Defense stepping it up when it mattered the most: After Reggie Williams' 80-yard touchdown reception to put the Huskies up 32-28, we all looked up at the clock and groaned, "There is still two minutes left!" But this wasn't Texas or Michigan, and the defense allowed Arizona to gain only 19 yards before smothering the last breath out of the Wildcats. The Huskies went after the Jason Johnson with reckless abandon and forced him out of his rhythm. Safety Jimmy Newell made a fabulous break-up on the fourth down pass to secure the Husky victory.
Kickers getting all the glory: John Anderson moved to second on the list of all-time Husky scoring leaders today with his eight points. His career 278 points pass Chuck Nelson's 271 points, and the all-time leader is Jeff Jaeger with 358 points. I don't know if John knew of this stat after his first field goal, but on the ensuing kickoff, he blasted it almost to the east end bleachers. He could have had nine points for the game, but after celebration, offside and illegal snap penalties, he couldn't pull off the longest PAT attempt in history, 45 yards. His 52 yarder in the third quarter is the longest of this season. And, again, it would have been good from 65 yards.
Huskies run defense: The Huskies came into today's game as the second best run defense in the conference. Helping that stat is the fact that teams absolutely salivate when thinking of passing against the Husky secondary. And Arizona came into this game as the league's worst rushing team and their leading rusher, Clarence Farmer, did not play. But still, it is always impressive when you hold your opponent to 24 yards rushing. Also impressive was the number of tackles for loss by the defense today, 16 tackles for a loss of 54 yards. Manase Hopoi led the team with 5 TFLs, Ben Mahdavi and Kai Ellis each had three, and Jimmy Newell, Marquis Cooper, Jerome Stevens, Greg Carothers, and Anthony Kelley each had one.
More balanced offense: Cody Pickett again had completions to nine different receivers today. He did a much better job of spreading the wealth. He sometimes looked off two or three receivers and didn't force the ball in #1's direction. Williams ended up with 184 yards receiving which leaves him just 466 yards shy of taking over the top spot for career receiving yards, and he is only a sophomore.
The Huskies ran the ball officially 38 times and Pickett attempted 35 passes (compared to 59 attempts last week). Even though the running game only netted 82 yards, those running plays were important in taking some pressure off of the quarterback. The Wildcats managed only two sacks on Pickett today. It is interesting to note that although the Huskies have passed for 2283 yards compared to 599 rushing yards, they have scored 13 touchdowns through the air, and nine via the run, not quite the ratio one would expect with those kinds of numbers.
ET Racking up the yards: Charles Frederick continues to play amazingly well, showing off his quickness and moves again today. After a hot first half, catching three passes for 59 yards and putting moves on defenders that make them look as if their feet were stuck in cement, the ball didn't find its way into his hands for the rest of the game. But ET found other ways to add yards to the Husky effort. Along with his 65 yards on punt and kick returns, he accounted for 40 yards worth of penalties. Arizona was called for two personal foul penalties involving Frederick and was tagged with a 10-yard halo penalty on a punt. ET continues to lead the team with 694 all-purpose yards.
Not setting the tone: The defense's inability to get the Cats off of the field on the opening drive was not the preferred manner in which to establish dominance. Arizona shot themselves in the foot every way possible on their opening scoring drive. They had two huge gains called back by holding and personal foul penalties. The Huskies couldn't stop the Cats on third and twenty and gave up huge plays left and right. Jason Johnson actually completed 7 of 8 passes for 99 yards on the drive, while scrambling all over the field and finding wide-open receivers. It was the first time all season that Arizona has scored a touchdown on its opening drive.
No Stopping the 1-4 punch: Against the Huskies' soft zone, Wide Receivers Bobby Wade and Andrae Thurman had a field day. Wade ended up with 155 yards on 10 receptions, and Thurman had 142 yards on 9 receptions. They were finding open spaces to catch the ball and got too many yards after the catch to even count. Thurman was feisty enough to take a sure interception away from Chris Massey in the endzone, scoring seven points for the Wildcats instead. The Husky defense is in good company as Wade and Thurman each went over 100 yards earlier in the season in their game against Utah. Would you believe that the Huskies haven't allowed two receivers to gain over 100 yards against them since the barn-burner against Oregon State in 2000?
In your face: On Arizona's touchdown drive in the second quarter, it was "in your face time" for cornerback Derrick Johnson. The normal call on first and goal on the two is not to throw a 40-yard out pattern from the opposite hash mark, but that is precisely what John Mackovic called. Wade ran an out and Jason Johnson let fly with a ball that traveled all the way across the field, in front of Derrick Johnson, and into Wade's arms for the touchdown. No respect, indeed. In fact, it's usually a terrible offensive play call, and the only possible explanation could've been to send the message "We are going to pass because you can't stop us!" The last time Washington tried to throw a similar pass in a similar situation, Kenny Wheaton became a household name.
Where was the knock-out punch? The Husky defense did step it up in the third quarter and gave the offense the chance to put the game away. But it didn't happen and for the third straight year again the Wildcats, the Huskies had to come back to win in the fourth quarter. The Huskies opened up the half with a touchdown drive to go up 22-14. The defense then stopped the Cats, three and out, after a huge sack by Kai Ellis for a loss of 11 yards. The offense got the ball back at midfield and responded by fumbling the ball on the eight-yard line. Again, the defense stepped it up and forced Arizona to punt after two sacks left them with 4th and 27. The offense gained only seven yards on the next series before Anderson booted his 52-yarder for a 26-14 lead that should have been much larger. The Cats went on to score 14 unanswered points after the knock-out punch was never delivered.
And the Extracurricular…
‘Heating' up the elevator: We rode up the press box elevator with Running Backs Coach Chuck Heater before the game. He appeared to be nice and calm, at least on the outside. He asked, with a smirk on his face, "You guys finished writing your game story yet?" We assured him that we would only write a glowing report of the team's performance.
Bad snap kills again: The opening drive for the Wildcats was a little hard to pay attention to because … we were trying to catch the last few seconds of the FSU-Miami nail-biter. Even teams in some of the biggest games of the year have special teams snafus. The snap was a terrible one and the kick sailed wide-left this time. In hopes of somehow avenging last year's pounding in the Orange Bowl, the dawgman.com staff tried to send their best wishes to the Seminoles by joining in on the Tomahawk Chop, to no avail.
Seeing stars: Cornerback Derrick Johnson left the game in the fourth quarter after taking a blow that left him with a concussion. For the last few minutes of the game, Derrick sat on the Husky bench, without moving, and just stared at the ground. Teammates Aaron Butler and John Anderson were checking on him trying to give him some encouragement. I doubt he even knew where he was as he was having a hard time even walking straight as he headed for the locker room.
There's a fine line: It is always a fun perspective to hear how a fan cheering for the opposition reacts to plays his team makes. Down on the sidelines was obviously a huge Wildcat fan. On Arizona's second-to-last drive, while trying to retake the lead, Johnson completed a 12-yard pass to Bobby Wade. The fan was yelling, "Yah Baby! There's Bobby!! There's Bobby!!" His cheers quickly turned into grief, as he was yelling expletives when he discovered his team just got tagged for a taunting penalty. Ahh, yes, the highs and lows of being a fan, how it can go from one extreme to another, all within a three-second span of time, prompted by a yellow piece of cloth laying on the grass. Isn't college football grand?
Notes from the press box
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