Stanback Leads Purple to 24-3 Spring Game Win
April 22, 2006
HUSKY STADIUM - Quarterback Isaiah Stanback capped an impressive spring Saturday with long touchdown passes on each of his first two drives to lead the Purple team to a 24-3 win in the Huskies' annual Purple-Gold Game at Husky Stadium.
Stanback's offense, plus a shutdown performance by junior cornerback Roy Lewis, were all the Purple team needed to defeat the Gold in the two-hour scrimmage, which marked the end of Washington's spring football practice season.
The junior, who started all 11 games at quarterback for the Huskies last season, came out firing on the game's first possession, completing all three of his pass attempts in a five-play, 77-yard scoring drive. Stanback capped the series with a 43-yard strike to junior Anthony Russo -- the first of three completions of 40 yards or more -- to stake the Purple team to a 7-0 lead just three minutes into the contest.
After an eight-play Gold team drive stalled at midfield on a sack by junior Wilson Afoa, Stanback wasted no time putting the Purple team back on the scoreboard. Senior tailback Kenny James carried for one yard on first down before Stanback found Duke transfer Chancellor Young streaking behind the secondary for a 55-yard score, his second in just seven plays to start the game.
Stanback added another bomb -- this time coverting a third-and-16 with a 67-yarder to wide receiver Cody Ellis at the one-yard line -- in the closing minute of the second half, and finished the half an impressive five-for-six for 184 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. James punched it in from the one-yard line on the following play for his first score of the day, and the Purple team held a 21-3 edge at the half.
Stanback finished the game six-of-nine for 190 yards, with two TDs and one interception, while junior Carl Bonnell went four-for-12 for 111 yards, and junior Johnny Durocher finished six-for-16 for 65 yards and an interception.
"I thought that all four of the quarterbacks, from Felix Sweetman right up through Isaiah, did some good things today, "Willingham said. "They had a better handle and feel for all of the things that we have been asking them to do since last spring. [On the long throws], Isaiah got the ball there, and guys made some nice plays."
While the Purple team's offense controlled much of the first half, it was the defense that took control after intermission, limiting the Gold team to just one first down in the second half. No defensive player made more of an impact than Lewis, who led all tacklers with seven and added three pass breakups and a forced fumble.
"I've been pleased with what Roy has given us all spring," Willingham said. "He's been solid, energetic and aggressive on defense. Today, when he had a chance to make a play, he took advantage of it and did well."
Sophomore linebacker Chris Stevens and junior defensive end Greyson Gunheim each recorded a sack, while senior cornerback Dashon Goldson made an athletic interception of quarterback Felix Sweetman, catching the ball over his shoulder like a centerfielder while running upfield with his back to the play.
The Purple team might have run away with it if not for the effort of the Gold team's defense, which matched the Purple defense play-for-play in the second half. Senior defensive end Brandon Ala notched his first sack of the spring in the third quarter, and junior safety Chris Hemphill made a diving interception of Stanback in the fourth -- on the play immediately following the aforementioned pick by Goldson.
In all, it was a well-rounded performance for the Huskies' offensive units, which combined for 306 yards passing and 142 yards on the ground, not counting yards lost to sacks. Despite frequently matching up its No. 2 offensive line against the No. 1 defensive unit, the Huskies' linemen surrendered just five sacks, an impressive number considering that defensive players could earn a sack by merely touching the non-contact quarterbacks.
"We came into the spring having to replace, I think, five of our top-six offensive linemen from last year," Willingham said. "The growth of that offensive line is going to be extremely important to the progress of our football team."
Junior tailback Louis Rankin totaled 50 yards on just six carries for the Purple team, including a 30-yard run that brought the crowd to its feet. After taking the handoff at midfield and finding no room to his right, Rankin angled back across the line and sprinted downfield towards the left sideline, cutting back inside a nifty downfield block by quarterback Carl Bonnell before finally being tackled inside the 20-yard line.
James also ran well, finishing with 21 yards on seven carries -- including the one-yard touchdown -- while redshirt freshman J.R. Hasty netted 30 yards on 10 carries with the Gold team, and was also the team's leading receiver with three catches, for seven yards.
"All three of those running backs have showed some impressive things this spring," Willingham said. "I think if I had to pick a leader of that group right now it would be Kenny James, but Louis Rankin has done some wonderful things as well."
It's spring practice season concluded, Washington's players and coaches can now begin to focus on the season-opener vs. San Jose State on Sept. 2. Having seen his team work out for nearly a full month, Willingham says he is pleased with the team's progress, and optimistic entering his second fall at the helm of the UW program.
"There are still areas that we need to shore up before San Jose State comes here in September," Willingham said. "But in all honesty, I thought this was a good performance for us. I've seen a lot of growth on this football team in all places."