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COLLEGE FOOTBALL / WEEK 11

Hurst So Good for No. 8 Washington

Pac-10: Tailback's 23-yard touchdown run symbolizes Huskies' come-from-behind 35-32 victory over Arizona.

November 05, 2000|ROBYN NORWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SEATTLE — The yardage came in huge chunks--40, 50, 60 yards at a time.

Big play after big play, stunning run after stunning run, Washington and Arizona traded blows as the Huskies fought to stay in the Rose Bowl race.

Arizona had No. 8 Washington down.

So have a lot of other teams.

But like running back Willie Hurst somehow keeping his feet with a hand to the turf after a spectacular spin on a 23-yard touchdown run in the fourth-quarter, the Huskies got off the mat for a 35-32 victory that wasn't secured until Anthony Vontoure blocked Sean Keel's 51-yard field-goal attempt with six seconds to play.

"Just another day at Husky Stadium," Washington Coach Rick Neuheisel said.

Down by 12 points with 11 minutes to play, the Huskies scored 22 points for their second last-minute victory in a row.

"It's pretty crazy," said quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, whose two-yard run with 1:10 left gave Washington the lead for good. "I love these guys. There's no quit in them."

A week ago, the Huskies defeated Stanford on Tuiasosopo's touchdown pass with 17 seconds left. Arizona has lost two in a row in the final minutes, falling to UCLA, 27-24, on Cory Paus' last-minute scramble last week.

Washington has won six games by a touchdown or less, and trailed in seven of its eight victories.

"All in all, it comes down to the fourth quarter, and in the fourth quarter, for whatever reason, we really have been charmed," Neuheisel said.

Washington (8-1) has lost only to Oregon, but the Huskies can edge the Ducks for the Rose Bowl berth if Oregon, unbeaten in Pacific 10 Conference games, loses one of its final two games and Oregon State wins its final two, including the finale against Oregon.

Washington also would have to win its final two--against UCLA on Saturday and against Washington State.

That scenario could create a three-way tie among Washington, Oregon and Oregon State at 7-1, and since the teams would have identical records against each other, the deciding factor would be nonconference records, and Oregon is the only team with a nonconference loss. That would leave Washington and Oregon State, and the Huskies defeated the Beavers, 33-30.

The Washington players had more on their minds Saturday than Rose Bowl scenarios.

Before the game, both teams took part in an elaborate show of support for Curtis Williams, the Washington safety who suffered a spinal-cord injury last week against Stanford and remains in intensive care in Palo Alto.

After the Washington band spelled out "C-Dub"--a nickname derived from Williams' initials--the Washington and Arizona players stood on the field while words of encouragement to Williams were announced over the public-address system.

Williams watched the game from his hospital room.

Neuheisel traveled to California on Thursday night to visit Williams and was encouraged by indications of progress, with Williams regaining some feeling in his upper-body, though his breathing is still assisted by a ventilator.

"Everybody who was on that trip came back feeling really good about the improvement he's made," Neuheisel said. "He's responding and the light was there in his eyes."

Arizona (5-4, 3-3) lost despite a spectacular game by running back Leo Mills, who rushed for 185 yards in 29 carries, reaching 100 yards before halftime.

It was Mills who brought Arizona back after Washington went ahead for the first time on Hurst's 23-yard run with 8:31 remaining--his second touchdown of the fourth quarter after a 65-yard run off a shovel pass from Tuiasosopo with 10:51 left.

Mills countered with a 51-yard touchdown run for a 32-28 lead with 4:48 left.

Arizona's Ortege Jenkins completed a 43-yard pass to Brad Brennan on the Wildcats' first play from scrimmage, setting up a 36-yard field goal by Keel only two minutes into the game.

Later, Tuiasosopo broke free for a 46-yard run, the big play in a three-play, 51-second touchdown drive that ended when Tuiasosopo jogged in from a yard out.

The 46-yard run matched the longest of Tuiasosopo's dramatic career as a ballcarrier, the other a nonscoring run against Brigham Young in 1998.

Bobby Wade gave Arizona a 22-10 lead in the third quarter on a 60-yard punt return.

But the Huskies came back--again.

No one symbolized that more than Hurst, a former starting tailback from Compton Dominguez High who was moved to slotback at one point but broke through for a 116-yard game against the Wildcats.

Staggered by a near-tackle on his 23-yard run, Hurst spun, put his left hand to the turf to regain his balance, and carried the ball in to spark Washington's comeback.

"I thought he was down," Neuheisel said. "For him to stay on his feet on that one, I'm going to have to rewind the tape to see."

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