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Huskies Use Odd Couple to Clean Up

Quarterback Pickett is the cowboy, receiver Williams is the cocky one, and together they're tough to contain

October 02, 2003|Robyn Norwood | Times Staff Writer

Cody Pickett and Reggie Williams are variations on a couple of American legends.

Pickett is the cowboy, a darn good calf-roper from Idaho who became Washington's record-setting quarterback.

Williams is a new sort of legend.

He's the cocksure receiver in the tradition of Keyshawn Johnson and Terrell Owens -- big, strong, fast and ready to make sure you know it.

The way the story goes, something as minor as beating a teammate on a deep route in training camp can erupt into a boisterous pronouncement of his ability.

"Can't ... nobody guard me."

Williams bragged so much when he arrived as a freshman, letting his teammates know he'd probably be leaving them in his dust for the NFL in three years, they shaved his head.

Then he went out in his first game against Michigan, dropped a couple of passes, then hauled in a catch that went for 74 yards.

"He's very confident. He always wants the ball, and that's a good thing," Pickett said.

"I don't know what it is about that position. But they've still got to have somebody get them the ball. They can't do it on their own."

That's why the Pickett-Williams combination works so well. They need each other -- "like peanut butter and jelly," Williams once told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer -- and they know it.

"He's not your typical cowboy," Williams said of Pickett, approvingly. "We listen to a lot of the same music, and he doesn't walk around in cowboy boots."

Already, Pickett and Williams are the leading passer and leading receiver in Washington history, and Williams is only a junior.

While USC's Carson Palmer was winning the Heisman Trophy last season, Pickett became the first quarterback in Pacific 10 Conference history to pass for more than 4,000 yards, outdoing Palmer, 4,458 to 3,952.

"He's a talented kid, a tough kid, and he proved himself last year," UCLA Coach Karl Dorrell said as the Bruins prepared to play 18th-ranked Washington at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. "There's no doubt this kid can play."

Williams was a first-team All-American, and in a long list of accomplishments there might not be a more amazing statistic than this: He is averaging 101.5 yards receiving a game in his career.

Let teams try what they will to shut him down.

"He had 100 catches last year. No one shut him down," Washington Coach Keith Gilbertson said. (The number was actually 94, but close enough.)

"You can do what you want to do, but we are going to get him the ball."

Dorrell pretty much agreed.

"He presents a lot of problems because he's able to produce every week. There's no way to shut him down," Dorrell said. "We want to try to manage him so that he doesn't hurt you when he wants to hurt you.

"I'm sure he's one of those guys you're going to see playing on Sundays."

Never mind that more than one broadcaster has been tripped up by the similarities between Williams, who is 6 feet 4, 220 pounds and wears No. 1, and USC's standout receiver, Mike Williams, who is 6-5, 230 and also wears No. 1.

Reggie Williams can't even imagine it.

"No, I never heard us confused before," he said.

For all their entries in the Husky record book, Pickett and Williams haven't truly made their mark at Washington.

The year before their collaboration began, Washington played in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.

In their two seasons together, Washington is 18-11, and the Huskies are recovering from a sizable setback, a 28-9 loss to defending national champion Ohio State in the first game of the season.

It didn't help to watch San Diego State, North Carolina State and Bowling Green play the Buckeyes closer than Washington did.

The Huskies might have caught a break last week, with USC's misstep in triple-overtime against California and Oregon's collapse against Washington State

Those losses at least make the Pac-10 race appear wide-open again, though Washington (3-1), once predicted to be a contender, is only a narrow favorite over UCLA (2-2), and UCLA defeated Washington last season, 34-24, in a game in which Pickett threw four interceptions.

Like the Ohio State game, that's all behind him.

"That's the only thing you can do, is put it behind you," Pickett said. "We can't dwell on [the Ohio State loss.] If you dwell on it, your season will go downhill. We've really put it behind us."

Pickett has put the cowboy life behind him for now as well, saying he has hardly been on a horse since he arrived at Washington.

"I stay away from it. It's not something you can do here and there," said Pickett, who competed in calf-roping and team roping, qualifying for the national high school rodeo finals in 1997 and 1998.

He came by that life naturally.

His father, Dee Pickett, played quarterback at Boise State but chose the rodeo for his athletic career and won the world all-around title in 1984.

In August, while Cody was busy in training camp, Dee was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.

"It's just something I was involved in and my dad did for a living," Pickett said. "I don't get tired of it. It's something I'll eventually go back to doing."

After an NFL career, ideally.

"My grandpa's in his 60s, and he does it, still. We have a friend who's 78 and still ropes.

"There's a senior tour, or I might just do a little roping."

For now, he's just trying to lasso another victory for the Huskies.

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Dynamic Duo

Statistics for Washington's top passing duo, quarterback Cody Pickett and receiver Reggie Williams

CODY PICKETT

Attempts...137

Completions...84

Completion percentage...61.3

Yards per game...252.5

Touchdowns...5

Interceptions...2

REGGIE WILLIAMS

Receptions...28

Yards...415

Yards per catch...14.8

Yards per game...103.8

Touchdowns...4

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