Provo • BYU defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen wasn’t paying attention. As soon as Washington quarterback Jake Locker dove across goal line to score the touchdown that pulled the Huskies within a point of the Cougars in a game that BYU had previously dominated, Jorgensen began plotting how he was going to block the extra point.
“I was thinking about how I could squeeze in there, or how we could win the game in overtime,” Jorgensen recalled Tuesday. “That’s what went through my mind.”
So Jorgensen, now the defensive coordinator at Orange Coast College in California, didn’t see Locker complete his diving roll and football toss — all in the same motion, pretty much — or how several referees immediately threw their yellow penalty flags at Locker for violating Rule 8, Section 2, Article 1C of the NCAA rulebook.
Backed up 15 yards, UW kicker Ryan Perkins’ PAT, now a 35-yarder, was blocked by Jorgensen and the Cougars escaped Husky Stadium 10 years ago with a 28-27 win.
“Whether it was from the 3-yard line or 15 yards back, it didn’t matter,” Jorgensen said. “I would have blocked it either way.”
BYU’s career leader in sacks since 2000, with 30, Jorgensen said he got through a crease between a guard and a tackle and penetrated so far into the backfield that he “almost took the ball off his foot” with two seconds left.
NO. 20 BYU AT NO. 11 WASHINGTON
When • Saturday, 6:30 p.m. MDT
TV • Ch. 13
Whatever the case, controversy immediately erupted, as the game’s wild finish dominated television highlight shows the night of Sept. 6, 2008 and sparked debate over the NCAA’s excessive celebration penalty. The No. 20-ranked Cougars will return to Husky Stadium for the first time since that game to face No. 11 Washington on Saturday (6:30 p.m. MDT, Ch. 13).
Most observers criticized the rule, but not its application. BYU quarterback Max Hall later said he wished no penalty had been called at all, because Jorgensen still would have blocked the kick and the Cougars, No. 15 at the time, would have been given their due credit for the rare road win at what was then a Pac-10 school.
BYU players saw irony in the fact that they were penalized almost twice as much as the Huskies, and for more than twice as many yards by the Pac-10 officials, but all people could talk about after the game was the Locker penalty.
In a statement, Pac-10 official Larry Farina said they didn’t have a choice.
“The player threw the ball into the air, and we are required, by rule, to assess a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty,” Farina said. “It was not a judgement call.”
To his credit, Locker took responsibility for “messing up.” He said he had “never done anything like that in the past” and “wasn’t trying to show anybody up by doing it.”
Washington coach Tyrone Willingham, who was fired later in the season because the Huskies did not win a game in 2008, said the penalty was “unfortunate, but it’s almost one they have to call.”
Washington slowly recovers
Former BYU quarterback Steve Sarkisian succeeded Willingham and coached the Huskies from 2009-13 as the program slowly recovered from the winless season. BYU defeated Washington 23-17 in Provo in 2010 to even the series at 4-4, but Washington regained the lead with a 31-16 win in the 2013 Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco with interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo because Sarkisian had accepted the USC job.
Chris Petersen headed West from a highly successful stint at Boise State and took over in 2014. He has guided Washington to such lofty heights that a BYU repeat of the 2008 win would be considered a major upset. Washington is a 17-point favorite.
“You can just tell he has established that winning culture he had at Boise,” said BYU passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick, who faced the Huskies several times when he was at the University of Utah. “They have a belief in themselves and their program. Everything fits together — the way they play offense, the way they play defense and the way they play special teams. It all fits into a program that is hitting on all cylinders all the time.
“That’s what we are trying to do here,” Roderick continued. “The way we play offense fits the way we play defense and fits the way we play special teams. We have a formula for winning, and that’s what they have as well, and they do it as well as any team in the country.”
BYU wants another breakthrough
Jorgensen said BYU was also looking for a breakthrough in 2008. The Cougars “had a monkey on our backs,” he said, because they were seen as a team that couldn’t win games against Power 5 conferences foes on the road, opportunities that were more rare then than now.
They had lost at Notre Dame in Bronco Mendenhall’s first season, 2005, at Arizona and Boston College in 2006 and at UCLA in 2007. Nobody knew at the time that Washington would go winless, so the victory was seen as huge in Provo. The Cougars routed UCLA 59-0 the following week, shut out Wyoming 44-0 after that and were 6-0 and ranked No. 9 in the country with a 16-game winning streak when it all came crashing down at TCU on Oct. 16, 2008 in a 32-7 loss.
“That win gave us the confidence to feel like we didn’t have to be at home to win big games like that,” Jorgensen said. “That same group of guys went down to Texas the following year and beat No. 3 Oklahoma at Cowboys Stadium. … You could say it propelled us, but we were already a confident bunch of guys. Those were some pretty special years.”
The Cougars just needed a kick-start — and they got it by blocking one.
Past BYU-Washington games
Washington leads the all-time series, 5-4:
2013 — Washington 31, BYU 16 (San Francisco)
2010 — BYU 23, Washington 17 (Provo)
2008 — BYU 28, Washington 27 (Seattle)
1999 — BYU 35, Washington 28 (Provo)
1998 — Washington 20, BYU 10 (Seattle)
1997 — Washington 42, BYU 20 (Provo)
1996 — Washington 29, BYU 17 (Seattle)
1986 — Washington 52, BYU 21 (Seattle)
1985 — BYU 31, Washington 3 (Provo)
Average Score: Washington 27.7, BYU 22.3