After 15 years, Arizona Wildcats return to site of the "Leap by the Lake"
One play could be all it takes. No matter the noise, weather or force against you, sometimes all it takes is one player stepping up. That effort could be needed when Arizona plays the beast in No. 16 Washington (3-0) tomorrow.
In 1998, Arizona entered a similar scenario, and if it wasn’t for a nine-yard quarterback scramble followed by a near-perfect front flip, one of the greatest seasons in the Wildcats’ history might have never happened.
“I know it’s the 15th anniversary, so hopefully we can recreate some of that magic and get a win out there,” quarterback B.J. Denker said.
What Denker is referring to is the “Leap by the Lake,” a game-winning, season-catapulting front flip over three Husky defenders by then-Arizona quarterback Ortege Jenkins. The improbable touchdown gave Arizona a three-point lead with just six seconds left. The Wildcats held their lead for the remaining time and beat the then-No. 20 Huskies 31-28.
The Oct. 3, 1998 victory at Husky Stadium propelled Arizona to an 11-1 record and No. 4 ranking at the end of the regular season. The Wildcats then beat No. 16 Nebraska 23-20 in the 1998 Holiday Bowl.
Washington, on the other hand, crumbled following the loss, finishing the season 6-5 and then lost 45-25 to Air Force in the Oahu Bowl.
“I don’t know if we necessarily use [The Leap by The Lake] as motivation,” Denker said. “[It might be motivation] more for Washington because that was a huge game that we beat them.”
Though Denker and the rest of the team can expect the same renowned loud and wet atmosphere that Jenkins faced at Husky Stadium in 1998, this time around, Washington is favored to win. Las Vegas puts the Wildcats as seven-point underdogs, which is being pretty kind to an Arizona team that hasn’t proven much so far.
The thundering crowd and stormy homefield advantage aren’t the only factors favoring Washington. The team heads into tomorrow’s game with momentum and power. UW failed to meet expectations in 2012, and after an impressive 3-0 start to 2013, its big, fast and experienced lineup might be on too much of a roll for the unproven Wildcats.
Washington senior quarterback Keith Price is in his fourth year of head coach Steve Sarkisian’s system. In his third year starting, the senior has the potential to end his Washington career as the greatest quarterback in school history. His 61 career touchdowns with a 64.4 completion percentage are both firsts in school history, and he still has almost a full season ahead of him.
“That’s one heck of a quarterback,” Arizona cornerbacks coach David Lockwood said of Price. “He has some God-given talent…and so many more talented guys to throw the ball to.
“But if we stick to the game plan and everyone is focused and trying to make the play, good things can only happen.”
With a lack of experience, lack of momentum and uncontrollable stadium factors, the odds are against Arizona. But that doesn’t mean a win is out of reach. As Lockwood hinted at, tomorrow’s game will come down to who controls the tempo and who can make a play. Just ask Jenkins about his leap by the lake.
— Follow Luke Della @LukeDella