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For the fourth consecutive meeting the Wildcats and Huskies played a game that was not decided until the fourth quarter. For the third season in a row the Huskies had a chance to win on their final possession, but this time the Cats held on. Lamon Means broke up a pass to Jon Lyon on fourth and 15 to seal the upset.
What was not typical of this season was how the Wildcats' played. The offense and defense turned in strong efforts.
No one played better than running back Mike Bell. The sophomore had a career-high 222 yards rushing and three touchdowns. His 37-yard touchdown run looked to be the icing on the cake with only 4:38 to play, but in the tradition of the recent craziness, there would be more to come.
Bell's final score put the Wildcats up 27-16, and it looked as if the UW's fate was sealed. Washington had not put together a long scoring drive since the first quarter.
With UA leading 27-16 and 4:38 left, nobody told Washington it was time to roll over and die. For the first time all night, UW moved the ball. It marched 77 yards in just four plays and 40 seconds. Corey Williams scored when Cody Pickett found him at the back of the endzone. The two-point conversion failed, but Washington had new life.
After the quick score, many Wildcats had flashbacks to the past few games in Seattle.
"I started getting a little nervous at the end," said Bell. "My heart almost stopped, but I had faith in the defense. We were going to find a way to win."
Part of the success of the Wildcats was the ability to shut down wide receiver Reggie Williams. Williams, who beat the Cats on an 80-yard score last season, never gained more than 20 yards on a play. He had 121 yards on 13 catches, but the Wildcat defenders kept things short and never let him score.
"That was the game plan all week in practice," said Joe Siofele. "We wanted to contain him and the defensive backs did a nice job."
After UW closed to 27-22, the Wildcats went three and out and Danny Baugher's ensuing punt was not his best. The Huskies' final drive started at the 39, but in three plays they had first and 10 at the Wildcat 34. The Huskies gained five on first down, but two consecutive false starts pushed them back to the 39. After an incompletion on second down, UW had a chance to take the lead, but Pickett overthrew an open Reggie Williams who had slipped behind the Wildcat secondary.
"It's just a gratifying win for a bunch of young men," said Wildcat coach Mike Hankwitz. "Our players just gave a great effort."
As has been the history of this series of late, the team to score first couldn't parlay that into victory. On its first scoring drive, Washington used the quick wide receiver screen to move down the field. The Cats, wary of the deep pass, gave the Huskies a cushion and they took advantage. The visitors capped the drive on a roll-out pass from Pickett to a wide-open Adam Seery. The fullback slipped out of the backfield and did not have a defender within 10 yards.
The Wildcats answered on the next possession. Bell took an inside handoff, and after getting two great blocks from Biren Ealy, raced 67 yards for the touchdown. The team's special teams woes continued and a high snap on the extra point attempt forced holder James Molina to throw on the run. His pass was picked off, allowing the Huskies to maintain a 7-6 lead.
A turnover put Washington in a position to take the lead. Heavner tried to go to Ricky Williams on an out pattern, but the ball hung up and Derrick Johnson picked it off at the Wildcat 22. UW drove inside the Wildcat five and converted on third and one by the nose of the ball. The next play Shelton Sampson took the handoff over the left side and strolled into the end zone. Washington led 14-6.
Things looked bad for Arizona at the end of the first half. The UA surrendered a long pass and it looked as if Washington may add to its lead prior to intermission. With the ball inside Arizona territory, Pickett hit Charles Frederick for an apparent first down, but Gary Love stripped the ball and returned it to midfield.
Heavner, who had just 15 passing yards to this point, escaped a sack and found Mike Jefferson at the 10-yard line for a 40-yard gain. Heavner found Ealy in the corner of the end zone to get the Wildcats within one, 14-13, going into intermission.
The second half developed into a defensive struggle. Arizona missed a third-quarter field goal attempt, but other than that neither offense threatened until the fourth quarter.
Washington drove into Arizona territory but stalled at the Wildcat 32. Instead of kicking the long field goal, the Huskies decided to punt and the strategy worked. Garth Erickson pinned Arizona at the one-yard line and two plays later Bell was tackled in the end zone for a safety to increase the UW lead to 16-13.
Arizona recovered from the safety. It held the Huskies three-and-out and took over at their own 22. The Wildcats gained nine on first down, but failed to get the first down on second and short. Third and one saw the Wildcats line up in the shotgun, but no one seemed surprised that the Cats ran the draw play to Bell. The defense seemed to know the play was coming, but the Wildcat line blocked perfectly and the sophomore runner burst through the middle and raced 69 yards for the go-ahead score.
Bell's 222 yards is the fifth highest single-game rushing total in school history. He's gained 604 yards in his last four games, including three straight 100-yard performances.
"I love that guy to death," Heavner said of Bell. "He plays his butt off. He plays every play like it is his last."
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