By JOHN SLEEPER
SEATTLE – Pat Conniff probably shouldn’t have played Saturday.
Conniff, the Washington Huskies’ starting senior fullback who was playing his last game at Husky Stadium, not only played in most of the offensive snaps, but he also scored two touchdowns and gained 27 tough yards on nine carries in the Huskies’ 35-28 Pacific-10 Conference victory Saturday over UCLA.
Not bad for someone who had dislocated his left shoulder just one week ago.
“Last Saturday, I was really concerned,” Conniff said. “But the thing that popped into my head was Senior Night. It scared me to death, but it really motivated me to have a good week of rehab and get my arm strong.”
Make that Sunday, as well, when he woke up with his shoulder feeling like it wanted to come off.
“Sunday was one of the sorest days,” he said. “I tried to keep it moving and loose so it wouldn’t lock up on me. Monday, we came in and the training staff, did some awesome work.”
But Tuesday, Conniff thought he had a good chance of playing. Tuesday is traditionally a heavy contact day in practice. Conniff participated in some drills, but sat out some of the more violent drills.
Wednesday, he was nearly full-speed.
“He wants to play; he wants to finish with his teammates,” UW coach Rick Neuheisel said. “He’s been a real hero.”
Conniff expects to play at Washington State next week. In fact, his shoulder felt reasonably good Saturday.
“It’s just other parts of my body that aren’t so great,” he said. “I just have to continue working on it this week so I can carry on.”
Yet, Mitchell, dubbed “Hollywood” because of a tendency toward self-promotion, had just seven catches for a miniscule 65 yards against the Huskies.
One theory was that a devastating hit on Mitchell early in the came by cornerback Anthony Vontoure made Mitchell wide-eyed the rest of the game.
“That’s what you do to let receivers know you’re going to be around the ball,” freshman free safety Greg Carothers said. “Sometimes, you can get receivers to quit. I don’t know if he really quit or not, but at least he knew we were around him.”
UCLA coach Bob Toledo said the Husky pass rush on quarterback Cory Paus – Washington had four sacks – had at least as much to do with Mitchell’s punky numbers as anything. That, and Washington’s ball-control offense that kept possession for a whopping 38:39.
“They really didn’t do anything to minimize him,” Toledo said. “We just weren’t getting him the ball. We didn’t have the ball enough to get it to him. We couldn’t make first downs.”
More trouble was wideout Brian Poli-Dixon, who hauled in eight passes for 165 yards and a touchdown.
“They’re big-time players,” Carothers said. “UCLA has athletic kids. They’re there to make big plays. We were just trying to play aggressive and keep the ball out of their hands. When they did catch it, we were trying to put big shots on them.”
The trick Saturday was to not let him run wild. And, although Foster gained 93 yards on 20 carries, his longest gain was just 13 yards, and a swarming Husky defense made him earn every yard he got.
“If he gets to the corner and turns his shoulder, he’s hard to stop because he has so much speed,” UW nose tackle Larry Tripplett said. “The best thing to do is to try to contain him, try to make him cut back and stop his feet.”
“I was saying, ‘Don’t kick it my way. I don’t feel like getting hit by four or five people,’ ” Kelley said. “But when I saw him slow up, I said, ‘Hold on.’ I dropped back a little bit. I got two good bounces and fell down on it. They could have caught me off guard a little bit, but I was kind of expecting it.”
Williams, a senior strong safety, still is recovering from a spinal-cord injury. The money the team is donating to the fund is about $800.
“It’s not something that surprises me,” coach Lesle Gallimore said. “I didn’t ask them to do this. It’s just the kind of people they are. They didn’t even give it a second thought.”
The UW women are taking on Montana in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Talk to us
- You can tell us about news and ask us about our journalism by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 425-339-3428.
- If you have an opinion you wish to share for publication, send a letter to the editor to email@example.com or by regular mail to The Daily Herald, Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206.
- More contact information is here.