies' failure to stop the run -- they allowed their fifth 100-yard individual rusher of the year.
"Unfortunately, we were the major culprits as to why it was so exciting," said coach Rick Neuheisel. "We kept shooting ourselves in the foot and not executing to the level that we are capable."
For much of the game, Pickett showed that he was capable, rebounding from a separated shoulder two weeks ago, by throwing for 455 yards and three scores. Pickett's effort set the record for passing yards by a Husky, outdoing Cary Conklin's 428-yard performance against Arizona State in 1989.
The first three Husky drives resulted in touchdown passes. Pickett began with a 21-yarder to Todd Elstrom for the UW's first opening drive TD of the year. The next two scores came on what could hardly be called drives. Pickett took advantage of a double team on freshman Reggie Williams to find an open Paul Arnold who burned the Wildcats' secondary on a post for 78 yards. Then Pickett hooked up with fifth-year senior Pat Reddick who sneaked behind the secondary from his new slot position and scampered 75 yards for his first-ever touchdown.
"I was given the opportunity today and I tried to capitalize," Reddick said. "It was fun. It was real exciting. [The touchdown] went quick and I really didn't know what happened."
Unfortunately for the Huskies, the Wildcats answered the UW's first two scores, keeping it a 21-14 contest by the end of the first quarter. Puyallup native Jason Johnson tossed two scores as Arizona marched through the Husky defense. But Johnson suffered a mild concussion at the end of the first quarter and was replaced by redshirt freshman John Rattay.
Both offenses stalled in the second quarter and the Huskies caught a bad case of the turnovers for the first time this year. Five of the UW's next eight possessions resulted in turnovers.
The first, a Pickett interception, killed a Husky drive at the UA 25-yard-line. Then, in the second half, Mathias Wilson ran into Charles Frederick, causing a fumble on a punt return. The Wildcats scored on the next play to tie up the game.
"It was just bad luck," Neuheisel said. "It seemed like we had a real dose of misfortune in the second half."
The bad luck was only beginning, as two possessions later the Huskies drove the field again to the UA 15 only to have the ball intercepted in the end zone.
As the Husky running game (which finished with just 83 yards) stalled due to injuries and a stingy Wildcat defense, Pickett was forced to the air more and more. His 49 passing attempts were the fourth most in Husky history.
The Huskies tried to regain the lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter but John Anderson missed a 35-yard field goal. On the next possession, Pickett was intercepted again, and then again on the next drive.
Three plays after Pickett's last mistake, Arizona's Clarence Farmer rushed for 16 of his 147 yards into the end zone to give the Cats a 28-21 lead with five minutes to play.
Roc Alexander returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards to the Wildcat 15 but the offense stalled and the UW settled for a 39-yard Anderson field goal.
For the first time in the game, the defense held tight, holding Farmer to 4 yards on two carries. Mahdavi sacked Rattay on a crucial third down that gave the Huskies the ball with 2:18 to go.
From its own 45, Washington drove to the UA 3 in three plays. After a delay of game penalty, the Wildcats failed to intercept a poorly thrown ball intended for Williams, setting up Pickett's game-winner.
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