Sept. 16, 2006
By Benton Strong
SEATTLE -- In the fourth quarter of the Huskies 21-20 win over Fresno State, the crowd reminded everyone what makes Husky Stadium one of the toughest places to play in the country. In what Scott White described as a "deafening" atmosphere, the crowd propelled the Husky defense to one last stand and a much needed victory.
Before the Huskies final stand it was junior Caesar Rayford that made the biggest defensive play of the game, blocking an extra point attempt after a Fresno State touchdown had cut the lead to just one. It was the second missed kick of the game for FSU, after an earlier field goal attempt was hooked badly.
"I'm out there to make plays and I want to make plays," Rayford said. "When we first started practicing that play I told myself I was going to block one. So in the game I just visualized myself blocking it and it happened."
With a one point lead, it was then the crowd's turn as Husky fans came alive with 2:32 left to play and Fresno preparing to start a last gasp drive. The stadium was so loud that the Bulldogs had not one, but two false start penalties that forced them into a 2nd and 13 on their own 13-yard line. The second false start negated an interception by Matt Fountaine that would have iced the game.
No matter, though as on the very next play, junior Mesphin Forrester stepped in front of a Tom Brandstater pass and took it back to the FSU one yard line to secure the win. The roar from the crowd literally shook the stadium.
"This place is one of the most difficult places to come in and play when our fans have that kind of passion and get involved," said head coach Tyrone Willingham. "They really did make a difference."
In a game where one big play would be the difference, Washington made two huge ones on defense and on special teams.
The defense pressured Brandstater into just 140 yards passing and the big interception. Senior safety C.J. Wallace led the unit with 17 tackles, while the entire group racked up six tackles for loss.
Sophomore Jason Wells got into the action when he laid a bone-crushing lick on kick returner Joe Fernandez. Fernandez never saw Wells coming from the sideline as he barreled into the return man.
But in the end it was Rayford who made the biggest difference, stopping FSU from tying the game and turning the crowd into the Huskies' biggest strength.
"Caesar Rayford came up with a huge play," Forrester said. "I think that was the play of the game."
"I'm kind of speechless right now," added White. "Since I've been here we've never come out of the blocks like this. You never know when the game is going to be decided and right there, on the extra point block, it was decided."