It's 1985. You flip past a commercial featuring Magic Johnson, Dr. J, and Larry Bird bickering over which one of them the new Converse shoe was specifically made for and see Oregon State is playing Washington. The odds makers have UW as the heavy favorite, setting Oregon State as 37 point underdogs. It's a typical overcast day and some 58,000 rabid Washington fans have jammed into Husky Stadium in Seattle, eager to add yet another beaver pelt to their extensive collection.
Adding to the depressing narrative was the absence of all PAC-10 WR Reggie Bynum and the fact that the Beavers would be without their usual QB Erick Wilhelm (who was lost for the season due to injury), instead starting freshman Rich Gonzales. Coming off of back to back PAC-10 defeats in which the Beavs were outscored 97-0, and without key pieces, this game appeared to be a typical Beaver slaughter, as it had been 10 long years since Oregon State had scored over 17 points against Washington, let alone beat them.
The game starts as expected, albeit not as quickly as predicted, with Washington scoring the game’s first 3 points. And so begins the slow death march for Oregon State.
But then, something atypical happens. The normally inauspicious Beaver passing attack was jolted to life by the freshman Rich Gonzales as he connected on a 43 yard strike to Darvin Malone. While entertaining and hope inducing, cautiously optimistic Oregon State fans are sent back to reality as later in the first quarter, UW responds with a TD drive of their own and the "walls of Jericho" crumble. It appears the Huskies just wanted to play with their meal a little before consuming it.
Later in the second quarter, after a botched OSU punt, Washington drives down to the 8 yard line. Then something strange happens again.
Washington throws an interception in the end zone.
The game stays close for now, but there’s no real panic in Husky Stadium, as Washington has been here before, and they know what has to be done. However, freshman QB, Rich Gonzales doesn't care much for the steep odds or the supposed narrative. Down 10-7 in the 2nd Quarter, he engineers a scoring drive culminating with his 20 yard touchdown dash which is promptly showered in boos by the glowingly frustrated Washington crowd.
The half ends. It’s 14-10 Beavers and gamblers all across America are furious.
The second half begins.
The Huskies march down the field and score, taking what the much maligned Oregon State defense gives them; they're finally scratching where it’s itching. The normally anemic Beavers offense begins to scuffle. The inevitable seems to have finally arrived as with less than 2 minutes in the third quarter, Washington has first and goal from the 1. They just need 1 yard to make it a 2 possession game, and possibly put an OSU victory out of reach. On first and goal the Beavers use all their strength and will to make a stop. On second and goal Oregon State again digs in and denies Washington from scoring. On third and goal linebacker Osia Lewis snaps his chin strap and seems stalwart to leave his imprint on the game. He does just that by catapulting himself into Husky RB, Vince Weathersby, freeing the ball from his clenches. Oregon State recovers and for the second time in the game they’ve forced Washington turnovers inside the OSU 10 yard line.
Nevertheless, the Beavers squander a golden opportunity to gain momentum and fail to score on the following drives. With 7:49 left in the game Washington adds a 43 yard field goal to go up 20-14. The UW defense had been imposing their will since the second quarter and now it would take a touchdown to win it. Well at least the Beavers hung tough, and appeared to be on their way to a moral victory (but seriously, who cares about moral victories?).
After a surprising Oregon State drive, they fail to score on what appears to be their final chance to win, as on 4th down from the Washington 11, Rich Gonzales has his pass batted away by Washington, leaving 3 minutes and 22 seconds on the clock. A predicable end to a hard fought loss it seemed. With only 1:29 left in the game, all Washington has to do is punt the ball away, and keep Oregon State out of the end zone, something they've been doing exceptionally well since the second quarter. Funny thing about football though, sometimes the improbable becomes possible, the illogical becomes plausible.
The great 49ers coach Bill Walsh once said "You got to remind yourself as a coach, that there’s, there’s fortune involved, there’s luck involved in any kind of competition, and the closer the competition, the more the luck, and the breaks mean to the outcome of the game.”
Well, Bill Walsh was right, in what may have been a flash of blind luck (or divine intervention) Oregon State defender Andre Todd blocked a punt from Thane Cleland and the Beaver's star defensive back Lavance Northington pounced on the ball in the end zone. Oregon State proceeded to kick the extra point and take a 21-20 lead. That much maligned Beaver defense then thwarted Washington's last ditch efforts to win the game, and Oregon State had pulled off the biggest upset to date in college football history.
The Seattle Times reported that after the game in disbelief Washington lineman Tim Burnham, spouted “We just lost to the (bleeping) Beavers.”
Yeah Tim, you just lost the bleeping Beavers...