A moment frozen in time
EVEN with 8 seconds left, Pat Hill still couldn't breathe. Even up by two touchdowns. Even if it was all over but the heckling. Even if he was mere ticks from winning his first game here. Even when most of the Hawaii fans had poured out of a stadium that was half-empty at its fullest point. No.
He was still the Bulldog.
The most pressing thing on his mind was that the officials knew Hawaii had just burned its last timeout.
It was only after the next snap, an interception in the end zone -- another one! -- that Hill exhaled. He had no choice. The ice cubes hit him as soon as Emanuel Sanchez caught it, and Pat Hill danced; danced like a boxer, away from the ice; danced with eyes shining; danced for just a second, as everyone in red raised his fist and his players stormed him, all around.
Only then could Pat Hill breathe.
This game was not that final score. No. This game was not that last dagger, Fresno State's Wendell Mathis running away.
No, this game was Hill, still taut to the very end. It was Fresno players running to their fans, jumping in the stands, taking a homemade sign for a parade on the field. It was a Fresno State staffer taking a picture of the scoreboard, and then, an impromptu group photo on the 15-yard line so the Bulldogs could keep this forever, yesterday's game.
It was Colt Brennan, Hawaii's heaving quarterback, running around in the backfield for 10 minutes, it seemed, turning, this way, that. Then finally letting fly only to see Fresno State's Alan Goodwin steal it in the end zone. Maybe the play of the game.
"He amazes me," UH slotback Davone Bess would say.
"We had chance after chance after chance to win," Brennan would say.
That was yesterday's game.
It was Hill, who two years ago looked like he needed a hug, looking like he could finally give a few. Hill talking afterward while wearing wet pants and a beatific glow.
It was interceptions, and a fake field goal, and fourth-down stands. It was hitting, and defense, and a roughed punter to keep a drive alive. It was a dented down marker that left the guy on the chain gang, in those last seconds, just holding the number over his head.
How many heroics did Bess have? How many times did Brennan complete a third and 14?
How many times did the Bulldogs find a way to pull out a big stop?
"I thought it would be like this," Hill would say.
"It was a real fight out there," Hawaii guard Brandon Eaton said.
No, that last touchdown didn't tell the story, not at all. The final score, 27-13, wasn't indicative of anything.
Mathis running for those 78 yards at the end, that wasn't what this game was about.
It was a test of wills, yesterday's game. Two teams hammering at each other until one finally wore down the other, shook free, broke away, dumped the ice cubes, won.
Pat Hill was asked about that last touchdown.
"Those were tough yards," he said.