“Eastern Washington Beats the Huskies, 27-30!”
The above derives from the time in 1968 when editors at the Crimson newspaper greeted the improbable tie with Yale gained by highly underestimated Harvard with the headline: “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29.” The game, immortalized in an excellent 2008 documentary, may have been recalled by many who witnessed Eastern nearly beat the 18-point favorites from the University of Washington Saturday (Sept. 3).
In fact, the Eagles eclipsed the efforts of the Harvard team. The latter was playing at home, after all, and, while Yale was heavily favored, both Ivy League teams were 8-0 at game time. Eastern not only was on the road but was playing in front of perhaps three times the number of beings in its home town of Cheney.
But the Eagles had a few assets, tangible and otherwise. One was last year’s national title at the second-tier level of the Football Championship Subdivision. Another was the prestige of competing in front of the relatively gargantuan (albeit, scarcely sell-out) crowd of 58,000 as well as a regional TV audience.
The key advantage, though, was Bo Levi Mitchell, he of the suspiciously fictional-sounding handle and pro-caliber poise. The quarterback seemed to complete everything except the fantasy of an eventual victory. His last pass wound up in the end zone but it was in the arms of Desmond Trufant, a Husky defender. Twenty-nine ticks later the game expired: UW 30-27.
Prior to that Mitchell had “merely” thrown for 473 yards, nearly twice the entire offensive output of the opponent. He completed 39 passes, 14 more than were thrown by Keith Price, the Husky starter, who connected 17 times with 10 receivers.
It would be convenient to suggest that the hosts “mis-underestimated” their rustic cousins, especially after an early Eagle muffed punt led to a quick Husky score. But Eastern took the lead late during the first quarter and held it for about five minutes before the Huskies scored five more times.
As seems inevitable for any season-opener, the Dawgs looked less than ready for the challenges of their inaugural Pac-12 season. Rushing the quarterback and defending against the pass seemed more theoretical than actual in the game plan of defensive coordinator Nick Holt. On offense the Dawgs benefited from another “century-plus” Chris Polk performance. The junior running back, thought to be gimpy after arthroscopic knee surgery, nevertheless started, scampering for 125 yards on 23 carries.
After the game, Husky coach Steve Sarkisian (under)stated to reporters: “We beat a pretty good football team. We knew that coming in and they were extremely scary. There is a reason why they were national champs last year and why they are the pre-season No. 1 in the country this year.”
He said that, “as a program, we are excited to be 1-0. [Sunday] morning half the teams in the country are going to wake up 0-1.” The latter half would include four Pac-12 teams, most notable both Oregon programs. The Ducks succumbed to what could become the division-one national champ: a Louisiana State team that triumphed 40-27 against speedy Oregon. Even more conspicuously, the Oregon State Beavers lost 29-28 in overtime — at home, yet — to lightly regarded Sacramento State.
One of the other Pac-12 victims was new league member Colorado, 34-17 losers to Hawaii. This no doubt seems ominous to a lot of Dawg-followers, some of whom may wonder whether they’ll wake up next Sunday after the Saturday date with the Warriors at Husky Stadium to the headline: “Hawaii Beats Huskies, 30-27.”