Thursday, November 18, 2010

Huskies take on UCLA flashback to 2006

By Kshell

When UCLA Bruins(4-5,2-4) travel to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies(3-6,2-4) they will be heading into the game with some swagger. The Bruins are coming off a win against Oregon State which snapped a three game losing streak. While the Huskies are currently on a three game losing streak and must win this game to remain bowl eligible. The reason the UCLA Bruins will have some swagger when facing the Huskies is because they have only lost to Washington twice since 1997. Well in this preview and the following preview I'll talk about the two Husky wins. I'll talk about these wins not because I'm a homer. I'll talk about those two wins because I was at both games starting with the most recent win in 2006.

September 23, 2006: UCLA Bruins(2-0,0-0) at Washington Huskies(2-1,0-0)

The Huskies who had won just three games in the previous two seasons enter their Pac-10 opener under second year head coach Tyrone Willingham feeling good about themselves. That is because the Huskies the previous week blocked an extra point and defeated the Fresno State Bulldogs 21-20 giving them a 2-1 record first time they had a winning record since November 1st, 2003 when they defeated Oregon 42-10 to improve to 5-4.

At the time of this game I was living in Ellensburg, Washington as I was going to school at Central Washington University. At the time my car was not working so my Dad drove from Longview to Ellensburg(250 miles) to pick me up as headed towards Seattle(120 miles) for the game. It was a beautiful day in Seattle which is rare for me since I had only been to one September game before this. My dad and mom were at the previous game and saw the Huskies beat Fresno State.

As my dad and I were walking to the stadium we were talking about the Mens basketball team since we were front of Hec Ed. The Huskies were bringing in the "greatest" freshman class ever which highlighted Spencer Hawes and Quincy Pondexter. I bring this up because I look over and I see coach Lorenzo Romar showing off potential recruit Justin Holiday around the gym. I went up to Romar and introduced myself to him. I was so nervous I was shaking and probably sounded like an idiot. I told him he is doing a great job and asked if this would be a great year. He replied "we are pretty young and haven't proven anything so we'll see". I respected his honesty he could have easily overated his team but chose not to. I then stood for a picture with Romar and my dad told me he got it. Then come to find out my dad doesn't know how to use cell phones and didn't get the picture. By the way the Huskies signed Holiday the next day so I joke him meeting me was the final thing to push him over to the Purple and Gold side.

As for the game itself I was dissapointed in the pregame introductions as my former high school teamate wasn't starting for UCLA after starting the previous game. I also called several friends I was so pumped up about meeting Romar. That was the most nervous I've ever been meeting someone which is crazy. The Huskies came out extremely flat in front of 58,000 fans. The Huskies in fact in 2006 had just one game where attendence was over 60,000. The Huskies found themselves trailing UCLA 16-0 and had a grand total of one yard offense with two minutes to go in the half. Senior quarterback Isaiah Stanback looked horrible as did the running game. My dad was in shock this was the exact opposite Stanback he saw the previous week.

The Huskies who would get ball first second half would have a terrific two minute drill right before half time. Stanback would hit Sonny Shackelford for a 23 yard touchdown pass with a minute to go in the half. The Huskies had finally shown they could move the ball through the air as UCLA wasted chances to put the game away settling for three field goals in the first half inlcuding two that were inside 30 yards. The Huskies would use that momentum and score another touchdown on their opening drive again Stanback hitting Shackelford for a 28 yard pass to cut the lead to 16-14.

The Huskies defense would bend but not break as they would allow a 22 yard field which UCLA would extend its lead 19-14 heading into the fourth quarter. Stanback would lead the offense down the field again and would connect on his third touchdown pass of the game to Johnie Kirton for a four yard touchdown pass. The Huskies would then go for two and Stanback would hit Kirton again for the two point conversation giving the Huskies a 22-19 lead. The crowd was going crazy. Stanback was running around showing emotion he was being booed in the first half to being cheered by the Huskies crowd.

What would happen next still gives me goose bumps just typing this. The previous week outside linebacker Dan Howell missed the game because his father passed away on September 10th, 2006. Howell was playing with a heavy heart this game I'm sure. When UCLA quarterback Ben Olsen dropped back to pass the pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The crowd was freaking out going crazy then I realized who picked the pass off it was Dan Howell who intercepted the pass from 33 yards out. I pointed that out to my dad it was an emotional moment as his touchdown put the game away giving the Huskies a 29-19 lead.

The Huskies would win the game 29-19 as the Huskies would splash Tyrone Willingham with gatorade. What a difference a half makes as Isaiah Stanback finished the game 18 of 29 for 200 yards passing with three touchdowns and one interception. He also led the team in rushing with 48 yards. His main target was Shackelford who had nine receptions for 120 yards and two touchdowns. It was looking like Willingham had the program in the right direction. It was a terrific win as I was pumped how I met Romar that day and it was looking like Husky football was turning around. On the way home I remember the Husky honks pumping up Willingham and mocking Notre Dame who was losing to Michigan State at the time(ND came back and won) after they had already lost earlier in the year. I forgot who said it but one of them said "I bet Notre Dame wishes they had Willingham now, their mistake is our gain".

It was a great win for the Huskies and they won the next week to improve to 4-1(2-0). Husky football had appeared to be back and I was at the game that started this run. Now Stanback went down and the season like many seasons from 2004-present have gone to crap. I'll never forget the joy I had that day though. I met Romar and although I was wrong I thought that was the turnaround of Husky football. Hopefully this Thursday can be the real turnaround.

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