'Uncontested' Hail Mary pass leaves Cowboys, Gibbs puzzled

November 25, 1991|By Vito Stellino and Ken Murray | Vito Stellino and Ken Murray,Sun Staff Correspondents

WASHINGTON -- Cowboys wide receiver Alvin Harper called the shot on his "Hail Mary" catch for a touchdown at the end of the first half of the Washington-Dallas game yesterday.

With 13 seconds left in the first half and the Cowboys on the Washington 34, Harper said he told his teammates in the huddle, " 'Watch this, I'm going to catch it and get the touchdown.' I have a lot of confidence in my jumping ability."

He then out-jumped four Redskins in the end zone to catch Troy Aikman's pass.

A first-round draft pick from Tennessee, Harper is noted as a good jumper. He won the high-jump title in the 1989

Southeastern Conference indoor meet with a leap of 7 feet, 2 1/2 inches.

But Harper and Washington coach Joe Gibbs couldn't figure out why the Redskins didn't put up a better defense.

Harper said: "I don't understand why they played that coverage. Other teams try to jam us. These guys didn't push or touch. We expected them to knock us off our routes. What else surprised me [was] they didn't try to get the bump on me. I spread my arms out [in the end zone] and I didn't feel anyone."

Gibbs said: "From where I was, it looked to me, it was uncontested. All I saw was a Dallas Cowboy jumping for the ball and there was nobody else around there. I'm sure they were [there]. We work on that. We spent time on that. We have a special defense for it. Hey, I don't know if he just made a great play. It kind of looked like he was the only guy jumping. I've got to take a long, hard look at it."

But Martin Mayhew and Darrell Green, two of the cornerbacks in the end zone, said the Redskins don't work on that play.

Green said: "That was a great executed play. 'Hail Mary' plays are very seldom practiced. That's hope. You're just throwing the ball up and hoping somebody is going to come down with it. I can't really collaborate too much on that play."

Mayhew said: "That was just one of those things. You don't practice that. They don't practice that. We don't practice it. It's just a thing you throw the ball up and you hope you've got a guy who can go up and get it. That guy, he's tall, he does a good job of getting up. He has strong hands. He's good for that play and I think it was a great play on his part."

When Gibbs was told the players said they don't practice it, he said they work on it in training camp.

It's a good bet the Redskins will now work on it a bit more.

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