Jim Lambright Recalls the "WHAMMY in MIAMI"

From midfield Miami QB Frank Costa dropped back, wound up and heaved the ball deep toward the end zone. Hurricane wide receiver Jammi German had gotten open behind the secondary and yet watched as the pass bounded off his fingertips incomplete. The Dawgs had dodged a huge bullet.

The score was still Miami 6, Washington 3. Miami was ranked #5 and the Huskies #19.

If you recall, three years previous, these two teams had shared a national championship without having played each other. Now they were squaring off for the first time ever. The date was September 24, 1994.

But there were still a few seconds left before the end of the first half. Costa dropped back and heaved it deep once again. Inexplicably once again, Yatil Green got behind the coverage of Husky DB Russell Hairston and was wide open. This time to the roaring delight of the Orange Bowl crowd, Miami's heralded receiver hauled it in for a touchdown. The subsequent 2-point conversion gave the favored Canes a 14-3 lead heading into the locker room, and the Dawgs had lost any momentum that they had built with that defensive breakdown.

Not that much was expected of the visitors from the Pacific Northwest. Miami had a NCAA record 58-game home winning streak, which was symbolically represented by tombstones along the stadium wall. One each was etched Miami's name, the name of their fallen opponent, and the score. Before kickoff had even occurred against Washington, a tombstone with the Huskies' name on it was already created, and just sitting idly by waiting for the score to be "engraved." It was to be placed amid the graveyard pantheon self-dedicated to Miami's home field greatness.

The Huskies made their way into the bare boned accommodations of the visitors' locker room. In a recent interview with Dawgman.com, former Husky coach Jim Lambright recalled the scene as the team tried to rally in the face of the odds.

"We had gone down there a day early, to acclimate to the heat and humidity, and the three-hour time difference. Miami dominates there, so the question was how do you deal with that? We had done a lot to prepare (for the conditions). Our approach was to conserve energy; there'd be no rah-rah on the sideline, just take a knee or be seated. Same thing while on the field, during time outs take a knee."

Lambright continued. "At halftime our team was more angry at itself for giving up points and not being able to score more. It wasn't so much a feeling of disappointment as much as it was a mindset adjustment. For players like Russell Hairston, it was a feeling of, "Ok you gave up one, now you owe us one."

"But we knew were being extremely competitive."

Washington came back out to start anew in the second half. Because Miami's captains had requested to kick off after winning the opening coin toss, the Dawgs assumed possession first in the third quarter.

On second down, a rather innocent looking screen pass was called.

"We had tried it once in the first half, but it was incomplete. However we felt like it was open", said Lambright. "Napoleon Kaufman had a way of attracting a lot of attention from linebackers, and they (Miami) didn't pay too much attention to Richard Thomas."

In one of the legendary plays in Husky history, QB Damon Huard dropped back, looked away and then threw into the left flat to Thomas. The burly but deceptively fast fullback popped through a crease and zipped straight down field along the left hash mark. Almost surreally, the Miami defensive backfield was left in the big guy's wake. As he motored closer toward pay dirt, a Hurricane defensive back finally closed ground and prepared to pull Thomas down short of the goal line. But materializing as if from vapor was the presence of Husky tailback Napoleon Kaufman, who blasted the Hurricane DB flat to the turf, and allowed Thomas unimpeded progress into both the end zone… and into the annals of Husky history.

Washington converted a two-point conversion thanks to a completion from Damon Huard to Dave Janoski. Suddenly it was Miami 14, Washington 11.

And the Hurricane momentum had slowed to a mere breeze.

Miami got the ball back. Costa dropped back to pass and looked to the right sideline on an out route. Unfortunately for him, his receiver slipped and fell to the turf before he could keep from throwing the ball. Russell Hairston was in perfect position to make the theft, and made amends for his first-half gaffe. After snaring the interception he streaked unabated down the sideline and into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. With the extra point, the Huskies now lead 18-14.

The partisan Orange Bowl crowd was starting to feel like it had been transported to the gridiron Twilight Zone. But it wasn't over.

In football, as in life, bad things usually come in threes.

Miami quickly turned the ball over via a fumble, and a few plays later suddenly found themselves defending their goal line to Washington's surging offense. Huard took the snap and tried to score, but the suddenly a mass of bodies converged right at the goal line.

Jim Lambright laughs heartily at this recollection.

"Our coaches high up in the press box called out FUMBLE! There is a big pile at the goal line… Suddenly this gigantic figure stands up holding the ball saying, hey, are you guys looking for this?"

Husky lineman Bob Sapp had recovered the fumble for a Husky touchdown. Washington was ahead 25-14, and after 22 unanswered points in the span of four minutes, Miami knew its streak was in serious jeopardy.

The arrival of the fourth quarter wasn't so much a testament to scoring highlights, as it was to yet another example of the historic toughness of Husky football teams.

Washington was pounding the ball for 3-4 yards a crack, moving the sticks, and Miami was showing considerable wear and tear. Deep into the fourth quarter the Hurricane defenders were, as a unit, slow to their feet after plays. Players were cramping, and sometimes not getting up after plays were through.

As one play in particular finished, a nondescript Husky rushing play, three Hurricane defenders were sprawled out across the field simultaneously. Surprisingly, leg cramps had become the Achilles heel of a home team that trained regularly in that environment.

Lambright recalled, "Inside of me I'm cheering. To the players, you're pointing to the field and saying, look what you have done to them. Look at how much better shape you're in.. That was definitely a defining moment, but also when Napoleon took a handoff and their safety came up to tackle him, and Napoleon knocked him right on his ass. Things like that make a defining statement."

A Damon Huard 7-yard keeper tallied six more points for Washington with just 2:15 to play. Washington secured a 38-20 historic triumph, outscoring the mighty Hurricanes 35-6 in the second half. Lambright described what the experience was like after the game.

"We ran over by our fans and thanked them. Some players picked handfuls of grass to take home, but they were 110% spent. The offensive linemen in particular were very dehydrated. The locker room was joyful but very quiet and tired. They had given it all out on the field."

An incredulous national media was waiting to greet Lambright.

"Their reaction was disbelief… How did you do this? Did you think you could do this?" Lambright said that they simply kept preaching belief going into the game.

"We kept telling the players that this was a great and rare opportunity, and that one day they'd be able to tell their grandchildren of what was accomplished on their field."

After coach Lambright and I conferred for a minute, we used hindsight to amend the message that could have been preached to the players going into the game.

"One day you can have video narrated by Ed Cunningham to show to your grandchildren what you accomplished."

A man named Abner Thomas, who was (and is) the UW football team's Internal Operations Assistant, coined the game as the "Whammy in Miami". Husky Bob Sapp was nearby and laughed uproariously, then soon after as he faced the media, he uttered those words that would forever define this historic game.

As the triumphant Huskies returned home to Seattle, flying across the 3,300 mile expanse of North America, multiple cramps began to beset several players.

"At that point it's OK, because the game is over and we've won", said Lambright.

Also of note, riding home in the airplane along with the players and coaches was a welcome guest.

That tombstone with Washington's name etched into it.
Derek Johnson can be reached at uwsundodger@msn.com

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