Sports

Dawgs get best of Trojans

For faithful football fans of the Washington Huskies, it's already been a good season as the Dawgs head for Stanford and then Notre Dame following three straight games in the friendly confines of Husky Stadium.

The Huskies are the talk of the nation following a heart-thumping 16-13 win over the USC Trojans last Saturday before 61,889 almost disbelieving fans.

I've seen more old purple and gold apparel being worn in the last few days than I've seen in years, it was that kind of a victory.

Was it the biggest upset win in Husky history? I can't remember any bigger, fans.

Since 1953 when I was a freshman UW, I've been involved with the Husky football program and have followed several Olympic Peninsula athletes through the program. It was in 1953 that I discovered I needed glasses while trying to see the then all-grass field from the press box, 180 feet in the air.

Former Roughrider football and basketball great Scott Jones gave me a few great years covering Husky football when he was a tall, talented tight end. Jones is on the Port Angeles staff right now as an unpaid volunteer coach.

I followed the career of Aaron Dalan from Sequim when the big tackle was knocking down Husky foes and he was a joy to interview before and after games.

It hurt long-time fans to lose 12 straight games last year. Tack on the last two from the 2007 season and the opening loss this year to LSU, it was 15 straight.

That streak came to an end Sept. 12 when Washington routed Idaho 42-23. The Husky players really didn't know what to do after the win as victory celebration experience was lacking up and down the roster.

The Huskies showed more life in losing to Louisiana State than they did all of last season. Same personnel? Many were back from last year. Different scheme? A very different scheme for all. New coaches? I'm thinking this is the biggest reason Washington has rebounded.

New head coach Steve Sarkisian brought with him great assistant coaches and the USC way of doing things and it started last spring with the early drills.

Although they allowed Idaho way too many passing yards, the Huskies dominated the Vandals and the victory was sweet and then some, but it was back to work as the schedule has no more easy teams.

USC came to town last Saturday off a big win at Ohio State so they were not intimidated by the big throng at Husky Stadium that was hoping the Huskies would at least play hard against a team favored by 20 points.



Trojan lore

What does it mean going against a USC? Try seven straight AP Top 4 finishes, BCS bowls, Pac-10 titles and seven straight 11-win seasons.

The game started with USC rolling up 111 yards rushing over the left defensive side of the Husky line getting huge holes you could drive a logging truck through for an easy first score, then a field goal.

Washington showed its mettle by scoring on an eight-play, 48-yard drive with 11 seconds left in the first period to make it a 10-7 game.

Then the new Washington coaching staff took control of the game. They went back to their basic 4-3 defense and brought in two faster players for the starters. Those moves helped close the huge hole and the Trojan runners gained only 139 yards on the ground the rest of the game.

Sure, USC helped with two big fumbles which ended drives at the UW 26 and 16 when they were rolling and Washington came up with a third-period pass interception to stop an other scoring effort. It was 10-10 at halftime.

The game turned at the end of the third period when the Huskies punted the visitors to the nine-yard line. The Trojans got out to the 23, then had to punt. Washington then drove from their 39 to a go-ahead field goal. The drive was 11 plays for 33 yards, but took 4:28 and the defense got a long rest. Washington ran and threw the football and got to the 17, but a hold penalty put them back and sophomore Erik Polk kicked a 46-yard field goal.

The purple defense held USC to three downs and a punt after the kickoff, but the offense stumbled on the next possession and had to punt again. The Trojans got a good return, then drove from their 44 to the Husky seven, but a third down run was stuffed and USC settled for a 13-13 tie with a 25-yard field goal.



The drive

With the 61,889 fans rocking the old stadium, Washington drove from their 33-yard-line to the Trojan four-yard-line with :07 on the clock. The winning drive started with a 21-yard sack of junior quarterback Jake Locker. He calmly went to work, throwing a 28-yard pass, running for four more, a throw for nine, a throw for 19 and getting hit late on the same play.

Kickoff to USC, Trojans tried a lateral play, then another, then the Huskies stopped the ball carrier and it seemed like all the fans in the stands wound up on the field.

My thoughts on the huge upset of third-ranked USC? The game against LSU helped win this one as the Tigers were a much quicker, speedier team on both sides of the ball.

Is Husky football of old back? Just might be, but there is a lot of season left and how they play at Stanford and Notre Dame will determine just how far the Huskies are back.



Husky notebook

There are a lot of family ties on the 2009 edition of the Washington Huskies and Sequim fans might be surprised to know that fullback Paul Homer is a cousin, by marriage, of former Husky lineman Aaron Dalan of Sequim.

Dalan married former Washington women's basketball player Gena Pelz.

Former Port Angeles Roughrider Joel Thomas is the running backs coach for the Dawgs. Thomas is still the all-time leader in rushes, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns for Idaho and we'll be doing another feature on Thomas later in the season.

Speaking of home games, Washington is now 85-28-5 in home openers, whether the first game of the season or not. Washington did not play any home games in 1890 or 1893. At one time, Washington had a 28-game home win streak from 1908-1935.

Reach Scooter Chapman at scooter@olypen.com.



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