Williams finished the day with 184 receiving yards on just eight receptions. Pickett completed 25 of 35 throws for 345 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. All three touchdowns were to Williams, the first Husky to do that since Mario Bailey in 1991.
Arizona’s Jason Johnson torched the Husky defense by completing 29 of 41 passes for 443 yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted once and sacked five times. In the first half he played pitch and catch with Bobby Wade (10 receptions, 155 yards, 2 TDs) and Andrae Thurman (9 catches, 142 yards, 1 TD), but the Huskies turned up the pass rush a few notches.
On Arizona’s last possession, as Husky fans remembered the Holiday Bowl breakdown against Texas, the Washington defense stood tall. Both Nate Robinson and Jimmy Newell had pass defenses in the clutch to force the ‘Cats to turn the ball over on downs.
Early in the fourth quarter the Wildcats had taken the lead on a 28-yard Bobby Wade reception. Wade took the ball in at the Husky 25 and broke safety Jimmy Newell’s tackle, and bobbed and weaved through the rest of the Washington secondary for an easy touchdown with 12:41 remaining.
The Huskies fought back and looked to take the lead as John Anderson lined up for a 29-yard field goal. Arizona’s Mike Schwertley got his hands up and blocked Anderson’s kick with 6:48 left, much to the chagrin of a stunned Husky Stadium crowd.
A defensive stand by Washington forced Arizona to punt and allowed the Huskies to execute Williams’ catch and run.
“In the grand scheme of things, this game might not be a huge one, but I’m enjoying the heck out of that win,” said Coach Rick Neuheisel after the game.
“You saw what can happen when a guy takes a bad angle,” he said in reference to Williams’ touchdown. “They had a defense that was supposed to not let that happen.”
Arizona was in a four-deep coverage but safety Lamon Means bit hard on the short throw and was unable to contain Williams as he cut outside the cornerback and changed gears down the sidelines and didn’t stop until he had reached the west end zone with the game winner.
Keith Gilbertson commented, “It was just a great, GREAT play. It wasn’t a check, it was just a play where our guy gets into the open field and good things happen.”
Arizona established their offensive mindset on the opening drive. Despite numerous setbacks, the Wildcats were able to somehow go 80 yards for the initial score. Flagged for a false start, a holding penalty that wiped out a 37-yard completion to Bobby Wade, and a personal foul penalty for tripping that nullified a 16-yard screen pass to Marcus Bell, Arizona’s offense overcame. Bobby Wade made catches of 19, 12, and nine yards, but the key came on third down and 19 when Jason Johnson scrambled away from Husky pressure and lofted a ball just over the reach of linebacker Ben Mahdavi and into the arms of Mike Bell. The gain was 20 and the chains moved. Sean Jones caught a flare across the middle and broke free for a 15-yard gain, moving the ball to the Husky four. Two plays later Beau Carr ran it in to culminate the 80-yard drive.
Washington responded by driving 60 yards in 14 plays before settling for a 36-yard John Anderson field goal. The Huskies converted three straight third downs on receptions by Reddick (18 yards), Arnold (14) and Reddick (6), but stalled in the red zone.
The first drive of the second quarter was money for the Dawgs. After the defense forced a three and out, Washington took over on their own 38. Frederick made a 10-yard reception and another personal foul on Arizona, a late hit by safety Clay Hardt, moved the ball to the Wildcat 36. Pickett found Williams for 15 on second down, moving the ball into the red zone. From the 6 yard line, Rick Neuheisel rolled the dice and went for it on fourth and one. Braxton Cleman hesitated, waiting for the hole to come open, and picked up three. Rich Alexis took it in one play later to put the Huskies back on top 10-7.
Arizona began carving up the Husky defense again as Andrae Thurman made catches of 20 and 27 yards on two consecutive plays. However Johnson threw behind Ricky Williams, who was wide open in the middle of the field near the Husky 10-yard line. Williams tipped the ball and Husky cornerback Chris Massey made the interception to bail out the Dawgs.
