6:30 PM ET, November 23, 2002
Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA
PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) -- Washington kicker John Anderson had one of those streaks that added an indelible chapter to the Apple Cup history.
After Jason Gesser was knocked out with a leg injury, the Cougars' offense sputtered.
Anderson kicked five field goals, including the game-winner from 49 yards out in the third overtime, and Kai Ellis forced and recovered a disputed fumble to secure Washington's 29-26 thrilling victory over No. 3 Washington State on Saturday night.
"When you get on a little bit of a roll, the goal posts get bigger,'' Anderson said. "You want to be out there.''
The loss spoiled Washington State's chance to secure a Rose Bowl berth. Now the Cougars (9-2, 6-1 Pacific-10) must win at UCLA on Dec. 7 to capture the conference title, and it's not known whether quarterback Jason Gesser will be able to play.
Gesser was knocked out in the fourth quarter with a high ankle sprain on his right leg, part of a bizarre 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, Gesser's replacement, dropped back and tried to throw. The ball came loose, and Ellis leaped on it.
"I intercepted it, then I dropped it,'' Ellis said.
The ball hit the turf, but Ellis grabbed it, and the Huskies sprinted off the field to celebrate the victory.
Not so fast, though.
The celebration slowed as officials huddled near a pile of players at the 40-yard line. After about one minute, a hush went over the crowd when referee Gordon Riese snapped 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.
The ruling was that Kegel had thrown the ball to his left, away from the line of scrimmage, making it a live ball. So when it hit the turf, it wasn't an incompletion.
"It was a backward pass, therefore a fumble, and we ended up with the ball. So the game was over,'' Washington coach Rick Neuheisel said.
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.
Contributing to the chaos, fans showered the field with debris, including bottles and plastic souvenirs. There were reports of players, as well as some writers and photographers, being hit by objects.
"I feared for my life,'' Washington athletic director Barbara Hedges said.
None of the players from either team was seriously injured, but some news people sustained cuts that required minor treatment, with one reporting a concussion.
It was a wild finish to a wild night.
Taking advantage of Gesser's absence, the Huskies rallied to force overtime by scoring 10 points in the final 3½ minutes.
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, capped with a 7-yard scoring pass to Paul Arnold, pulling Washington to 20-17 with 3:13 to play.
The key play 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 Picket'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. The kicker wasn't hurt.
"I'm very proud of John,'' Neuheisel said. "He's been our go-to guy since he was a freshman. He came though when it counted.''
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 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.
"All the fans got off our bandwagon when we lost three in a row,'' said tackle Khalif Barnes. "We came back.''
The Cougars weren't 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.
"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.''
Team officials didn't know how long Gesser might be sidelined, or whether he'll be available for Washington State's game at UCLA on Dec. 7.
Gesser was expected to begin rehabilitation on his ankle Sunday. Washington State trainer Bill Drake said Gesser would be on crutches indefinitely. X-rays taken at Pullman Memorial Hospital after the game showed no fractures.