Nov. 19, 2005
Contribution from Brian Tom, Benton Strong and Erin Rodenbiker
Most Husky seniors have sweated the past four of five years for the purple and gold. This year's Apple Cup was their one last chance to shine. Senior J.R. Wolfork is an exception to the rule.
Wolfork joined the Huskies in the spring after transferring to Washington from Pacific Lutheran University. His bread-and-butter was not even football. He earned his reputation in track and field where he was a Division III All-American in the triple jump for PLU before joining Greg Metcalf's track squad in 2003-04.
He struggled through injuries during his first season, causing him to redshirt, but he recovered well enough to contribute to the Huskies for the 2004-05 season. He excelled enough to earn an NCAA Outdoor berth in the triple jump and long jump.
It was about that time that Wolfork decided to embark on another adventure - join the Husky football team with one year of eligibility.
Wolfork made a contribution all season long, earning a job as one of two gunners on special team. And on Saturday against Washington State, in his last appearance in a Husky football uniform, he made the biggest play of his career.
With the Huskies trailing 13-7 in the third quarter and his team forced to punt, Wolfork sped down the field, much like he had done all season long, and jumped on a muffed return by the Cougars' Trandon Harvey. The play energized the Huskies and led them to a seven play, 35-yard drive that ended in a touchdown and gave the Huskies their first lead of the game.
"In the Apple Cup, senior season, last game, what a day to make a play," beamed Wolfork. "The ball came out and I said `I'm going to get that ball.' When I got up with that ball and I heard the crowd roar, that made up for all the mistakes I made this season. It was amazing.
"Track is kind of a low key sport, so since I've been in sports, that has got to be the highlight of my life."
Wolfork will now take a couple weeks off before switching his focus to the track. In the meantime, he reflected positively on the one year of experience he had on the football field as a Husky.
"I only had one year of being a Husky, but I can say for the rest of my life that I am a Husky, I can truly say that," reflected Wolfork. "When I first arrived at Washington, my first memory was of the Apple Cup. I said `I'm going to be a part of this.' I was fortunate to have Coach Willinham accept me and give me an opportunity.
"All the guys on the team they're like brothers to me. I'm from Georgia, so being so far away from home it's like I have another family and it makes it seem like I'm not so far away from home. Right now, being a Husky is life for me. I am a Husky."
Unlike other seniors on the football team, Wolfork is lucky enough to have another chance this winter and spring on the track. You can bet he will make the most of his last opportunity as a Husky.
Shackelford, Trick Play Work Magic In Apple Cup
For the second time this season wide receiver Sonny Shackelford topped the 100-yard mark.
Against WSU, Shackelford caught for balls for 121 yards and a touchdown. The total is the second best of his career, topped only by a six-catch, 124-yard performance against Cal in week two.
The sophomore from Beverly Hills, Calif., got his longest catch on a trick play that tied the game midway through the first quarter. On first and 10 from the Husky 35-yard line, quarterback Isaiah Stanback pitched the ball to Kenny James. James ran toward the Washington State sideline, stopped and threw the ball back across the field for Shackelford. In triple coverage the receiver leaped and came down with the ball. As all defenders missed the tackle, Shackelford spun away and took the ball for a 65-yard touchdown.
"We were running a halfback option pass and I just ran to the open field," Shackelford said. "I just went up and got it. It just so happened that they didn't tackle me, so I ran away."
It was also the second pass of James' career, both completions. Coach Tyrone Willingham said his team had planned to use more plays like that in the rivalry game.
"It is just a great game to have some of those in," Willingham said. "Take a few more risks and do some things a little different."
It was Shackelford's second touchdown catch of the season. He finished the 2005 campaign with team-highs of 41 catches and 592 yards.
The Huskies had two 500-yard receivers and one who finished with 485 yards this season. The future looks bright as that entire trio is made up of sophomores that will return with a season of experience under coach Willingham.
Apple Cup Lives Up To It's Billing
With a game that junior cornerback Matt Fountaine calls "one of the biggest rivalries in college sports" and it was no surprise that the Apple Cup came down to the final seconds of the fourth quarter. And although the game did not produce a victory for the Dawgs senior Evan Benjamin has no regrets about his last year wearing the purple and gold.
Benjamin, named one of four Husky team captains before the finale, left it all on the field in his last game at Husky Stadium recording 14 tackles, two for a loss, including a sack against the Cougars. Despite his their best efforts, Benjamin and his teammates could not stop Cougar running back Jerome Harrison.
"He is definitely a good back," said Benjamin about Harrison. "I know that everyone has been talking about him because he is quick and he has great vision, but he is also a tough guy to tackle and I think their offensive line did a great job."
In the end it was not Harrison that put the stake through the Huskies heart, it was Trandon Henry, who corralled a short pass into a 39-yard touchdown scamper with less that two minutes remaining.
"They got to the line real quick and were able to snap the ball and get it to a playmaker," Benjamin recalled about the touchdown. "It was hard to see, but he beat the corner and was able to get off to the races. That said, we should have tackled him.
When asked if the Apple Cup loss was a step back for the Huskies progress this year, Benjamin said it wasn't, he just `wishes we could have pulled out the victory.'