The Wildcat defense stepped up and sacked Pickett twice, but once again Charles Frederick came up big. He snared the rope, stopped on a dime, and turned upfield toward the Husky sideline and picked up 10 more yards before being face-masked out of bounds. The third personal foul penalty of the game against Arizona moved the ball all the way to the Wildcat 30. A 17-yard Kevin Ware reception set up first and goal. It looked like more red zone trouble when Alexis was nailed by linebacker Lance Briggs and coughed up the ball. Tackle Khalif Barnes saved the Husky bacon and somehow came up with the ball in the mass of humanity that had piled up at the 10. Pickett then found Reggie Williams on a slant-in at the goal line for the touchdown.
Williams picked up a very ticky-tack celebration penalty to make it an interesting extra point. Two further penalties on Washington forced Anderson to attempt the PAT from 45-yards out, and it sailed wide right to leave the Husky lead at just nine.
Arizona answered right back, driving 65 yards before half to narrow the lead to 16-14. The big play came via Wade, who turned Derrick Johnson around and made the catch, then turned him and Greg Carothers around again as he picked up more yards en route to a 35-yard catch and run. On first and goal from the two Johnson found Wade on a long out pattern in front of Johnson again for the score.
Washington went for the kill in the third quarter. Pickett found Reggie Williams for a 16-yard reception to get things rolling. After a 5-yard Cleman run and a six-yard Eddie Jackson reception, Pickett threaded a dart to Williams on a look-in. He made the catch at the Arizona 15, avoided safety Jarvie Worchester’s big hit and broke another tackle to take it in to the end zone to push the lead back to nine.
After the Husky defense forced a three-and-out, Washington was on it’s way to pinning Arizona to the mat when a familiar ill struck. Another red zone turnover.
Reggie Williams made a reception near the Wildcat 10 and fumbled on the way down. Linebacker Matt Molina alertly batted the ball to keep it in bounds where Lance Briggs made the recovery at the eight.
The Husky defense again stiffened. Back to back sacks by Jerome Stevens and Anthony Kelley forced the ‘Cats to punt again. A 33-yard kick and a 10-yard halo violation penalty on Arizona set the table for the Huskies on the Arizona 41. Washington was unable to deliver the knockout blow and settled for a 52-yard cannon shot by John Anderson. The senior from Boynton Beach, Florida, has now connected from 50 yards out or further five times in his career.
Arizona still had live and answered right back. Quickly. The Husky secondary made Johnson look like Joe Montana as he found TE Justin Levasseur for 28 up the middle, Andrae Thurman for 23, and then Wade for 15, all against soft defenses. A Manase Hopoi sack looked like it would stem the tide, backing the ‘Cats up to the Husky 20. On second down, with Hopoi wrapped around his legs, Johnson fired to the end zone where it appeared Chris Massey had the interception. The Husky corner was unable to corral the ball and while he bobbled it, Thurman took it away for a touchdown to make it 26-21 Huskies as the third quarter drew to a close and set the stage for another incredible fourth quarter finish.
Washington now goes on the road to face a USC team that ranks #1 in the conference in defense. At press time the Trojans were in a tough game with the Cal Bears.
“We haven’t won on the road in a while,” said Neuheisel. “What better place to get it done than at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.”
It’s a tall order for a Husky defense that is proving to be stout against the run but is surrendering passing yardage in continent-sized chunks. They’ll face USC’s Carson Palmer who throws to Kareem Kelly and Keary Colbert, a potentially awesome three-some.
“We are in crisis, whenever you lose at Washington it’s a crisis,” said Neuheisel in reference to last weekend’s loss to Cal.
“We have to fix some things, and fortunately we’ve got another week to get better.”
Injuries CB Derrick Johnson had a concussion and didn’t know where he was as he sat on the Husky bench, dazed after the game. In his absence, Sam Cunningham and Nate Robinson played. Johnson’s injury is not believed to be serious. OG Nick Newton left the game with a high ankle sprain and the severity is not known. Early speculation is that he could miss two weeks but that is not confirmed.