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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Stanback lifts Washington again over Wildcats

    Blown scoring opportunities, bungled pass coverage, missed tackles – each and all played into the Arizona football team’s latest disappointing loss, this one a 21-10 setback to Washington last night in front of 55,409 at Arizona Stadium.

    Like the students who threw debris on the field in the game’s final minutes, Syndric Steptoe apparently has seen enough.

    Players said the senior wide receiver, who received stitches on his nose after the game and wasn’t immediately available for comment, has called a players-only meeting set for today.

    There, he and the team’s other captains will try to motivate teammates to pick up their play after two close losses to open the Pacific 10 Conference schedule.

    “”It’s just basically going to be a reality check for us, to hear what our captain has to say, man to man, teammate to teammate,”” wide receiver Mike Thomas said. “”I just look forward to real tough, player-to-player conversation.””

    Coming on the heels of Arizona’s 20-3 loss to No. 3 USC last weekend, a seeming confidence-builder for the Wildcats (2-3, 0-2 Pac-10) after getting dominated in the teams’ prior four meetings, Saturday night’s anticipated rematch with the Huskies (4-1, 2-0) was all but over by halftime.

    And for the second year in a row, Washington quarterback Isaiah Stanback was at the forefront. This time, however, the redshirt senior beat Arizona with his arm rather than his legs, finishing 14-of-25 for a season-high 293 yards passing.

    The Huskies rode Stanback to a surprise 38-14 win in Tucson last November, when he ran for 96 of the team’s 333 rushing yards.

    “”He’s got a tremendous arm, and his receivers made some nice catches,”” UA head coach Mike Stoops said. “”He’s a fifth-year senior. He’s a good player.””

    Washington scored all of its points in a five-and-a-half minute span in the second quarter, when Stanback used a series of deep passes to spur the Huskies to a 21-3 halftime lead.

    After Nick Folk’s 52-yard field goal broke a scoreless tie with 10 minutes remaining in the first half, Stanback connected with wideout Sonny Shackelford three times on Washington’s ensuing drive, first on a 50-yard reception and finally for a three-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead.

    On the Huskies’ next drive, Stanback threw a 44-yard strike to Anthony Russo to get inside the Arizona 10, and a pair of four-yard Kenny James runs later, the Huskies were up 14-3.

    The Wildcats went three-and-out on their following possession, and with less than a minute remaining, Stanback hit Shackelford for 25 yards on first down before flinging a 56-yard touchdown to receiver Quintin Daniels on the next play.

    “”We broke down in the second quarter,”” said safety Michael Johnson, who had one of Arizona’s few highlights with a leaping interception, his first of the season, in the first quarter. “”That’s what cost us the game.””

    Although quarterback Willie Tuitama turned in arguably his best performance of the season, going 24-of-41 for a season-high 308 yards, his ability to turn long completions into eventual scores was again hindered by a lack of protection and an ineffective running game.

    Arizona finished with negative rushing yards – minus seven on 24 carries – for the second straight game, including the 62 Tuitama lost on his six sacks.

    Nonetheless, Thomas and Steptoe finished with 91 and 85 receiving yards, respectively.

    “”I just think we let a good opportunity slip away,”” Stoops said. “”Washington’s got a good football team. They have a great playmaker in Isaiah Stanback. They believe in the kid, and we just got to get people believing in our quarterback and getting some guys around him that take a great deal of pride in protecting him and go to work for him.

    “”We’re just not getting it done.””

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