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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Last year’s Hail Mary still fresh in Arizona’s mind

    Junior linebacker Spencer Larsen cant corral Washington quarterback Isaiah Stanback in last years 38-14 loss to the Huskies at Arizona Stadium. Stanback and the Huskies ran for 333 yards.
    Junior linebacker Spencer Larsen can’t corral Washington quarterback Isaiah Stanback in last year’s 38-14 loss to the Huskies at Arizona Stadium. Stanback and the Huskies ran for 333 yards.

    One play can change the course of a game. But it can also alter the course of a program.

    It’s something Washington became familiar with after quarterback Isaiah Stanback’s 69-yard prayer landed in the hands of since-transferred wideout Craig Chambers as time expired in the first half of the Huskies’ 38-14 win over Arizona last season.

    The strike, which knotted the score at 14 and seized the momentum in the game, vaulted Washington on a streak, winning four of six games, including wins this season over San Jose State, Fresno State and, last week, UCLA.

    Despite turnovers plaguing Arizona last year in a second half in which Washington scored 28 unanswered points, it was that play ending the first half that haunted the dreams of Wildcats in the week following the game, the play that Arizona (2-2, 0-1 Pacific 10 Conference) will look to avenge when the Huskies (3-1, 1-0) roll into Arizona Stadium tomorrow at 7 p.m.

    “”I think that people were shocked that he even threw the Hail Mary,”” defensive tackle Lionel Dotson said. “”We didn’t know (Stanback) had an arm like that. I didn’t think he did, but he threw it far.…He just chucked it up, and they caught it. Everybody was like, ‘Did (Chambers) really just catch the ball?'””

    Said safety Michael Johnson: “”There was no way they were going to complete that pass.””

    But Stanback, who also gained 96 yards and scored twice on the ground that day, did.

    “”We were actually going to go into halftime with the lead. It just helped swing the momentum to them,”” cornerback Wilrey Fontenot said. “”We were back-pedaling, and I was looking, and I said, ‘Wow, that ball’s really flying that far.’ And then – yeah, (Stanback) also has great arm strength, apparently.””

    Coming off a stunning 52-14 upset of then-No. 7 and undefeated UCLA the week before, Arizona seemed to finally have everything clicking. But the game against Washington, which hadn’t won a conference game since the end of the 2003 season, became the low point of the season.

    “”The whole game bothers me a great deal, how we played,”” UA head coach Mike Stoops said. “”Coming off a great win, to come back like that – we just didn’t play well, and they came in here and took it right to us.…They pushed us around, and that’s something we have to take personal and take it as a great challenge this week.””

    Added Fontenot: “”Just embarrassment. We came off a high that week, and we felt like we just went right back to the bottom.””

    After early success that included a 29-27 win at Oregon State and the upset of UCLA, quarterback Willie Tuitama struggled in his third start, turning the ball over five times.

    “”Last year…I was still young,”” the sophomore said. “”But now, I know our game plan. I know what they’re going to try to do to us, so I’m going to be ready to go.””

    Despite the fact that it didn’t show up in the win column, the Wildcats will look to build on a solid performance in last week’s 20-3 loss to No. 3 USC that saw them hold the Trojans to season lows in points, total yards, first downs and yards passing.

    “”It’s a much better team than the record indicates,”” Washington head coach Ty Willingham said of Arizona.

    Still, the Wildcats hope to avoid a showing similar to last year’s.

    “”I guess some teams, they play well one week, and then they get complacent and overconfident, and they don’t prepare for the next team,”” Johnson said. “”That’s what happened last year. We were unprepared, and we went in there and thought they were going to hand the win to us, and we lost.””

    Junior Antoine Cason added: “”They came to our house last year and beat us up, so we don’t want that to happen again.””

    The game marks the start of what Stoops termed a “”critical stretch”” of conference play that includes back-to-back road games in California to face UCLA and Stanford before returning home for Homecoming Oct. 21 against Oregon State.

    “”This is a huge week,”” Stoops said. “”It’s going to be a big game Saturday night.

    “”Last year, I thought they embarrassed us in a lot of ways.””

    Tickets still available.

    As of yesterday, roughly 4,000 public tickets remained for tomorrow’s game, which won’t be televised locally.

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