Dawgs grind up 'Cats

The proverbial mule that has been kicking Tyrone Willingham in the gut after every Washington loss this season can stay in the stall for at least one more week. Buoyed by a hail mary bomb from Isaiah Stanback to Craig Chambers to end the first half and a persistent running attack led by James Sims' 200 yards, Washington proved to be the most resilient and gutsiest team Saturday night as they defeated Arizona 38-14 at Arizona Stadium.

"There's really not a whole lot to say," said Willingham. "Our team continued to battle, continued to fight and we found a way to win a football game. It's a good win."

The 1500-2000 Washington fans that did travel to Arizona had plenty to say after the game, as the pep band played for a good 15-20 minutes after the game was over and the team joined them in a singing of 'Bow Down to Washington'.

The Huskies scored 24 unanswered points in the final 30 minutes, as Arizona (3-7, 2-5) could not find a way to put scores on the board in front of 52,505 faithful at Arizona Stadium.

"It's been a long time coming," said Sims, who also had one score. Altogether, the Huskies - who had arguably their worst performance of the year on the offensive line - turned around and had their finest effort to date.

"He's done nothing but give us great effort, great energy and great leadership," Willingham said of Sims. "He's stepped it up another notch since he's been the starter." The last Husky to run for 200 yards was Marques Tuiasosopo - who went for 207 in a record-setting performance against Stanford in 1999.

Washington out-gained the Wildcats 333-87 on their way to a 490-322 total offensive advantage.

"It's tough when you can't stop the run; a lot of things go wrong," said Arizona sophomore linebacker Spencer Larsen.

The Huskies, visibly excited as they came out of the tunnel the second half, went to work on true freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama. Tuitama, who had engineered the 'Cats to victories over Oregon State and UCLA, never seemed to find a rhythm. A lot of that had to do with Washington defensive coordinator Kent Baer mixing up his blitz schemes and the defense playing with more speed and confidence.

"We were able to keep our energy and our focus," said Willingham. "Tonight we didn't follow up a lot of our mistakes. We just kept coming."

They also were the recipient of at least one timely break. Right out of the gate in the third quarter, Tuitama threw an interception to Husky cornerback Josh Okoebor. The Wildcats tried desperately to strip the ball from the UW defender's hands and did so.

But the ruling on the field was that there was an inadvertant whistle right after Okoebor took possession, so the ball was given to the Huskies.

"You have to give Washington a great deal of credit," said Arizona Head Coach Mike Stoops, who went ballistic after that call and continued to lobby for his team well after the Huskies' Isaiah Stanback had punched it in for six on a nifty 28-yard run right up the gut of the 'Cats defense. "They had a great game plan. We just had no answer all night. You could tell we came out flat. That's common. We're just not good enough to come out and play without intensity and emotion."

That play was the first of four big thefts the Huskies were able to manufacture in the second half, capped off by Roy Lewis' 42-yard interception return for a touchdown, giving Washington their final margin of victory.

The play from Stanback to Chambers capped off a drive that was marred with clock-management miscues but ended up smelling like roses for a Washington team yearning for something to go their way. "As time is running down, you ask yourself, 'What are our best options?'," said Willingham. "Your hopeful that something happens, maybe an interference call. And Isaiah, I don't know if I've ever seen anyone throw a ball that far. It was impressive."

Ironically enough, the Huskies nearly took a knee before deciding to give it one last shot going into halftime. "We discuss all options when it comes to a play like that," said Willingham, matter-of-factly.

It was Stanback's decision to call one more time out that was key. "(Coach Willingham) was going to let the clock run out and I told him that I could throw the ball from here," he said. I said, 'Let's give it a shot.' I got good protection and Craig came down with the ball."

"Our guys just lost the ball in the lights," said Stoops. "We played uphill from then on."

It's sweet vindication for a quarterback that had been benched during last week's Oregon State game. Stanback finished the game 10-19 for 157 yards and that one score.

The win gives the Huskies (2-8, 1-6) a little momentum boost going into Apple Cup week, and they did it filling in some holes at some key positions. Gone was left tackle Robin Meadow, who was suspended for a 'violation of team rules'. In his place was Joe Toledo - the left tackle at the start of the season, but making his first start there since the Huskies opener against Air Force. Chad Macklin started at right tackle.

"I do think he needs a lot of rest, but I do love the effort that he's put forward and the leadership that he's provided when he's not 100 percent," Willingham said of Toledo.

Linebacker Tahj Bomar started in place of senior captain Joe Lobendahn - who traveled with the team but did not play due to a torn ACL. The junior from Kent finished the game with five tackles, just behind Evan Benjamin's 10 and C.J. Wallace's 8 stops. Benjamin also had a interception and a 44-yard return to set up Washington's lone second-half field goal.

"We knew it was going to be tough for Tahj because you can't fill Joe's shoes," Willingham said of Bomar's play. "He's been a pretty good player for some time and you can't duplicate that kind of leadership, but Tahj just went in there and did the best he could do and that's all you can ask for."

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