As is true of every other conference currently attempting to have a season in the midst of an out-of-control pandemic, there are some very valid questions about whether the Pac-12 should be playing football games right now. Saturday’s slate saw two conference games canceled and, in a pivot that reflects how queasily ad hoc this all is, another game cobbled together between two of those teams. On Sunday, at 9 a.m. local time, UCLA will play Cal at the Rose Bowl; that game was announced on Friday, just hours after their games against Utah and Arizona State, respectively, being canceled due to COVID-19-related attrition on those teams. It’s the second week in a row that the Pac-12 had to cancel two games; among the COVID cases on Arizona State is head coach Herm Edwards.
But while this is all surely the worst and worst-feeling way to Kind Of Play Football This Year, Saturday night’s game between Washington and Oregon State showed another side of the concept of Kind Of Playing Football. On the first drive of the game, Washington’s offense stalled out at Oregon State’s 40-yard line and the Huskies sent in the punt unit. Over the next 13 seconds, the Huskies were truly only kind of playing football.
Here are some things that happened during this play, and roughly where and when they happened during the course of it:
- Washington punter Race Porter, standing at his team’s 46-yard line, leaps for an exceedingly high snap.
- Five seconds later, Porter finally picks up the football at the Huskies’ 19.
- Three seconds after that, now much closer to the Washington sideline and on his team’s 16, Porter bravely attempts to punt the ball through the lower abdomen of Oregon State’s Hamilcar Rashed Jr., which does not work.
- Three seconds later, Zion Tupuola-Fetui, the first of two Washington players who will go on to fail to recover the ball over the next little while, gets a hand on it as it wriggles sideways across the field roughly parallel to the goal line.
- Two seconds further along, now nearly at the opposite sideline and five yards closer to the goal line, Oregon State’s Jaydon Grant successfully picks up the football and carries it the last 11 yards into the end zone.
It is worth noting that this play took so long to uh, let’s go with “develop,” that Oregon State punt returner Trevon Bradford made it all the way down the field from where he had set up near his own goal line to lay the last and most crucial block on Grant’s return. Bradford is number 8 in white; his block on Tupuola-Fetui near the goal line makes it possible for Grant sneak in over the far pylon.
Washington would go on to win the game 27-21, which is assuredly interesting enough to some people that it belongs somewhere in this post. In every conference, every week, it is very difficult to escape the supremely doomed vibe of this college football season, and the overarching sense that none of this should really be happening. But if it’s going to happen at all, it might as well happen like this—with some football action that’s as bizarre and tragicomic as the broader reality of the season.