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Running Game, Defense Deliver Big for Huskies
Release: 09/17/2005
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Sept. 17, 2005

The Husky running game finally has something to be happy about as it put up huge numbers in the team's first win of the season. Led by sophomore Louis Rankin the Huskies punished Idaho by running all over the place in route to a 34-6 win at Husky Stadium. They will head into Notre Dame this week coming off their best performance of the year on Band Day at Husky Stadium.

For the second time in three games, Rankin eclipsed the 100-yard mark, doing it in just two quarters against Idaho. He rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Midway through the third quarter he set a new career high, hitting 115 yards, which is ultimately the yardage total he'd end up with. For Rankin, the highlight of the day was his first career touchdown, coming on a 48-yard run to paydirt.

"It was real exciting," said Rankin about his touchdown. "It felt like the a dream until I got into the endzone."

Rankin's run sparked the Husky offense. It was the beginning a streak of six straight drives ending in Husky scores. Washington capped the streak with Isaiah Stanback hooking up with Johnie Kirton for a six-yard touchdown to turn the game into a blowout.

"We played well," said senior fullback Ty Eriks. "We had been doing it all week in practice. We had been pounding the ball and it was something that we really wanted to do was come out and run the ball better than we had in the past and we just got it done today."

Washington was almost exclusively a running team in the first half racking up 161 yards and two touchdowns, while Stanback only threw for 77 yards and no scores. While Stanback didn't post gaudy numbers, finishing with 145 yards passing, he was consistent and sparked the Huskies when necessary. His play did not go unnoticed by the opposition.

"(Stanback's) a good athlete and he'll make a lot of plays with his legs and he'll always give them a chance," said Idaho Head Coach Nick Holt. "He did exactly what I thought he would do. You've go to keep getting better personnel so when we are all over him, you've got to be able to finish it."

Defense Shows its Grit

After getting pushed around two consecutive weeks, the Husky defense came out against Idaho on Saturday and clamped down on the Vandals offense. The Husky defense didn't allow the Vandals into the endzone, held their rushing attack to minus four yards on the day and sacked quarterback Steven Wichman seven times, including four by Manase Hopoi.

"I think the entire group played well," said Husky Head Coach Tyrone Willingham. "But we asked (Hopoi) especially, being one of our seniors and one of our leaders, to take some leadership. I think that he embraced that. He was excited to have a little more focus being placed on him and he stepped up."

Hopoi took the challenge upon his shoulder and was more than happy to help carry the load.

"I was just motivated," explained Hopoi. "Coach (Randy) Hart was getting on us, saying we weren't getting a pass rush, so I tried my best to get after them. I saw the Wazzu game and the UNLV game and I saw their D-linemen get some sacks so I though, `Why not me?' So I tried to get after it as best I could, use my quickness as an advantage."

Hopoi wasn't the only Husky to post stellar numbers. Defensive tackle Wilson Afoa recorded seven tackles to share the team lead with defensive back C.J. Wallace. Wallace had a sack and also a pass break up. Donny Mateaki had an impressive day with two sacks for 18 loss yards and Mike Mapuolesega broke through the Vandals punt protection for a block. The list of heroes for the Huskies is a long one.

"You can feel the energy in this locker room," said linebacker Scott White. "Everybody's excited, everybody's upbeat. We've got to keep it going. We had a lot of good things going for us out there. Hopefully this will springboard us into the heart of our season now."

For now, the Huskies will enjoy this win but they know an angry Notre Dame team awaits them. But the Huskies are treating the upcoming game just like any other game.

"It means we have a chance to be 2-and-2 and that's pretty good," said Willingham when asked what the game will mean to him. "I think that is exciting to be 2-and-2."

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