Everyone loves a good college football rivalry game. You can’t not like ‘em.
The staff over at ESPN recently got together and debated their favorite college football rivalry moments over the past 20 years and the Pac-12 was heavily featured.
Included in the 10 ‘favorite moments’ were three separate Pac-12 football games, as memorable for some as they are painful for others.
Here they are:
Apple Cup, 2002
The 2002 Washington Huskies might have been 5-5, but they knocked off No. 3 Washington State 29-26 in three overtimes on a play that still raises the ire of Cougars fans everywhere. On the first play of the bottom half of the third overtime, Washington defender Kai Ellis batted down the screen pass of Washington State quarterback Matt Kegel, then fell on the ball. The Cougars and their home crowd began thinking second down. The Huskies ran onto the field thinking celebration, believing that the screen had been a backward pass and, thus, a live ball. The officials huddled, and referee Gordon Riese announced for the Huskies. Game over. Q: When does going to the Rose Bowl not cure all ills? A: When you lost the Apple Cup on a game-ending judgment call.
The Victory Bell, 2006
In December 2006, USC went to the Rose Bowl for the first time since losing that epic BCS Championship Game to Texas 11 months earlier. USC remained a prohibitive favorite to beat UCLA. The No. 2 Trojans were 10-1, the Bruins 6-5, not to mention that USC had beaten UCLA 66-19 a year earlier. Yet UCLA led 13-9 when Bruins backup linebacker Eric McNeal, who just may have been out of position, tipped a John David Booty pass near the line of scrimmage, then caught it as he fell at the UCLA 20 with 1:10 to play. There went USC’s chance to play for the national championship for the fourth consecutive year. From 1999 through 2011, McNeal’s pick is the only play that sealed a Bruins’ victory over the Trojans.
Territorial Cup, 2009
Arizona never trailed Arizona State in 2009, and yet you could feel the game slipping away. The Wildcats led 14-0 at the half and 17-10 with 2:30 to play, and yet, here it was, 17-17 with a minute and change left, and Arizona had to punt to the Sun Devils. Back deep waited senior Kyle Williams; all Williams had done was catch both Arizona State touchdowns and return a punt 53 yards to set up the Sun Devils’ third-quarter field goal. But Williams muffed the punt, the Wildcats’ Mike Turner recovered it at the Arizona State 22, and as time expired, Alex Zendejas kicked the winning 32-yard field goal. Arizona State lost three games that season on a game-ending field goal. No need to guess which one stings to this day.
There they are, in all their glory. Live it up Arizona, UCLA and Washington fans.
But it also begs the question — which Pac-12 rivalry game is your favorite? Which has your favorite rivalry game moment?