Sept. 25, 2006
SEATTLE (AP) - Tyrone Willingham is determined to make Washington a respectable program with a postseason bowl game, and his singular focus was firmly displayed against UCLA.
His Huskies were less than an hour from a stirring 29-19 comeback win over UCLA. But there was Willingham, staring at the television to catch final few minutes of Arizona's loss to Southern California. The Huskies face Arizona next Saturday night.
Moments later, quarterback Isaiah Stanback joined Willingham, taking a minute to get an early look at the Wildcats. The Huskies and their fans are plenty excited about being 3-1 and halfway to the required six wins for a bowl game.
But no one is celebrating yet, especially Willingham.
"We've decided in here that nobody else can tell us that we can't do it anymore," tight end Johnie Kirton said. "We are definitely a whole lot stronger than we were the last couple of years."
That newfound resolve showed Saturday as the Huskies rallied from a 16-0 deficit to surprise the Bruins. The Huskies are also getting some national respect, listed among the "others receiving votes" in this week's Associated Press Top 25 with 13 ballots.
Last week's 21-20 win over Fresno State was believed to be the momentum-shifting win the Huskies needed, with fourth-quarter plays edging a quality opponent.
Of course, there were similar thoughts last year when Washington impressively beat Arizona 38-13, but followed up with a disappointing 26-22 loss to Washington State.
Saturday's win over UCLA exhibited a new level of growth.
"It's us being together with this staff and working together for the last two years," Stanback said. "That continuity you can't get without playing together."
Normally stoic and reserved, Willingham is showing fire and passion in his second season. Upset with a lackluster first half, Willingham tore into his team at halftime Saturday, demanding to know if they were afraid of the Bruins.
The answer came in the 22-3 second half for the Huskies, capped by Dan Howell's 33-yard interception return for a touchdown with 6:02 left.
Willingham's changing attitude was also apparent on a third-quarter punt. UCLA's Terrence Austin returned the kick 79 yards, but was dragged down at the Washington 9 by defensive end Greyson Gunheim, who sprinted from behind to catch the wide receiver.
Washington then held UCLA to a field goal that kept the deficit at 19-14 -- the third time UCLA's offense got inside the Washington 10 but was held to a field goal.
On the other side, Washington's offense spent 27 minutes moving backward before finding its rhythm late in the first half. Offensive coordinator Tim Lappano abandoned any thoughts of a running game and instead went with three, four and five wide receiver sets in the second half and letting quarterback Isaiah Stanback improvise.
Stanback was 11-for-16 with two touchdowns and rushed for 48 yards in the second half. He was responsible for 248 yards of offense. Washington finished with 249 total yards.
"I'm not trying to prove nothing," Stanback said. "Whatever they want to do, we want to make them pay for it."
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