Will the Huskies’ magic act ever end?

  • Larry Henry / Sports Columnist
  • Saturday, November 4, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

Larry Henry

Sports Columnist

SEATTLE — Marques Tuiasosopo was asked after another fourth quarter comeback win if he would pay to watch his Washington Husky football team play.

"Yes," he said. "I might take some Tums before the game or I might go and eat lunch during the first half and come back in the third or fourth quarter, but I would definitely be here every Saturday because you never know what’s going to happen."

No, you don’t. But whatever does, you know it’s going to be wild and crazy. And you know the Huskies are going to win.

That’s just the way it is. They’re going to find a way to come out on top.

You’re sitting there in Husky Stadium, as 70,000 of us were Saturday afternoon, and the Arizona Wildcats are dominating the game — they go to halftime leading in total yardage 301-128, in first downs 19-4, in time of possession 22:49-7:11.

Yet, you know the ‘Cats are in trouble … because they’re only up by a touchdown.

You know they’re really in deep do-do when they fall behind then go back up on top by four points … and there is still 4:48 remaining.

That’s an eternity for the Huskies. As long as there’s time on the clock, a team can’t feel comfortable against these guys.

"It’s like, ‘We’ve got to do it again,’ " Tuiasosopo, the quarterback and leader of this band of live-on-the-edgers, said after the latest win, a 35-32 squeaker. "It’s like, ‘Let’s go down field.’ "

Down the field they go. Eleven plays, 67 yards, touchdown, Washington.

Just another day in the Dawg Pound.

Is there no end to their magic? Probably not. I’m convinced they’ll do the same thing against UCLA next Saturday in Husky Stadium. They’ll be down by a touchdown or two starting the final period and the Bruins will be the ones walking off the field at the end with their heads down wondering, "How’d they do that?"

Simple. The Huskies think they own the fourth quarter. And they do. It’s theirs. Lock, stock and barrel.

That’s what this team will be remembered for years from now. How they dashed the hopes of opponent after opponent in the final 15 minutes. Five times this season they’ve rallied in the fourth quarter to win.

That’ll do wonders for the many young kids on this team when they get to be juniors and seniors and they get behind late in a game. Of course, there may come a day when they hit the "on" switch and nothing happens.

Until then, fans, grab hold, hang on and enjoy the ride.

If Tuiasosopo weren’t caught up in the middle of it, he could probably enjoy it more. As it is, he’s sometimes "dumbfounded" by what he sees on films the day after. He’ll notice little things that go wrong and say, "If we could just do this, it’d be so easy. On the field, it’s so crazy."

You want crazy? The Huskies insert a third-string tailback, a guy they tried to turn into a receiver last spring, and he leads them from a 12-point deficit to a 22-point fourth quarter comeback with 109 yards rushing, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion.

"You don’t have to be a star," Willie Hurst said. "As long as you play hard, everything will work out for you."

It’s certainly working out for Hurst, whom the Huskies wanted to make a pass catcher because they had this bright young back named Paul Arnold coming up and a capable backup in Braxton Cleman. Hurst, who had started 14 games in his first two years as a Husky, couldn’t get the hang of running pass routes and found it "very frustrating."

"I was learning a whole new position in a matter of two weeks," he said. "It was kinda like a crash course."

What kept him going: his parents.

"I talked to them at least three times a week and they told me everything would be OK. They said to just keep working and things will work out for you. They must have seen something in the future because here it is."

With nobody staking a solid claim to tailback, Hurst burst forth with a good performance (96 yards and two TDs) in the 31-28 win over Stanford a week ago, another one of those fourth quarter jobs.

Hurst made two spectacular touchdown runs against Arizona, the first after taking a pitchout from Tuiasosopo and dashing up the sideline on a 65-yard sprint to cut Arizona’s lead to 25-20. As stunning as that one was, it comes off a sorry second to his other run.

First and 10, Huskies, at the Arizona 23.

Hurst gets the ball, starts upfield, is hit, spins completely around, looks as if he’s going down, puts his left hand on the ground to regain his balance and runs on into the end zone.

Wait’ll the Huskies see that one in the film room today. It’s certain to elicit some oohs and aahs. "I thought he was down," coach Rick Neuheisel said. "I’m going to be re-winding that film a couple of times to see how he did that."

Remember Hurst’s freshman year, when the coaches got on him for his spin moves? "I remember I was spinning on just about everything," he said.

That was the Jim Lambright staff. The Neuheisel staff has given him the go-ahead for such moves, "but just know when to do them."

He found the right moment Saturday. "I thought at first it was going to be a 6- or 7-yard gain," Tuiasosopo said. "Then he gets through that first guy and I thought ‘first down.’ It was an awesome play to see."

He wouldn’t have seen it if Hurst hadn’t been at tailback.

Hurst said he never considered transferring when the coaches moved him to slotback. "I’d been here two years, I’ve established myself, I love playing in Husky Stadium," he said. "We play against the best (teams) in the country so if I’d have left (for) anywhere (else), it’d have been a step down."

Having to work himself back into the tailback rotation has made him savor even more the playing time he gets. "If something is given to you on a silver platter," he said, "you never really appreciate it."

Tuiasosopo considers Hurst an inspiration.

"A lot of guys would have been up and out of here," the quarterback said. "He stuck it out. He’s a team guy. He swallowed his pride and said the team is really the important thing. He’s reaping what he sowed early in the year."

Now the Huskies have reaped their eighth win in nine games.

No. 9 in 10 comes Saturday.

Fourth quarter.


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