Coach, Players Rely on Each Other in Crunch

SEATTLE - The old adage of a football game often coming down to inches can apply here. You could argue that last weekend's 37-30 overtime loss to Notre Dame came down to a foot for the Washington Huskies. But after the Huskies' improbable 36-33 win over Arizona Saturday night in Husky Stadium, there was no debate: The game came down to a couple of feet - the feet of Delashaun Dean.

After the Huskies were peppered by bubble screens all night long, it wasn't surprising to see Arizona go back to the well one more time with 2:37 left in the game. But Washington's Mason Foster jumped the screen and forced the 'Cats Nick Foles to try and throw the ball to Dean, who had found a seam when the play turned into a scramble.

The ball hit Dean's feet and jumped right into the waiting arms of Foster, who could have floated the 37 yards it took for him to score Washington's go-ahead touchdown. Desmond Trufant's interception with 36 seconds left felt anticlimactic;

For 57 minutes it had been Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts, but the 'Cats' Foles tripped with the scissors in his hand when the game was on the line.

"It's a tough loss, obviously," Arizona Head Coach Mike Stoops said. "Disappointing in a lot of different ways. Just a lot of errors in the last four minutes of the game."

And just as it was in their thrilling win over USC, it was the Huskies who made the plays they needed to down the stretch, overcoming their own mistakes along the way.

Up 14-10 at half, you could already tell the Huskies' duct-tape and bailing wire defense was not going to stand up to the constant quick bubble screens out wide. Foles had difficulty throwing downfield with consistency, but he didn't have to. With his rifle-arm, the 6-foot-5 sophomore threw for 224 yards in the second half. Split End David Roberts caught nine passes during the last thirty minutes; small H-back David Douglas caught six screens in the fourth quarter alone. The Huskies were getting picked apart horizontally.

"We were limited in the secondary coming into the game," Sarkisian said. "It was pretty evident with Nate Williams being out and Justin Glenn being out. So we had a hard time getting into some nickel and dime packages. We ended up having to play base defense versus them and they were going to four-wide sets, so they knew we were in zone defense. We obviously couldn't play man-to-man with 'backers on wideouts. It presented a huge challenge for us to be able to deploy everybody to cover down on everything."

At the same time, when running back Chris Polk went out during the second series of the game with an apparent shoulder surgery, it felt like the Husky way-back machine took the crowd back to 2007, when Locker accounted for 99 percent of their offense. It also didn't help when junior guard Greg Christine broke his fibula less than a minute before halftime.

"We were banged up at running back," Sarkisian said. "I was concerned about Chris and I couldn't get a good gauge on Chris. We had Demitrius Bronson in there, who is a true freshman playing for us. We did have a stretch in there where I thought to myself, let's just let 10 maneuver us down the field, whether it was with his feet or throwing the ball. And there were some things in coverage that allowed us to do that."

Yet when it came down to trying to win the game in the second half, the harder job for the Huskies appeared to be just trying to get out of their own way. On the Huskies first possession of the third quarter, Will Mahan couldn't handle the snap and ended up trying to kick the ball after it had already hit the ground. The result? Illegal kicking, and the 'Cats with the ball first-and-goal from the Huskies' 9-yard line.

Washington's red-zone defense, which has been stellar the entire season, was resilient once again when they had to be, forcing Arizona into a 23-yard field goal.

The Huskies' Quinton Richardson bobbled the ensuing kickoff, barely getting outside the shadow of their own 10-yard line. Three more plays and a poor punt to their 36-yard line meant the defense was back on the field. Overall, the 'Cats ran 24 of their 83 offensive plays in the third quarter, compared to the Huskies' 9.

But one of those plays was a Locker 29-yard touchdown to Devin Aguilar, a score that killed a run of 17-straight points by the visitors. The Huskies were reeling, but they were far from out, despite a massive discrepancy in the statistics: At the end of the day the Huskies were outgained 461-256; Arizona had 83 offensive plays to Washington's 47; they were out-possessed nearly 40 minutes to 20.

"We're not going to catch up in this game in one play," Sarkisian told his offense right before that series. "It's going to be over a duration of time. It's not going to happen on one play. And our kids understood that. We went back and had a nice drive for the touchdown."

And the decision not to go with an onside kick with nearly three minutes to go and two times out looks prescient now, all Sarkisian did was follow the same advice he was giving to his players; believe in the system and do things the right way.

"There were opportunities there," Sarkisian said. "I thought we got better in our formation recognition, of seeing what was coming. We wanted to put the pressure back on them. If we onside kick right there, it becomes our one shot-type play. By kicking it deep, you put the pressure back on them and you let our defense play with two timeouts and see what happens."

So when Foster received his early Christmas present just 18 seconds later, it took just one magical sequence of events to turn nearly an hour's worth of work by the Wildcats into nothing more than numbers on a page. The scoreboard told the real story.

"We kept doing things the right way," Sarkisian said. "We weren't making things up. And that's the power of playing really hard, believing that you're going to make those plays and doing things right."

"Our kids gave it everything they had," added Stoops. "We just couldn't finish." Top Stories