With a disappointing reality setting in after a late season loss to Mickey Mouse that knocked the Catamounts out of playoff contention, it was tough to imagine Pete could go on.
Pete leads Cats comeback against defending champs
Overcoming a 23-point deficit early and recovering from boot-leg buckling cramps, Pete threw for 340 yards to guide the Cats to a headlining rally for a 38-33 victory.
"Take that!” Pete yelled, whose team missed the playoffs last season after losing in the final week to the Mouseketeers. "You just wait! Nobody, and I do mean nobody, messes with the mighty Pete!”
In a performance that will stand with some of the best quarterbacks in Mickey Mouse Athletics football history, Pete overcame two interceptions, a fumble returned for a touchdown and an overall terrible start to go 27-for-41 and earn a win in Week 1 of the 2016 season.
He added to the drama when, on the 89-yard drive that won the game, he ran around end to convert a fourth-and-1, then fell to the ground with a cramp in his trademark boot-leg.
The Cats took a timeout to help him get over it. On the next play, he hit Pistol Pete for an 11-yard gain, and three plays later, Max Hare (127 rushing yards) scored a 12-yard touchdown to give them the lead.
The Mouseketeers got the ball back with 1:37 left and drove down to the Cats 20. But Kat Nipp picked off Mickey Mouse’s desperation pass. Pete came back onto the field to take a knee and run out the clock.
The oldest recurring Disney character claimed this was "just another game," but his celebration belied that statement. When the clock hit :00, he threw the ball sky high, then turned to a rowdy Mouseketeers rooting section and -- what else? -- mocked them with the famous Mickey Mouse Club song.
"It's been a Rock 'n' Roller Coaster ride," Pete said. "I've tried to be as calm as I could since we lost our first two games and missed the playoffs last season. It was a thrill the whole way but I'm happy it's over with."
Pete’s performance turned what looked like a great night for the defending champs into a late heartbreaker. The Mouseketeers led 33-10 with 6:10 left in the third quarter, and Nathaniel Churchmouse appeared en route to the biggest victory of his coaching career.
But his defense fell apart allowing the final 28 points of the game.
The Catamounts comeback began with Pete engineering an eight-play, 85-yard drive during which he barely looked like the same quarterback who wore the black and orange for the first half.
Given time to throw where he had none before, he picked and poked downfield, using screens, the sideline and the middle of the field with equal effectiveness.
He hit son Pete Jr (three catches, 49 yards) for a 26-yard touchdown, and a 2-point conversion cut the score to 33-18.
The Disney favorites could barely keep the ball over the final 20 minutes.
The Catamounts scored two more quick touchdowns to pull within 33-32 with 11:08 left. The Cats blew a chance to go for 2 and tie when Max Hare was penalized for excessive celebration after Kat Nipp caught a 6-yard TD from Pete.
But as fate would have it, the Mouseketeer offense played unexpectedly conservative on the next drive and punted the ball on fourth down.
Pete got the ball back with 5:43 left and 89 yards to go to the end zone.
"There were times we could have folded, could have given up," Catamounts coach Sylvester Shyster said. "We never, never, never did that. We gave ourselves a chance to win."
Pete, the oldest recurring character in the long history of the Walt Disney Company, put on a clinic that would have made Ub Iwerks, Walt Disney, Michael Eisner, and Bob Iger happy.
"We knew it was only a matter of time before Pete started clicking," Mouseketeer cornerback Jaq said. "We just had to build a big enough lead to withstand the comeback."
The Catamounts came in as 14-point underdogs, the biggest spread against any of the six games scheduled for the first week.
They proved they could hang with the league’s best.
With Oswald the Lucky Rabbit held in check, the Mouseketeers turned to Jaq for a different approach. He had already burned the Cats defense in last year's regular season showdown with 16 catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns. The talented breakout star from Cinderella continued his offensive dominance scoring his first touchdown out of the I-formation.
On 3rd and long, Mickey quick tossed the football to Jaq on his right, Ferdie Fieldmouse threw a great stalk block on Pistol Pete, and the Cinderella star turned it upfield for a 65-yard score to give the Mouseketeers a 26-10 lead on the first play of the second half. A few minutes later, the Mouseketeers converted an interception by Uncle Bob into a touchdown for a 33-10 lead, and the game looked like a runaway.
It wasn't. Instead, last season's Walt Disney World Bowl champions ended their six-game winning streak and Pete finally beat Mickey on the field.
“We realized we're not a quitting team," Pete said. "that was just a sneak preview! 'Cause this ain't over-not by."