Enough Already!

It's high time for Stanford to invade Husky Stadium, dominate the Dawgs and return home to Palo Alto with a victory. It's been 26 long years since our heroes accomlished this feat. Saturday is the day!

As exciting and heart-stopping as Stanford's last two games have been, the Cardinal has nothing on Washington's knack for fourth quarter heroics.

Since Rick Neuheisel's arrival in Seattle in 1999, the Huskies have won an impressive 24 games, 18 of which have been of the come-from-behind variety. The mark of any good team is their ability to win close games, but this sort of thing has been absolutely unprecedented.

In 2001 the Huskies aren't pushing anyone around - they rank near the bottom of the conference in rushing offense and total defense. The bottom line however is that they win games, even if they aren't by impressive margins. Aside from their 51-3 blowout of Idaho, their margin of victory has been in order: 5 (Michigan), 3 (Cal), 3 (USC), 3 (Arizona) 2 (ASU). As a result they are once again in the Top 10 (thanks to the misinformed coaches poll, which puts Stanford #13!) and in the hunt for another Pac-10 title.

Their 35-13 shellacking at the hands of UCLA was supposed to bring UW down to earth for good, but they followed that up with consecutive last-second wins over the Arizona schools. Kicker John Anderson already has two game winning field goals in 2001. His 30-yarder as time expired last week in Tempe marked Washington's first win on a game's final play since 1980 when Chuck Nelson ended Stanford's Rose Bowl hopes and gave UW a 27-24 win.

The Huskies won't physically dominate an opponent as they did during their last prolific period (1990-1993) of wins. One thing they can do is throw the ball. The quarterback position was definitely a question mark coming into the season. Card-killer Marques Tuiasosopo moved on to the NFL, but Cody Pickett and JC-transfer Taylor Barton have proved to be more than adequate replacements. Pickett has completed 60% of his throws for almost 1,200 yards and six touchdowns. He also broke the school record for most yards passing in a game when he lit up Arizona for 455 yards two weeks ago. Former City College of San Francisco product Taylor Barton replaced an injured Pickett against U$C and promptly guided UW to another win in the fourth quarter. His 335 yards against UCLA were also the most prolific game for a Husky QB making his first start.

A talented group of receivers is a main reason for the Huskies' success through the air. Todd Elstrom is the most experienced of the group, as has found a spot for himself in the UW record group for several career statistics. He currently is 10th all-time in career receptions and yards (over 1,300). Freshman Reggie Williams leads the team with 31 catches and has 515 yards receiving - most ever by a freshman wideout at Washington. Paul Arnold, a converted fullback, has 30 grabs this season and is also the team's main deep threat. The senior has three catches for over 40 yards, including a 78-yard TD against Arizona.

Washington's reliance on the pass has not been by coincidence. Despite the return of the talented duo of Rich Alexis and Willie Hurst, the Huskies have barely averaged three yards per-carry in 2001. Much of the blame goes to an extremely young and inexperienced offensive line. Of the top seven O-lineman from last year, only starting center Kyle Benn remains on this year's team. The two-deep roster also includes five redshirt freshman. Hurst, who should go over 2,000 yards for his career later in the year, had a huge game last week with 185 yards against Arizona State. Alexis is a talented sophomore who gained a freshman record 738 yards last year, but his average per carry is down by almost three yards from last season.

The defense has been enigmatic at times. While they do possess several burners in the secondary, this unit won't dominate anyone. A key to their success this season though has been limiting the opposition after UW's offense turns the ball over. Of UW's 13 turnovers this year, only four of those have been converted into points (all field goals).

Defensive end Larry Tripplet is a Lombardi Award candidate and a definite force in the trenches. While he isn't as dominating as he was last season, the senior does have two sacks and ten tackles-for-loss. The defense as a whole has totaled 18 sacks.

Ben Mahdavi is the leader of the line-backing unit. The former walk-on leads the team with 52 tackles and five sacks. He will be joined by former JC All-American Kai Elias (another CCSF product), as well as Zach Tuiasosopo, Marques' little brother.

The secondary tends to give up lots of yards through the air and has only intercepted six passes all year. They do though have several game-breaking players. Cornerback Omare Lowe returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown against Michigan. He also blocked a field goal, which fellow corner Roc Alexander picked up and ran 77-yards for a score. At the safeties, Wondame Davis is a former wide receiver while Greg Carothers is quickly gaining a reputation for being a hard-hitter. His best game this season was a 10-tackle (all solo) effort against the hapless Cal Bears.

Stanford faces yet another opponent who will have a huge edge in the kicking game. John Anderson is a Groza Award finalist who is 11-16 in field goals in 2001. He also booted a 56-yarder against UCLA two years ago. Freshman punter Derek McLaughlin averages just over 42-yards a kick, including a 78-yard blast against Kal.

If there was ever a team due for a win in Husky Stadium, it is Stanford. If there was ever a team due for a loss right now, it's the Huskies. Stanford has beaten Washington TWICE since 1976 - the famous win over #1 UW in 1982, and the 46-28 victory over a probation-laden Washington team in 1994. Not since Mike Cordova led Stanford to a 24-21 win in October of 1975 have the Cardinal come back from Seattle victorious.  Washington has made a living on opposing teams collapsing in the fourth quarter, but a team like Stanford will not succumb to such pressure.

PREDICTION: Time to exorcise a few demons. College football fans all over the country are waiting for the day when Washington's fourth quarter heroics fizzle, and this will be the day. The crystal ball sees a 35-27 Stanford victory, with Allen and Carter combining for 200+ yards.


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