"It's tough enough to play good teams when you are playing good and not turning it over at the pace we did today," said Husky head coach Keith Gilbertson following the game. "To basically give a really good and athletic team 28 points, it is going to be a long day."
Washington hung tough for the first three quarters, trailing only 14-10 with possession at the start of the fourth quarter. But a fumble on a muffed option play by Stanback on the first play of the final stanza went the other way for an 18-yard score, care of Fresno State defensive end Brian Morris, and opened the floodgates.
Paus, who swapped in and out with Stanback all game long, took over on the ensuing Husky possession and was picked off by James Sanders on the first play of the drive, throwing a high pass that deflected off the outstretched hands of Charles Frederick.
Two plays later, Dwayne Wright ran through the Husky defense for a 28-yard touchdown, making it a 28-10 game and taking all the energy out of the home team.
Wright, a Washington State signee out of high school in San Diego, finished with a game-high 109 rushing yards on 24 carries.
Down 18 with an slow-it-down type of offense not suited for making comebacks, the Huskies responded with a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive led by Paus and capped by a Kenny James one-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, making it a 28-16 game with just under seven minutes remaining.
The Husky defense, which played well all day with the additions of safety Dashon Goldson and a healthy Joe Lobendahn, forced the Bulldogs to go a quick three-and-out on their next possession, keeping hopes alive. This time, though, the Huskies failed to answer. With Paus again directing the team, Washington drove to the Fresno State 34-yard line before facing fourth-and-10. Unable to find a receiver with the game on the line, he forced a pass towards the sidelines that Richard Marshall intercepted and ran back 75 yards for the score. At 35-16, it was merely the icing on the cake.
"I told my roommate last night that if I got an interception I would make it look impressive," said Marshall. "We ran nickel, I jumped the curl, and the quarterback still threw it and I jumped on the route. He made the wrong choice."
For Paus, who fell short trying to tackle Marshall on the return, it was a day he'd like to forget. The fourth-year junior from New Lenox, Illinois completed just 18-of-39 passes for 183 yards and was intercepted three times.
As bad as his day was, an argument could be made that Stanback's was even worse. Even though he started well, taking the Huskies on an 87-yard touchdown drive early in the second quarter to put the team ahead 7-0, things fell apart rapidly from there.
Still leading the offense late in the second quarter and backed up deep in Husky territory facing third-and-15, Stanback hurried a throw to the flat thanks to a Fresno State blitz up the middle and could only watch as James Sanders returned it 19 yards for the Bulldogs' first points of the game.
"I couldn't believe he threw that pass," said Sanders, whose touchdown return was the first of his college career. "It was like a birthday present."
Stanback finished the day 1-for-5 through the air, completing just as many passes to the red team as the purple team.
By game's end, redshirt freshman Carl Bonnell was inserted into the lineup. The Kentwood High product completed 2-of-4 passes he attempted.
Gilberson hinted that Paus will start the Huskies next game on Sept. 18 at home against UCLA, but also said he felt the team would have to go back and "re-evaluate everything" before the Bruins come to town.
"I am not surprised that the offense struggled due to our newness at quarterback," said Gilbertson. "I am just upset as can be about the ball being on the ground and being thrown poorly."
Washington started the game flat offensively, with Paus directing the show for the entire first quarter, but did so without turning the ball over. In their first three possessions, the Huskies first punted from the Fresno State 35-yard-line, then missed consecutive field goals off the foot of Evan Knudson – from 37 and 38 yards respectively.
It wasn't until Stanback's drive to start the second quarter that the purple jersey's showed any life at all on the offensive side of the ball.
On defense, it was another story. The Huskies didn't allow a Fresno State offensive score during the entire first half, limiting the Bulldogs to a total of 100 yards.
Led by Lobendahn's ability to fly all over the field and make plays, the rabid Husky defense forced Fresno State into three first-half punts and had two other drives stall on a fumble and missed field goal.
"I think Joe Lobendahn is a very good player and I think our defensive kids did well," said Gilbertson. "I am very pleased with the way our defense played. They gave up only one touchdown drive that Fresno State really had to work for." Lobendahn recorded 16 tackles in the game, becoming the first Husky to reach 15 tackles since Ben Mahdavi had 15 against USC in 2001. Evan Benjamin, who made the move in the offseason from safety to linebacker, was second on the team with 11 tackles and added an interception.
The Bulldogs took their first lead of the game by taking the opening kickoff of the second half and marching right down the field. Joe Fernandez hauled in a 12-yard touchdown on a slant pattern, holding on to the ball despite a big hit from safety Dashon Goldson at the goal line. The key play to the drive came on a 43-yard reception on third-and-four by sophomore Paul Williams, the younger brother of the late Curtis Williams.
UW answered two drives later with a 25-yard field goal by Michael Braunstein. The field goal was Braunstein's first attempt of the game, coming only after Evan Knudson missed two in the first quarter. It was also the redshirt freshman's first field goal of his career.
That's where the score stood until the Huskies let things get away in the ugly fourth quarter.
James paced Washington with 75 yards rushing, while Frederick led all players with 114 receiving yards.