In addition to sophomore wide receiver Kodi Whitfield’s epic one-handed catch in Saturday’s win against UCLA, there were also two other catches on College Football’s Top Plays made with only one hand.
So I guess making a one-handed catch these days isn’t so rare, but Whitfield definitely managed to do it with style. Twisting his arm backward while moving forward, and then having to pull the ball downward – between two defenders no less. Seriously? It was the work of an acrobatic genius. He won ESPN’s biggest Pac-12 play of the week for the catch, which all analysts are saying should end up being a top-10 play for the 2013 college football season.
This is something that you see on ESPN’s best lists and think, “Wow I wish that was my team that made the unbelievable play.” And for this week, everyone else can be jealous of our awesome team.
Oh, and guess what. That was Whitfield’s first career touchdown catch. What a way to enter the scoring books. Yes, it’s amazing that he caught the ball in such a crazy fashion, but like I said, two other players – one from Connecticut and another from Tennessee – managed a one-handed grab.
Other wide receivers, such as juniors Devon Cajuste and Ty Montgomery and sophomore Michael Rector, have been stepping up this season and have had their time (or times) to shine. This was Whitfield’s time and he seized the opportunity – no matter how hard the catch was to make. That was his touchdown and he knew it. It makes me happy when players rise to the occasion and make the play happen and, as a former dormmate of Whitfield’s, I’m extremely proud of him.
But Whitfield wasn’t the only sophomore to make a difference Saturday and have a career first; nor was he the only player from Loyola High School in Los Angeles, Calif., to put some points on the board.
Sophomore Conrad Ukropina had his first career start at kicker in the absence of senior Jordan Williamson. Ukropina got his first point as a Cardinal kicker when he made the PAT in the fourth quarter against Washington State. He made his first collegiate field goal against UCLA, though, from 31 yards out before missing a long 46-yard field goal to end the game.
The pair of sophomore Los Angeles natives accounted for the first 10 points scored by the Card and for half of all points scored on Saturday. That’s what I call representing your school.
I saw Ukropina after the game and he was literally glowing and beaming with excitement. It was surreal for him that moment of running onto the field and making a childhood dream a reality.
“It just happened. Good snap, good hold and the kick went through. Jogging off [the field], it felt just like high school again,” Ukropina told me.
Those are the moments that make the grueling practices worthwhile. Those are the moments that could propel them from young contributors to regular players and carry them throughout their time here at Stanford. Every other touchdown, every other field goal will be just as important to the program as a whole, but they will never be as sweet for the players individually as that first catch in the end zone or the first placement of the ball between the goal posts. Those are the moments that college football is all about.
Ashley Westhem will never forget her first clutch broadcasting performance. To ask her what it was like to call a game-winning layup with seconds remaining while battling laryngitis, email her at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu.