Third-quarter UW heroics put end to Miami's streak in '94
Seattle Times staff reporter
They don't know that he's a 380-pound bodyguard for casino owner and billionaire Fabrizio Boccardi, or that he left for Japan on Monday for a career as a K-1 kickboxer.
But they remember the day in September 1994, when the Washington Huskies went to Miami as a 14-point underdog and shattered the Hurricanes' 58-game home-field winning streak at the Orange Bowl, 38-20.
"They remember the Whammy in Miami," Sapp said over the phone at a Gold's Gym in Seattle, weight plates clanking in the background.
So does every Huskies fan alive. The story will be retold in bars around Seattle all week, how 19th-ranked Washington, in the second year of bowl probation, came back from a 14-3 halftime deficit with a resounding third quarter to upend the No. 5 'Canes and their NCAA-record home streak.
They scored 25 points in that third quarter, and the three guys who scored the touchdowns — Sapp, Richard Thomas and Russell Hairston — will tell you today none of them was exactly conventional.
Washington had Damon Huard at quarterback, Napoleon Kaufman at tailback, Mark Bruener and Ernie Conwell at tight ends and Lawyer Milloy at safety.
The foundation for the victory was probably laid in July and August, when the Huskies did Coach Jim Lambright's "insanely motivating style of workouts," according to Thomas.
Sapp remembers Lambright changing the standard "up-downs" of conditioning to a version where players had to fall on their backs and get up. At unscheduled intervals, drills would be brought to a halt and conditioning runs would begin.
"At any time during the day, we'd have to line up and run," says Sapp, a gregarious 6-foot-5, 300-pound guard. "The mental stress was ridiculous."
Players were encouraged to wear long-sleeved undershirts under their shoulder pads to try to simulate the Miami heat and humidity.
"I said, 'I ain't that crazy,' " Sapp recalls. "I told 'em I couldn't find any that would fit."
Washington was 1-1 entering the game. The teams slugged it out for most of an uneventful first half with Miami ahead 6-3. Then 'Canes receiver Yatil Green slipped behind a UW defender for a 51-yard touchdown pass in the final minute and Miami added a two-point conversion for a 14-3 lead.
Maybe the 'Canes became comfortable with that lead. But the third quarter would be one of the best in Washington's history.
On Washington's second play from scrimmage at its 25, Huard floated a little screen pass out for Thomas, the former Kentwood High School back.
"In the first half, we almost scored on it," said Thomas, now doing youth ministry in Arroyo Grande, Calif. "I remember players kind of having that look: 'Richard isn't going to go 75, but we can at least get some yardage.'
"When the play opened, you really felt a strong flow in the other direction. I felt guys at my feet, and remember believing I could get out of it."
Thomas weaved and dashed 75 yards for a score. Huard threw to Dave Janoski for a two-point conversion and Washington was down 14-11.
By then, says Sapp, the Huskies knew they could play with the 'Canes. It was the Miami mystique that Washington was now debunking.
"Warren Sapp's over there and (center) Frank Garcia's knocking him on his butt," Sapp said. "We said, 'Look, this isn't anybody great out here. We can do this.' "
On Miami's next series, Costa threw a sideline pass to the right, and a 'Canes receiver slipped down. The Huskies' Hairston was struck by one thought, even as the ball left Costa's hand: "That's a touchdown."
"We had a blitz on with (linebacker) David Killpatrick," said Hairston, now a juvenile-detention officer in King County. "He provided the pressure.
"It's kind of funny. The first thing that comes to mind with people is, 'You're Russell Hairston, the guy who ran back the interception against Miami.' "
In just 1 minute, 59 seconds of the third quarter, Washington had erased the 11-point deficit and taken an 18-14 lead. But there was more, and quickly.
Miami receiver Jammi German fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Jerry Jensen recovered at the 'Canes 23. Six plays later, Huard ran a keeper from the 8 but fumbled at the 3. The ball squirted forward and the Huskies' Sapp fell on it. It was his only touchdown, and the moment was so startling, he initially thought he had scored a safety.
"I remember Mark Bruener looking at the refs and saying, 'Hey, that's a touchdown,' " says Sapp. "He went and picked the ref's arms up. I heard the refs say, 'No, it's not a touchdown.' "
But it was. Washington had scored 22 points within five minutes and added a John Wales field goal late in the quarter. In seven years since, the Huskies haven't bettered that 25-point quarter.
From there, it was seemingly easy. Miami got to 28-20 early in the fourth quarter, but no closer. Soon, the Huskies were celebrating what would be the best victory in the six-year Lambright regime.
Suddenly, Bob Sapp, who had known the anonymity of the offensive line, was a media darling.
"(Those were) my first, on-the-spot, live interviews with everybody," said Sapp, still excited at the memory. "I couldn't think of what to say. I was trying not to cuss, trying to stay poised. I said, 'Hey, we're calling this the Whammy in Miami.'
"The reporters went crazy. It was the best."
What do the Huskies remember most thereafter? That Lambright, who usually demanded coats and ties on trips, allowed them to wear sweats on the charter flight home.
"I give a lot of credit to Lambright for keeping that team together," Hairston said. "That situation (probation) could have been drastic for that program."
As much as the game was memorable, the season wasn't. The Huskies began 5-1, but this was the year of Kenny Wheaton's infamous interception at Oregon in late October. Washington, bereft of any postseason goal, lost three of its last five to finish 7-4.
Talk about overscheduled. In their opener against USC, the Huskies faced Keyshawn Johnson and USC. In their second game, they beat Ohio State and Eddie George, the next year's Heisman Trophy winner. The third game brought Miami.
Referring to the late-season difficulties, Thomas said, "We were so overconditioned during the summer and early fall. In some ways, maybe we were just spent."
Maybe they were. But maybe they would also say the Whammy in Miami made it all worth it.
Bud Withers can be reached at 206-464-8281 or email@example.com.