Tuiasosopo now a UW great

  • Larry Henry / Sports Columnist
  • Monday, November 13, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – When the last Huard family quarterback left Washington, there wasn’t much grieving among Husky football fans. It was more like, “Time for something different.”

Boy, did they get something different. And, boy, are they going to miss it when it’s gone.

They’ll miss that sometimes sandlot look of the offense, when it appears the quarterback is making it up as he goes along.

They’ll miss that “gee, this is fun” effect that Marques Tuiasosopo has on the game.

He really does, doesn’t he? He looks like some kid out there on an empty corner neighborhood lot with a bunch of his buddies having a rollicking good time on a Saturday afternoon. He even seems to be smiling sometimes or maybe that’s just the devil in him knowing what he’s about to do to the defense.

They’ll miss him looking around for wide-open receivers, not finding any, then taking off on a crazylegs dash, shrugging off and sidestepping would-be tacklers, reversing his field, leaving defenders groping, defensive coordinators sputtering and fans’ hearts palpitating.

They’ll miss his late-game shenanigans in pulling out victories. If there’s one thing Husky faithful have learned with Tuiasosopo running the offense, it’s that you don’t leave the stadium until there is no time showing.

Has there in the last 25 years been a Husky quarterback more fun to watch than this one? Has there been a team that’s brought you more pleasure?

An acquaintance of my wife was having a distressing week. “Well,” the woman said, “at least I’ve got the Huskies to look forward to.”

Even opposing fans have to grudgingly admit that these guys are about as entertaining as a highwire act with no net.

It starts with the leader. The “aw, shucks,” it “tweren’t nothing” quarterback.

Some people are natural born leaders. They don’t have to say much, they don’t have to get up on a chair and bellow “follow me.” They simply go out and perform. And because the people following them know they’ll get the job done, everybody tries a little harder, everybody works a little harder.

Sometimes, magic happens. Like a 9-1 season. This doesn’t happen without Tuiasosopo. He’s the wild card. He’s the guy opposing teams find it impossible to prepare for.

He isn’t a classic passer. He’ll make a mistake now and then, as he did in Saturday’s UCLA game when he fumbled twice. But doggone if he didn’t toss the touchdown pass that was the difference in the game.

For every bad play he makes, he’ll make a bevy of good ones. Some you’d swear he was diagramming in the dirt.

He may not win the Heisman Trophy, but he’s done something more important. As his coach, Rick Neuheisel, was saying Monday, he rates quarterbacks not on statistics, but on wins and losses. And “Marques has helped us win nine games.”

“He’s been a big-time performer for us,” the coach added. “He doesn’t worry about his lack of Drew Brees statistics. He just wants to win.”

As to whether Tuiasosopo should receive strong Heisman consideration, Neuheisel said, “It’s like the polls. Who knows? If I had a vote, I know who I’d vote for.”

The object of all this discussion made his usual Monday visit to the Don James Center to have lunch and speak with the media. Which is more important to Tuiasosopo is no doubt the former, though he seems to enjoy palavering with the press much more than he did a year ago. Not that he was surly. He’s never been that. He just seems to be much more at ease.

He went through the lunch line, then was summoned for a conference call with writers from east of the mountains wanting to talk about Saturday’s Apple Cup game between Washington and Washington State in Pullman. By the time he finished with that and a couple of radio interviews, his pasta dish was cold. But like any college kid, he dug in anyway. Hey, it’s free chow.

Cougar coach Mike Price had been on the phone with the Puget Sound media and said what many coaches have preached: “So goes Marques, so go the Huskies.”

Then he paid him an even nicer compliment. He said there might be better passers in the land, but as far as human beings go, Tuiasosopo is hard to top.

When told what Price had to say, Tuiasosopo said, “I feel honored for him to say that. I try to show respect for people.”

The quarterback says he holds Price in high regard, as well. Which doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to ruin his weekend.

“This is huge,” Tuiasosopo said. “This is for state bragging rights … People are fired up … Tempers flare … This one is a little more special.”

Some third-string quarterback is having to imitate Tuiasosopo on the Cougar scout squad this week. Of course, it’s completely different when you get the real deal.

Improvisation is not the strong suit of a low-level scrub. “I do it (ad-lib) when I have to,” the Husky quarterback said, “and hope I do it in a smart manner.”

He ranks second in total offense in the Pac-10, but if he’s unaware of this, it wouldn’t be a surprise. “I didn’t place any expectations on myself except to play hard and prepare myself for each game,” he said. “We’re 9-1 and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This team is everything I could expect. It didn’t quit, it stayed with it in the fourth quarter. It’s been great.”

It will soon be over. And he’ll miss it.

Just as Husky fans will miss him.

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