Breaks not bouncing Huskies' way

It looked bad enough as it was happening, but Johnny DuRocher had no idea how bad it was really going to be. The Washington quarterback - who came in the second half of the Huskies' game against Oregon State - was getting his cage rattled repeatedly by Beaver blitz schemes that the Huskies could not defend. The sting of an 18-10 loss was painful enough, but by Sunday DuRocher had a cast on his left arm and a season of eligibility most likely used up.

Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham confirmed Monday that DuRocher had a broken bone in his wrist. DuRocher showed up later, complete with cast, and said that the doctors are telling him he'll be out 4-6 weeks. Willingham would not corroborate the time frame, other than to say he would know a lot more about DuRocher's condition and what the chances of him playing against Arizona this coming Saturday later in the week. DuRocher said that he expects to miss the game against the Wildcats, but that he'll be re-evaluated and possibly set up with a splint if he can go against Washington State in the Apple Cup in two weeks.

DuRocher was 11-30 for 103 yards against OSU, with one touchdown and also one interception.

Stanback will continue to start for the Huskies, and Casey Paus is expected to back him up. Carl Bonnell - sidelined for much of the year with a quad contusion - is now healthy, but it remains unclear whether or not he'll get a serious shot to back up Stanback. "Carl's injury has put him, in my mind, behind the 8-ball," said Willingham. "He's had hardly any work with the starting group, other than what he had prior to his injury. Casey has been closer to the action. He's involved himself in special teams, so that means his game readiness is a hair better. But it could involve a number of guys. Felix Sweetman could be involved."

And in other breaks, Joe Lobendahn, Washington's senior inside linebacker from Honolulu, Hawaii, had his final season cut short Saturday after suffering a knee injury in Washington's 18-10 loss against Oregon State.

"He will be out the remainder of the season," Willingham said. "It's a costly loss to our football team because he is the heart and soul of not only our defense, but also of our football team. There's a young man that loves the game of football and goes about it the right way. His loss will be dear."

Tahj Bomar, who came in for Lobendahn Saturday and finished the game with six tackles and a forced fumble, will start Saturday against Arizona, with the possibility that true frosh Darrion Jones will back him up. Jones would be coming back from stinger issues that have sidelined him for much of the 2005 season.

With two games remaining, Washington has to come up with some yet-to-be-seen magic to pull out victories against the 'Cats and the Washington State Cougars in the Apple Cup to avoid their second-straight league 'o-fer'. If the Huskies' winning drought continues in the desert and the Cougars cannot pull out a win against Oregon in Pullman, it will be the first time the two Washington schools arrive at an Apple Cup winless in conference play since 1969.

Arizona was in the same predicament the Huskies and Cougars were in two weeks ago. Now they are riding an improbable two-game winning streak and have a chance to win their third straight game for the first time since John Mackovic won his first three games as the 'Cats coach in 2001. So what made the difference?

"They have been revitalized," Willingham, based on his own observations in watching Arizona's game film. "They are playing at a much higher tempo, much more confident and they are executing. They played basically mistake-free - no turnovers - and they are getting great production out of their quarterbacks and running backs. And they've also gotten turnovers for scores, which pretty much seals the opponents' fate."

The 'Cats - now bizarrely ranked tied for 36th in the newest Harris poll, despite a season record of 3-6 - got a jolt of energy when Head Coach Mike Stoops inserted true freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama into the lineup for Richard Kovalcheck during the 'Cats game against Oregon.

Arizona would lose a close one that day, but Tuitama put a stranglehold on the position and has thrown for 539 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in the two games he has started. Last week, he helped the 'Cats annihilate then #7 UCLA 52-14. "He's gotten himself into the system, started to understand it and has gotten comfortable with it so he can execute it so he can play to his fullest potential," Willingham said of the young man from Stockton, Calif. "He seems to be a catalyst for them."

Willingham is not unfamiliar with using young quarterbacks. In 2003, a true freshman named Brady Quinn started nine games for Notre Dame, going 4-5. At that point, he was trying to use whatever was in his arsenal to get wins. It's no different in Seattle, except for the results.

"Each group is different, each team is different," Willingham said. "There is a different personality, there is a different adjustment you have to make as coach in trying to understand the personality of the team. Not all teams are motivated by the same things. You have to figure out what it is that moves these guys and try to work toward it and constantly adjust it and change it so that you remain on point."

One thing that has 'remained on point' is the team as a unit taking responsibility for the mounting losses. There doesn't appear to be any finger-pointing, but one wonders just how long that can last without wins. "That's a very positive sign, but now we have to do something about it," Willingham said. "Let's get better execution. And let's see if I can put them in better positions to make their jobs easier. And that's always the job of my coaches and myself - to do that."
Notes:
Injury Report: Besides the injuries listed above, Anthony Russo should be OK to play Saturday after suffering a concussion against Oregon State.

Heat Wave: The team will be practicing in Dempsey this week in preparation for the expected heat in Tucson, 'unless there is a heat wave,' said Willingham. Right now, the forecast is calling for temperatures in the high 70's. Right now in Seattle it's cloudy and 46.

Up for grabs?: After missing a 42-yard field goal Saturday, Washington's depth chart showed the number-one placekicker to be Evan Knudson OR Mike Braunstein. "I wouldn't say it's up for grabs, but we've got a few more misses than I'm comfortable with," Willingham said when asked if the kicking spot was once again open for competition.

Making your own luck: Willingham said that when he was coaching in the NFL, they kept percentages on when a defense scored on a turnover and how that would correlate to a win. "It was 80 to 90 percent," he said. "So when you are able to create turnovers, score off of turnovers, make no mistakes and score off of special teams play, you have a pretty good advantage going." Arizona has scored defensive touchdowns the past two weeks.


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