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SPORTS EXTRA / COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Washington Still Has National View

Pacific 10: Game gets TV timeout, but Huskies stay in BCS business with 42-28 win over Stanford.

November 04, 2001|CHRIS DUFRESNE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SEATTLE — The game wasn't on television, anywhere, no molecules miraculously coming together, so you'll have to take our word that No.10 Stanford at No.11 Washington probably would have won its time slot.

Technically, ESPN rolled in a truck just to get a satellite coordinate feed for its nightly highlights-- Pacific 10 Conference football , it's out there somewhere! --but the players paid little heed to this unusual absence of medium.

So while Saturday's game may not have had Nielsen implications, Washington's thrilling 42-28 victory over Stanford at Husky Stadium before a crowd of 72,790 promises to have a ripple effect in the Pac-10 race and maybe even the bowl championship series.

Thrilling?

You had to be there.

This was no 14-point blowout.

It was, in fact, a typical Washington white-knuckler.

This week, the Huskies--who had to rally for 18 of their previous 24 wins under Coach Rick Neuheisel--let a 28-13 second-half lead slip away to nothing, Stanford tying the game at 28-all in the fourth quarter on a touchdown and two-point conversion. You should have seen the two-pointer, 6-foot-7 receiver Teyo Johnson--a forward on the Cardinal basketball team--leaping over helpless 5-11 cornerback Roc Alexander on an alley-oop catch.

Once again, though, Washington turned to sophomore quarterback Cody Pickett, who led his team on a 77-yard, 14-play drive to the go-ahead touchdown with 3:48 left, tailback Willie Hurst scoring on a two-yard run.

Stanford got the ball back with 3:39 left, but failed on a fourth-and-four pass when Alexander, seeking his just revenge, helped to bat down another lob pass to Johnson.

Washington scored a late touchdown on a 15-yard Hurst run with four seconds left.

With the game a national blackout, for reasons only ABC can explain, and Washington needing to pile up points in the four BCS computers that consider margin of victory, Hurst's last score might have seemed a tactical ploy.

"That was the furthest thing from my mind," Neuheisel said. "We were just trying to effectively get rid of the clock."

Still, the BCS beauty contest points won't hurt as Washington (7-1) supplants Stanford (5-2) as the one-loss Pac-10 school with an outside shot to make a run at the Rose Bowl.

Washington was No. 11 in last week's BCS standings, a whopping 16.96 points behind No. 2 Oklahoma, but Saturday's win gives Neuheisel's Huskies a head of steam with BCS-boosting games against Washington State (Nov. 17) and Miami (Nov. 24) yet to play.

Naturally, none of that matters if Washington doesn't beat Oregon State next week in Corvallis.

"I told the team not to fall prey to that," Neuheisel said of talk about his team getting back in the national title hunt. "We found out a year ago we have no control over that. Teams sometimes get caught up with what might be instead of what needs to be done."

Let us note, though, that Washington might be very good.

After a harrowing two-year run of near misses, Washington played perhaps its most complete game this season.

It has been said that you can't win the Pac-10 title without a senior quarterback (Ryan Leaf, 1997) Cade McNown (1998), Marques Tuiasosopo (2000), but Pickett is trying to disprove that axiom.

Against Stanford, Pickett completed 15 of 28 passes for 291 yards and a touchdown, and also rushed for 22 yards and a touchdown.

Pickett doesn't run the option the way Tuiasosopo did. You get the sense Pickett doesn't like running it because of the toll it takes on his body.

Yet, he says "It's something we've got to do to keep people off balance."

Pickett, who already has that "Comeback Kid" look, ran the option until his bruised left shoulder took another pop, then hurt Stanford with the pass.

Pickett proved resilient in a second half that demanded focus, maturity and patience after a late third-quarter hit, Washington receiver Charles Frederick on Stanford strong safety Simba Hodari, left Hodari limp and motionless near mid-field.

Play was stopped for about 15 minutes.

It was a horrifying scene that rekindled painful memories of last year's game at Palo Alto, when Washington strong safety Curtis Williams was paralyzed from the neck down after a hit against Stanford.

"Eerie," Neuheisel said. "A bizarre set of circumstances."

Williams was injured with 2:01 left in the third quarter last year; Hodari fell with 1:34 left in the third Saturday.

Players from both schools gathered in hushed silence as medical personnel attended to Hodari.

"It was the same type of feeling," Washington nose tackle Larry Tripplett said. "You never want to see anything like that. I kept saying to myself, 'Move a foot, move a hand, let us know everything is OK."'

Unlike Williams, initial reports on Hodari were encouraging. According to a Washington spokesman, Hodari suffered a severe concussion but had movement in all of his extremities and had full motor function. As a precaution, he was scheduled to stay overnight at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center for observation.

"He is doing OK," Stanford Coach Tyrone Willingham said. "Once we have exhausted all of the examinations then we will be able to tell you very accurately what happened and his condition."

It was somber Saturday on all fronts for Stanford, which came to Seattle with a No. 6 BCS ranking and an outside shot at getting back in the national title race. With two losses, however, the Cardinal has not only been eliminated from the Rose Bowl, its chances of winning the Pac-10 have been severely diminished.

Despite consecutive wins against top-five schools, Oregon and UCLA, Stanford discovered here that success in the Pac-10 is a week-to-week proposition.

"This game does affect the things that we started the season believing we could accomplish," Willingham said. "In this conference it is almost a rarity that a team wins the conference title with two losses and the last time I checked we have two losses."

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