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Times reporter Bob Condotta keeps the news coming about the Montlake Dawgs.

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August 2, 2008 8:49 AM

Clutch performers Husky-style

Posted by Bob Condotta

ESPN's Ted Miller had a fun idea the other day, rating the most clutch performers in Pac-10 history.

Good enough that I thought I'd copy it with a UW-only version.

Problem was, how to define the parameters? I really don't know enough about the entire history of UW football to start trying to name guys from the 1910s. So for the purposes of this list, I'm going with the Don James era and beyond:

1, Marques Tuiasosopo, QB --- Maybe the most clutch player in UW history if you go with Miller's definition of making big plays at big moments in winning efforts. That sentence just about defines his career. The Huskies won five games in 2000 in which they trailed in the fourth quarter, with Tuiasosopo having a big hand in all five. Miller mentions the Stanford game, and that probably is tops of the wins. A forgotten fourth-quarter comeback in my eyes came in the lone loss of that season. UW was being dominated through three quarter at Oregon, trailing 23-3, before Tuiasosopo led two long scoring drives to get UW back in the game. UW lost 23-16, but a lot of coaches later looked at that game as a turning point, saying the team could have easily given up and lost 30-3. Instead, it was a battle to the end, just as was every game Tuiasosopo quarterbacked.

2, Chuck Nelson, PK --- Yes, Chuck Nelson, he of the most-famous missed kick in Apple Cup history, a 33-yarder late in the fourth quarter that would have put the Huskies ahead. A win in that game would have given UW three straight Rose Bowl appearances. Easy to forget now that they likely wouldn't have made either of the first two without Nelson's clutchness. He hit a 25-yarder on the final play of the game to give UW a 27-24 win at Stanford in 1980 --- the Cardinal, with John Elway in his sophomore season, was ranked No. 20 at the time --- a key early-season victory on the way to the Pac-10 title. He also hit a 46-yarder with 2:19 left to put UW ahead of USC in a 1981 game at Husky Stadium, a contest played in what many who were there regard as some of the worst conditions ever, with wind and swirling rain. That was the Marcus Allen-USC team that UW went on to beat 13-3 --- scoring a TD on a fumbled kickoff following Nelson's field goal, which obviously doesn't happen if Nelson doesn't make the FG in the first play --- the decisive win in giving the Huskies the Pac-10 title that season. You just don't make 30 field goals in a row without a number of them being clutch.

3, Orlando McKay, WR --- One problem with picking a "clutch'' performer off the 90-91 juggernauts is those teams just killed everyone and it's hard to single out too many individual plays as key. But if there was one defining moment of the 1991 season, it might have been a catch by McKay against Nebraska. Simply looking at the score these days --- UW 36, Nebraska 21 --- doesn't do justice to what a precarious state the Huskies were in for a while during that game. Nebraska, in fact, led 21-9 late in the third quarter. A Billy Joe Hobert to McKay TD pass was then nullified due to a hold, and UW faced a fourth-and-eight at the Nebraska 30. Don James, sensing it was a now-or-never moment, said "go for it'' and Hobert again hit McKay, this time for 15 yards and a first down. Beno Bryant followed with a 15-yard TD to turn the momentum UW's way. McKay then scored the go-ahead TD on a pass from Hobert early in the fourth quarter, and the rout was on --- as was the march to the national title.

4, Steve Pelluer, QB --- Pelluer led one of the greatest last-minute drives in UW history in 1983, guiding the Huskies 80 yards in the final 3:40 to score a TD that brought the Huskies within 24-23. James then decided to go for two and Pelluer hit tight end Larry Michael to convert the two-point play and give the Huskies a 25-24 victory over Michigan. He was 27-33 in that game, still the third-best single-game passing percentage in UW history (81.8).

5, Reggie Williams, WR --- The effervescent receiver seemed to always be at his best in big games. such as the dominating performances on the road against Oregon and WSU in 2002. He also basically won a game against Arizona in 2002 by himself when he turned a little slant pass into an 80-yard touchdown with just over two minutes to go in a 32-28 Husky win.

Obviously, there are lots more --- clutchness is also something of an eye-of-the-beholder deal --- so go ahead and give me yours in the comments section below.


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