A coordinated effort for Lappano, Baer

Going into their tenth game with only one win, the Washington coaches knew it would take a substantial effort to defeat Arizona on the road. They would have momentum against them, as the Wildcats had just run over #7 UCLA the week before. But that game proved to be an anomaly, as the Huskies 38-14 win over the 'Cats in Tucson showed just how evenly-matched the two teams really were.

"They are a dangerous football team," said UW defensive coordinator Kent Baer of Arizona. "They are able to run the football. Our goal was to stack them and get them into some passing situations and give him (Arizona frosh QB Willie Tuitama) some different looks."

Washington forced the 'Cats into eight missed third-down opportunities and limited the lethal running combo of Mike Bell and Gilbert Harris - who had combined for 266 of UA's 315 yards on the ground against the Bruins - came up with less than 50 yards between the two of them.

"You look at that (UCLA) film and it scares you to death," said Baer. "So we didn't let them run the football and for the most part we did the job."

The other thing the defense was able to do was force Tuitama into turnovers and uncomfortable situations. The freshman from Stockton, Calif. was responsible for five miscues, three through the air.

"They seem to come in bunches," Baer said of the defense's ability to make plays. "We'd like to get two or three a game. That's always our goal. And we've had our chances. All week in practice we do a good job and it carried over."

And the Huskies played Saturday night without their main defensive captain - inside linebacker Joe Lobendahn. Lobendahn did travel with the team, but a torn ACL sidelined the senior from Honolulu. Junior Tahj Bomar picked up the slack and finished the night with five tackles and a fumble recovery. And Dashon Goldson went out to start the third quarter, but came out with a quad contusion before even playing one down.

"Those are big shoes to fill," Baer said of Bomar's effort. "He just tried to play his game. And kudos to Chris Hemphill too. He's played the whole second half when Dashon went out."

Baer, while excited for his players, didn't act the part of a coach satisfied simply to put a notch in the win column - especially with the Apple Cup looming. "I think we can still play better," he said. "We certainly haven't turned any corner."
Tim Lappano always has something to say - win or loss. For the first time since Idaho, we got an opportunity to hear the Washington offensives coordinator expound on some of the reasons why his offensive gameplan was so successful.

"We were physical tonight," he said of his offense's overall effort. "We were able to knock them off the ball. We played well up front and James Sims broke a lot of tackles. I'm really happy for all those guys."

As poorly as the offensive line played in an 18-10 loss to Oregon State the week before, they excelled against Arizona in every phase. And they did it without one of their leaders on the OL - Rob Meadow - who did not make the trip due to a violation of team rules.

"Chad Macklin, he's going to scrap," Lappano said, knowing that any success the Huskies were going to have offensively would have to start up front. "He's going to give you everything he's got. And Joe Toledo is getting healthier. He pushed some people around in practice. And we pushed them inside and outside. I think that's what kept them off-balance.

"It was a patchwork job, and Coach Denbrock did a great job of getting them ready to play this week. There was a lot of adversity and they fought through it."

Just like with Baer's defense, Lappano saw an Arizona defense he could exploit - at least on paper. The Wildcats were 4th against the pass and 8th against the run in conference, so it made sense to attack them on the ground. "We thought that was the weakness in their defense," Lappano said. "We thought we matched up well inside. They weren't that big inside. Those are the teams we've struggled against. We were thinking around 200 yards (rushing). 300 yards is a good number."

The Huskies finished with 333 yards on the ground, 200 of it coming via senior tailback James Sims. "He played his heart out," Lappano said of Sims. "He practiced really hard for the last couple of weeks."

And quarterback Isaiah Stanback - plagued by inconsistent performances all season - arguably played his steadiest - and most balanced - game of the season. He threw for 157 yards and added 96 yards through the ground (he actually grossed 112 yards, but went below 100 after sack yardage was factored in).

"This is what we envisioned with him," Lappano said of Stanback. "Being mobile in the pass game and hurting them with the run. And the offensive line being physical and knocking guys off the line. That's the way the Huskies used to do it. We harped on it during the spring and we've shown bits and pieces all year. USC, Notre Dame - we moved it. This is nice to put together and I think we'll get a momentum out of this and a lot of confidence. Mentally this will be good. We needed this big time."

Nothing gave the Huskies offense a bigger shot in the arm than the last play of the first half. With time ticking down and Washington seemingly content to go into halftime down 14-7, Stanback instinctively called time out. The coaches talked about taking a knee, but they also talked about Stanback getting a chance to throw a hail mary pass.

"Coach Willingham suggested that one," Lappano said, once the time out was called and the coaches had a choice to make. "We were in the game big-time and I was leaving the box. That's what he wanted to do. That was his call."

The hail mary was called and Stanback threw the ball at least 70 yards to a streaking Craig Chambers for one of the most improbable touchdowns in Washington history. "They were in three-deep coverage and they weren't even back that far," said Lappano. "It was unbelievable. He can really chuck it."

Ironically enough, if the coaches had thought about it - they had seen a pre-cusor to Chambers' pyrotechnics just a couple of days earlier during their last full practice.

"We had an OK Tuesday, Wednesday was brutal - terrible," Lappano said of Washington's practices leading up to the Arizona game. "Thursday, we start out in two-minute and we threw a 'rattler' to (Craig) Chambers. It was one-on-one and it was the first time we had scored on it all year. It was a shot of adrenaline. We had so much energy from that - we had a great Thursday practice. After Wednesday I was concerned, but Thursday was really good."

And after that triple-sized shot of espresso, the Huskies were flying high going into the locker room. They used that momentum to out-score the 'Cats 24-0 over the course of the next thirty minutes.

"I told them at halftime that we've been here before," said Lappano. "And I told them, 'They are going to come out and blitz, that's going to be their halftime adjustment,' and we hurt them with it. We knew we had to play a complete game. I don't think we even played a complete game against Idaho. And finally we played a complete game.

"These last couple of weeks have been hard. But the players never pointed fingers and never gave up on us. And we never gave up on the players. We just said that we're in this thing together and keep on working. That's the only thing we could do.

"We just kept going."

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