Kai Ellis thought he had just won the Apple Cup; he didn't know what the officials' conference was about. He was sure he had just recovered an errant WSU pass in its backfield during the game's third overtime, securing a 29-26 victory. However, the referees remained huddled as the expectant crowd held its collective breath.
Then head referee Gordon Riese emerged to make an announcement.
"The ruling on the field was that it was a backward pass. Washington recovered that pass, and the game is over," Riese said.
In what may be the most exciting Apple Cup ever played, Washington (4-4 Pac-10, 7-5 overall) beat No. 3 Washington State (6-1, 9-2) 29-26 in three overtimes.
"I was thinking that was it," Ellis said of the final play. "I knew that was an interception. They knocked the ball loose after I caught it, and I recovered it."
The crazy play was a fitting ending for a bizarre game, which saw a fake punt, a botched punt, a fourth-quarter comeback, 13 field-goal attempts, a double pass, three overtimes, a near riot after the game and a multitude of missed opportunities by both teams.
"We saw a little bit of everything tonight," said coach Rick Neuheisel. "It wasn't a pretty win, we shot ourselves in the foot a lot of times today, and I'm sure Washington State will say the same thing."
With the score tied at 20, Washington and Washington State headed into overtime, which allows both teams a chance to score from the 25-yard line. Washington got the ball first, but could only manage a 34-yard field goal from Anderson.
The Husky defense, which only allowed three points in the final 40 minutes of regulation, held the Cougars without a first down. Washington State's Drew Dunning matched Anderson's kick, and the game went to a second overtime.
This time, Washington State got the ball first, but the results were the same: Dunning and Anderson exchanged field goals again, with Anderson keeping the Huskies alive with a 46-yarder.
In the third period, Anderson knocked in a 49-yard field goal, setting up Ellis' game-clinching play.
The epic overtime periods wouldn't have been necessary, save for another trademark fourth-quarter comeback by the Huskies.
Down 20-10 with only 4:30 left in the fourth quarter, the Huskies put together an impressive 92-yard scoring drive capped by Paul Arnold's 7-yard TD reception.
The Cougars took possession on the ensuing kickoff looking to protect their 20-17 lead, but Washington's Nate Robinson intercepted Matt Kegel's pass to 6-foot-6 wide out Mike Bush on the first play of the drive.
"Maybe he didn't know I could jump," said Robinson, who is listed at 5 feet, 9 inches.
Kegel replaced WSU's starting quarterback Jason Gesser, who left the game after his knee was pinned awkwardly during a Terry Johnson sack in the fourth quarter.
Nine plays later, the Huskies tied the game at 20 on a John Anderson field goal with only 15 seconds left. Anderson, who had already missed his first three field goals, barely tucked the 27-yard kick inside the right upright.
Anderson's heroics were almost not necessary. Washington had a chance to win it in regulation, but Arnold dropped a fade from Cody Pickett in the end zone with less than a minute to go.
"I had the ball, it popped out, I should have caught it," said Arnold. "I felt just terrible if that would have lost the game for us, but my boy John (Anderson) came through in the end."
For the Huskies, Williams had his second-consecutive outstanding Apple Cup, catching 12 balls for 169 yards. Pickett also played well, finishing 35-57 for 368 yards and two touchdowns (one rushing).
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