Comeback kids go wild

  • JOHN SLEEPER / Herald Writer
  • Saturday, November 4, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

Huskies nab 22 points in 4th quarter for victory

By JOHN SLEEPER

Herald Writer

SEATTLE — Aw, geez. Another trip to the Department of Redundancy Department.

Another game, another stinkin’ University of Washington fourth-quarter comeback.

Isn’t this getting a tad old? Predictable? Sheesh!

Saturday’s 35-32 Pacific-10 Conference victory against Arizona was just the latest of five Husky wins this season in which Washington had to desperately fight from behind in the fourth quarter.

The eighth-ranked Huskies (8-1, 5-1 in the Pac-10), stinko for 31/2 quarters, stormed back with 22 fourth-quarter points and came back not once, but twice in the final 81/2 minutes to put away the Wildcats before 70,411 befuddled home fans.

"Another day at Husky Stadium," said UW coach Rick Neuheisel, whose absurdly charmed but resourceful team won its fifth straight.

Only, it wasn’t just another day at Husky Stadium.

It was the first game for the Huskies since their senior strong safety, Curtis Williams, injured his spinal cord against Stanford. Pregame ceremonies honoring Williams either did or didn’t take away players’ focus, depending on who’s talking.

Nevertheless, the Huskies appeared to play in an emotional and mental fog for much of the game. They missed a slew of tackles, committed mind-numbingly brainless penalties and had four turnovers.

Still, they scratched back from a 25-10 deficit midway through the third quarter and stormed back to take a 28-25 lead on a spinning, balancing act of a 23-yard touchdown run by Willie Hurst with 8:31 left in the game.

Hurst led the Huskies with 116 yards on eight carries. All but 7 yards came in the fourth quarter, when he also scored on a 65-yard option pitch to cut Arizona’s lead to 25-20.

But while purple-clad fans were busy congratulating each other for another well-deserved comeback win, they missed Leo Mills’ touchdown from 51 yards out that gave the Wildcats (3-3, 5-4) a 32-28 advantage with 4:48 remaining.

Surely, Washington’s magic had run out.

Right?

The Huskies didn’t think so.

"We just said, ‘Hey, we’re going to have to do it again,’ " quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo said. "We just think that, no matter what the situation. When it happens, you say, Ma-a-a-a-n.’ But that’s football. Our job is, when they score, we have to come back and score."

It took Washington 11 plays and 3:38 to go 67 yards, but it happened.

Two big third-down plays made the difference. First was a 25-yard bullet from Tuiasosopo to wideout Todd Elstrom to the Wildcat 37. Talk about clutch. All it was, was third-and-5 on the Husky 38.

The second simply killed Arizona. On third-and-9 from the Arizona 11, 1:46 remaining, UA defensive end Joe Tafoya brought down Tuiasosopo for a 2-yard loss, but was called for a facemask penalty.

Even UW nose tackle Larry Tripplett, Washington’s answer to Norman Vincent Peale, could feel the Power of Positive Thinking begin to wane before he saw the penalty flag.

"On third-and-9, when Tui got sacked," Tripplett said, "I was a little nervous then."

Two plays later, Tuiasosopo scored from 2 yards out with 1:10 left on the clock, and the Huskies had a 35-32 lead.

But it was hardly over.

UA quarterback Ortege Jenkins, he of the miraculously athletic flip that gave Arizona a win at Husky Stadium two years ago, got the Wildcats to the Husky 33-yard line on nine plays, but Tripplett got a paw on Sean Keel’s 51-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds left to end it.

"It always works out for us, man," Tripplett said.

That it does.

The Huskies again revealed a stubborn yet exhilaratingly predictable tendency to absorb adversity and not only survive, but thrive.

"A blowout once in a while would be nice," Tuiasosopo said.

Indeed, it’s become the norm since Neuheisel arrived. Of Neuheisel’s 15 wins as Washington’s coach, the Huskies have come back to win in 12. Of those 12 victories, eight have come with fourth-quarter comebacks.

Not only that, but Arizona became Washington’s third-straight fourth quarter prey.

"We’ve taken so many shots on the chin this year, we’re starting to look like Jerry Quarry," Neuheisel said.

Sure, Holiday Bowl officials attended the game to scout Washington, but if this foolishness keeps up, the Holiday Bowl won’t have a chance to bag the Huskies.

"It doesn’t matter what the situation is," wideout Wilbur Hooks said, "We are going to find a way to pull through. As long as there is time on the clock, we feel that anything is possible."

Count Arizona as the latest in a series of believers.

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