"I couldn't see it from where I was," McBride said later. "Then I hear, "Harold has it.' The first thing I said was, 'Harold, just go down any place.' But then I see him running by me, and I'm saying, 'Harold...no...just fall down!' "
Understand: McBride was anxious. How could he not be? In this, his fifth year at Utah, the 55-year-old McBride had dramatically risen above his perfectly average record of 24-24. A longtime assistant at places like Arizona, Wisconsin and Utah, he had always wanted to coach in Salt Lake City. And now here he was, on the verge of going 7-0 and in the driver's seat, too—just so long as Harold doesn't fumble or get caught or lose the damn ball somehow.... Harold, just fall down.
But Lusk had no intention of doing that. "As soon as I got it, I wanted a touchdown," Lusk says. "As soon as that ball touched my hands, I said, 'You have to score. There's no doubt. There's no way you're going to down the ball. You're going to score.' It was the greatest feeling of my life." He raced down the sideline, past his own bench, the 30-yard line, 40, 50. He felt these strange vibrations going from him to his teammates and Henry along the sideline and back again: They know I'm going to score too.
On the other side of the field, Lubick had just one thought: It's over. It had been exactly one year since the last time his Colorado State team had lost—and that was to Utah too. He thought this time would be different. Lubick has been here only two years, and the upset of sixth-ranked Arizona in Tucson two weeks earlier had made him believe that, finally, things would be different for Colorado State. The Rams have had a history of pathetic football, and even their lone recent success—a 9-4 campaign in 1990—is stained by its connection with the volatile and abusive reign of coach Earle Bruce.
"Hearts have been broken so many times in this community," says Lubick, who was the Colorado State offensive coordinator from 1982 to '84 before leaving to become the defensive coordinator at Miami. "They always found a way to lose."
Hill's pass, then, was perhaps nothing more than a case of reverting to form. The senior quarterback had had a rough Saturday, but he'd thrown for 243 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 71 more with another score. He didn't give up—even now. Lusk held the game in his hands, and he was streaking. Hill tried chasing for 30 yards. "But he was way on the other side of the field," Hill said afterward. "Not enough wheels. I wanted to catch him because I really wanted to give him one. But I couldn't."
At the 40-yard line Lusk realized he was home free. He began thinking about his idol, San Francisco 49er cornerback Deion Sanders, and how he wanted to run just like him. He shifted the ball in his hands, loaf like, so he could swing his elbows like Deion. At the 15 he began to lope. "Everybody at home was watching me, everybody: All my friends, my fianc�e, my best friend." Lusk says. "And high-step: I had to high-step. It was national TV. I had to. That's not an opportunity given too often to a WAC football team. It docs not happen."
Never mind that the game was only televised regionally: Lusk was not far off. The showdown between two Top 20 unbeatens was the biggest game in the history of either program—both of them long overshadowed by their states' premier football schools, Colorado and BYU—and the best advertisement the WAC has ever gotten. Yes, Utah's Mike McCoy had a great passing day, but the meeting of two teams built on defense gives the WAC, and a game like this, a weight it hasn't had before.
"It feels different," Lusk said afterward. "It feels like Florida State playing Miami. The feeling in this game was that humongous."
Especially for Lusk, especially on his big play. He was ready when his brother hugged him after the game and yelled, "Bro, helluva job." But this he didn't expect: As Lusk ran, his cleats chewing the 100-plus yards, he heard the wind coursing past his ears and the 39,000 or so Colorado State fans falling silent; it was as if he pulled the noise right out of each section he passed. "The farther I went, the quieter it got," Lusk says. He hit the end zone with 22 seconds left. "The quieter it got, the more I went into my own world. My head went numb. I couldn't hear anybody." Then came the extra point and a kickoff and Colorado State running three final, hopeless plays, and the silence still echoing.