By Kirby Arnold
MIAMI – As miserable as Cody Pickett’s night became, it could have been worse. He could have wound up in the record books.
Pickett’s five intercepted passes weren’t a Washington school record; that is still owned by former Husky great Sonny Sixkiller with six.
Pickett will have two more years to recover from the tough lessons he learned against a brutal Miami defensive line and a lightning-quick secondary that made the guys in orange jerseys seem more open than the Huskies.
Harassed all game by Miami’s pass rush, Pickett forced other throws that he said he shouldn’t have made.
“I feel really bad for the seniors. We wanted to win this game for them,” Pickett said. “It’s a loss but it’s a great learning experience. You come to play the No. 1 team in the country and get beat. But guys will take things away and learn from it and be prepared more next time.”
That includes a young quarterback who has been hot, cold, hot and cold in the final four games. Pickett finished with 14 completions in 29 attempts for 157 yards.
He blamed himself for being too amped-up.
“We were all pumped up for the game, but it’s the quarterback’s job to stay settled down and I didn’t,” Pickett said. “I forced balls I shouldn’t have. There were third downs where I threw a pick and I should have just sat on it and we could have punted for field position.
“But I tried to force it in there. I was trying too hard to make a play when I should have taken a sack or thrown the ball away. You just can’t do that.”
Pickett kicked himself most for the interception he threw on the third play of the game deep in his own territory that led to Miami’s first touchdown.
Aiming for tight end Kevin Ware, Pickett threw the ball into Miami coverage and Jonathan Vilma picked it off.
“Kevin broke one way and I threw the other,” Pickett said. “I shouldn’t have thrown the ball. I was trying to make a play and it backfired.”
Constant pressure: Pickett didn’t stand much of a chance with Miami defenders playing one of their best games of the season, and the Huskies put together just 230 yards of total offense.
“Our defense was just swarming tonight, playing with athleticism and confidence,” Miami coach Larry Coker said. “You could see it coming through, seeing them be able to pressure the quarterback and allow our secondary to make plays. They just keep getting better and better.”
Who needs ball control?: The object was to keep the Miami offense off the field, and technically the Huskies did that.
The Huskies ran 50 offensive plays in the first half and Miami only 23, UW dominated time-of-possession 23 minutes, 10 seconds to Miami’s 6:50.
The Hurricanes needed just 18 plays to build a 37-0 halftime lead, and their drive charts looked like a huge misprint: two plays, 13 yards, 12 seconds; three plays, 31 yards, 43 seconds; six plays, 38 yards, 1:11; one play, 15 yards, 21 seconds.
Seven UW turnovers gave Miami great field position throughout the first half.
“We had a short field all night,” Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey said. “Any time your defense is playing that well, you are going to be on the winning end of a lot of those games.”
Catch of the day: The Huskies’ first pass completion, a spectacular leaping grab by Willie Hurst in the first quarter, was more than a thing of beauty. It was a one-handed catch that was somewhat of a necessity given Hurst’s condition.
The Huskies’ tailback flew high and grabbed Pickett’s pass with his right hand – his good hand. Hurst broke a finger on his left hand a week earlier against Washington State.
The catch, on a third-and-4 play deep in the Huskies’ territory, sparked a drive that had every appearance of tying the score 7-7 when they moved the ball to the Miami 2-yard-line.
That drive, of course, stalled after three unsuccessful plunges up the middle and Cody Pickett’s fourth-down pratfall after a lineman stepped on his foot.
On the sidelines: Besides Texas Rangers star Alex Rodriguez, who stood near the Miami bench during the first half, two Seattle football favorites were at the game.
Former Seahawk Cortez Kennedy also was on the sidelines, as was ex-UW defensive line great Steve Emtman, who consoled several dejected Huskies as they left the field after the game.
They’re No. 1?: It was a confident, and abrasive, throng that the Huskies’ busses traveled past as they traveled from their Key Biscayne hotel to the Orange Bowl late Saturday afternoon.
“They were really giving it to us,” said Jeff Bechtold, Washington’s assistant sports information director.
The most-used gesture was the one-finger salute and, as Bechtold noted, it wasn’t to signify that the Hurricanes are No. 1.
Afterward, some Hurricane fans weren’t any nicer despite the huge victory.
“And if you come back here we’ll kick your — again,” said a woman who leaned over the railing as reporters from Seattle walked across the field and toward the UW locker room after the game.
Packed house, finally: For all the hoopla that Miami football has created around the city, Saturday night’s game was the Hurricanes’ first sellout of the season at the 72,319-seat Orange Bowl. Of course, a schedule that includes Rugers, Troy State, West Virginia, Temple and Syracuse isn’t exactly a parade of college football’s powerhouses.
Saturday’s crowd of 78,114 was far short of the stadium record. That happened in the 1995 Orange Bowl game when temporary bleachers were installed at the open end of the stadium and 81,753 watched Nebraska beat Miami 24-17. Super Bowl X in 1976, when Pittsburgh beat Dallas 21-17, drew 80,187.
See it again, if you dare: Saturday night’s game will be televised at 3 p.m. today on Fox Sports Net (cable) with Tod Pickett calling play-by-play and former UW quarterback Sonny Sixkiller on commentary.
The long trip: The Huskies jumped on their charter jet after Saturday night’s game and weren’t scheduled to arrive home until about 5 a.m. today. At 3,033 miles, it is the longest Division I college football trip in the continental United States.
The Huskies originally scheduled to fly to Miami on Thursday, but after the game was pushed back to a night start for television, they decided not to travel until Friday. They arrived at their hotel about 8 p.m. Friday.