Players bask in winning glow

While it's certainly debateable whether or not the Washington Huskies caught the Arizona Wildcats napping, there's no questioning what a win has done to the excitement level of Washington football. And that goes double for the players, who were dying a slow death as each week came and passed without a win. Now that the 14-game conference losing streak is toast, they can set their sights on bigger game - namely the Washington State Cougars.

"We're good. We know we're good," said Isaiah Stanback after Washington handled Arizona a sound 38-14 trouncing in Tucson Saturday night. "Truthfully, I don't know if we executed all that great. We did have a great run game and we passed it OK, but we hurt ourselves with a lot of penalties. Perseverence - I think - would be the word to use today. I think today we really worked today as a unit."

"It's been a tough road," added tackle Joe Toledo, starting at his normal spot on the left side of the line because of Rob Meadow's suspension for a violation of team rules. "It's a good feeling to finally get this win. We've got to come out against Washington State next week. They've got a good team and we've got to come out and have a good week of practice and prepare for them."

The 'Cats, fresh off a trouncing of their own against then #7 UCLA, didn't have sustained answers for a Husky team doing all the little things they needed to in order to win.

"We started off a little slow," said UA tailback Mike Bell, who had over 160 yards against UCLA, but could only muster 37 yards against a motivated Husky front 7. "The (UCLA) win got to our heads a little bit."

Washington - by contrast - had nothing to gloat about, nothing to do but look up and continue to think positively about their chances at victory. "I was excited," Roy Lewis said. The San Jose State transfer apparently had reason to be, as his 42-yard interception and return for a touchdown capped Washington's scoring. It was also the fifth turnover forced against true freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama.

"I was ready to play, I was ready to do everything I could for this team. By any means necessary."

The catalysts proved to be Isaiah Stanback and James Sims. They executed offensive coordinator Tim Lappano's game-plan to perfection, mixing the run and pass with inside and outside plays to keep the 'Cats on their heels all night.

"You see something against every team you play," said Stanback, who finished with 253 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. "And coach Lappano has a great game plan every week. We just executed. We did an OK job today, but we had a lot of penalties that put us in some hard situations. No matter what happens, you can always get better."

The biggest play of the game was a back-breaker for the 'Cats. With the clock winding down in the second quarter, it appeared as if Washington was going to sit on the ball and go into halftime down seven points. But Stanback curiously called time out.

"That was a natural instinct," he said. "I knew we didn't have much time left, so that's what you normally do in that situation. I guess, luckily I called timeout."

Then the coaches had a decision to make - sit on the ball or go for a hail mary play. Being 70 yards away from the endzone, it was hard to imagine they would give the UW quarterback the go-ahead to try and make a play, but with Stanback's urging - Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham made the call.

Hail Mary.

"I came to the huddle and I told the receivers to run," said Stanback, breaking down the play. "They know I can throw, so just run. Don't stop. And I told the o-line to block it up. Just give us a chance. And thankfully, everything went well. When I threw it up, I don't even know if the receivers were at the 30-yard line. I knew I needed to put some air under it."

Craig Chambers caught the ball one stride away from the endzone and tumbled in, as the UW sideline erupted with a casade of whoops and cheers. Washington had just completed the miracle of all miracles, and it seemed like destiny was going to be on their side for a change.

"It hurt us a lot to see the momentum change," said Arizona DB Wilrey Fontenot. "We were flying around, not watching the ball."

Later in the Washington locker room, the electricity could have powered up Tucson through New Year's. "After the bomb, that let the Wildcats know that the Huskies were here to play," said Lewis, smiling. "That's when everybody kicked it into gear."

Especially the defense. They forced true frosh QB Willie Tuitama into four second-half turnovers, three of them leading to 21 points. "He was young, so we tried our best to confuse him," Lewis said of the Huskies' defensive gameplan. "We thought we could throw his rhythm off in the passing game. And we definitely got into his head."

"We wanted to stop the run on first and second down, and then have him (Tuitama) read coverages," added linebacker Tahj Bomar, starting his first game for injured captain Joe Lobendahn. "We did a pretty good job of that. We got three big interceptions, and one for a touchdown."

It was the consistent, sixty-minute effort that Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham was looking for. "It's a long time coming," said James Sims, who finished the day with a career-high 200 yards.

Long time, indeed. Top Stories