Friday, October 14, 2011

Huskies host Buffaloes: Flashback to 1999 last time Colorado came to Husky Stadium

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies(4-1,2-0) take on the Colorado Buffaloes(1-5,0-2) this Saturday at home in Husky Stadium. The Huskies are coming off a bye week and have won two games in a row. While the Buffaloes have lost three games in a row and in a rebuilding season. The Huskies are looking to go 5-1 for the first time since 2001 and 3-0 in conference play for the first time since 1997. The Huskies will have their hands full defensively as the Buffaloes feature running back Rodney Stewart who has rushed for 399 yards(3.7 YPC) with a touchdown but also has caught 26 passes for 417 yards(16.0 YPC). The Buffaloes quarterback is Tyler Hansen who has thrown for 1,527 yards with 12 touchdowns to three interceptions on the season. The Huskies are favored by 14.5 points this game due to their explosive offense.

The Huskies offense is averaging 34 points per game led by sophomore quarterback Keith Price. Price is completing 68.3% of his passes for 1,209 yards so far with 17 touchdowns to just four interceptions. Price likes to spread the ball around but the leading receiver for the Huskies is actually from Colorado. Devin Aguilar who was a four star recruit wasn't even offered a scholarship by the Buffaloes. Aguilar for the season has 15 receptions for 293 yards(19.5 YPC) with two touchdowns. The Huskies are also led by Chris Polk who has rushed for 595 yards(5.1 YPC) with three touchdowns. Polk has also caught 10 passes for 128 yards with a touchdown on the season. The Buffaloes defense has allowed over 33 points per game so look for the Huskies offense to exploit the Buffaloes defense. Steve Sarkisian in year three appears to have this program heading in the right direction while the Buffaloes appear to be where the Huskies were back in the 2004-2009 era. Both programs were once proud programs who have fallen on hard times. In this following post I'll flashback to the 1999 meeting which featured first year Huskies coach Rick Neuheisel against his old team the Buffaloes.

September 25th, 1999: Colorado Buffaloes(2-1) at Washington Huskies(0-2)

This game was a very hated contest heading into the game. Rick Neuheisel left the Colorado Buffaloes after just four seasons for the Washington Huskies. The Huskies made Neuheisel the third highest paid coach in the nation behind Florida State's Bobby Bowden and Florida's Steve Spurrier. When Neuheisel came to Washington he was immediately reported for recruiting violations by Oregon Ducks head coach Mike Belotti, Washington State Cougars coach Mike Price and Colorado Buffaloes coach Gary Barnett. More importantly for Neuheisel was getting his Huskies on track as he began his career 0-2 with junior quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo wasn't fitting in Neuheisel's pro style offense. Leading up to the Colorado week Neuheisel switched gears and decided to become an option team. That decision would alter Huskies history over the next two seasons. This was a big game on ABC as Colorado preseason was ranked in the top 5 but they were upset to Colorado State so Barnett wasn't making friends at his new school either. While the Huskies were coming off an embarassing home loss to Air Force. Both programs who won a national championship earlier that decade needed this win. For the Huskies who were coming off a lackluster 6-6 season couldn't afford to start the year off 0-3.

After a scoreless first quarter the Huskies finally got on the board. The Huskies had a very long consuming drive that lasted over seven minutes which ended in a difficult decision by Neuheisel. The game was 0-0 and the Huskies were facing a fourth and goal from the one yard line. Neuheisel who always took risks decided to go for it on fourth down. He was rewarded by a Willie Hurst one yard leap into the endzone to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead which was short lived. On the ensuing kickoff Buffaloes cornerback Ben Kelly silent the Husky crowd with a 98 yard kickoff return for the touchdown. In the third quarter the Huskies would regain the lead after another long drive Hurst would end the drive with a three yard touchdown run to give the Huskies a 14-7 lead. The Buffaloes would strike back with a Cortlend Johnson 24 yard touchdown run to tie up the score at 14-14. Tuiasosopo would fumble the ball and once again Kelly was right there to take advantage. Kelly scooped up the fumble 38 yards for the touchdown to give the Buffaloes a 21-14 lead. The Huskies would respond when true freshman John Anderson hit a 40 yard field goal to cut the lead to 21-17 heading into the fourth quarter. That is when Tuiasosopo like he would do for the next two seasons came alive in the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter the Huskies would call for a fake option play action pass. