Cody Boyd and 'The Big Yard'

IT WAS GREG PRATOR's block. It was Jerome Harrison's cutbacks. It was Will Derting's presence, Trandon Harvey's burst, Alex Brink's focus, Bill Doba's steady hand. Washington State's rags-to-redemption Apple Cup salvage job in Seattle was all that and more. It was a classic case of Boyd rage.

Cody Boyd had my vote all year as the No. 1 "What if..." in this season of what-might-have-beens. What if he hadn't been injured. What if the Cougs would have remembered, before the Oregon game, the tight end. What if he didn't make that one drop, or had made that one final block.

Then came the second half Saturday, when Boyd did what no receiver in the country could have done. He did the impossible, at least the impossible for the standard issue tight end.

On an afternoon rife with quarterbacks' overthrows, Boyd somehow propelled his hands into airspace normally reserved for seagulls that swoop in off Elliot Bay.

Fortunately for Coug nation, the hands are attached to a 6-foot-8-inch frame with a ratballer's legs. As they say in the sports trade, you can't coach 6-foot-8. You can't coach spring. And you can't predict timing.

On third and 12, backed up almost to Lake Washington, Alex Brink looked to throw. I don't know about you, but it was beginning to feel like 'Here we go again.' Brink let one fly. This, I thought, can't be good.

The altitude gain was depressing. Newton is wrong, I thought, Einstein right. What goes up doesn't necessarily have to come down. And then something new took place in a season when I thought I'd seen everything.

Boyd not only sprang high enough, he lingered long enough to snag the pass that was too high, too hard and too long. Not only did he bring down the uncatchable, he did the wide receiver two-step after the long ride down, holding the football while keeping the feet on the right side of the white line.

The play didn't lead to a score. It led to a new beginning. Because after that, the Cougars had what they've needed forever, somebody they could count on for the Big Yard.

THE NEXT TIME they had the football – 80 yards away, still down three points and no time for mistakes – the Cougar offensive unit put together a drive that salved the pain of so many other late marches interrupted.

Third and seven on their 23, 4:49 left, Brink finds Boyd open for 12. First down on the 35.

Third down at the Husky 48, time critical, Boyd fights off a Husky defender over the middle for separation. Brink waits until Mount Cody appears through the clouds. The Cougars need six yards. Boyd gives them seven. First down at the Husky 41.

Two plays later Brink is swinging the football out, Greg Prator is mowing down two Dub defenders and Trandon Harvey has it, on his way to checking his reservation into the pantheon of crimson Apple Cup lore.

Yes, Harvey who had flubbed the third-quarter punt that led to Washington's second TD. With 80 seconds remaining, Harvey who cleared the last ripple of purple on his way to the game-winner, liberating himself and pardoning any sin of the previous three hours.

Relief it was, not only from the sufferings of Doba and his coaching staff, but for Loren Langley whose hard work this offseason and seeming improvement was scuttled with a clunked chip shot among his three misfires on the day. Gone was that tailback pass, a rainbow that fell into the hands of Washington receiver Sonny Shackelford, who went 65 yards while a Cougar threesome tried and failed to clear out of each other's way.

All forgiven. Forgotten even.

IF ANY FOOTBALL team deserves another break, it's this one. It was good enough to win a trip to just about any post-season game you can name, other than the national-championship Rose Bowl. It was also fragile enough to lose in ways that will continue to challenge description for years to come.

Finally, the victim turned victor, with a surge. Thanks to the many. Thanks to Cody Boyd.

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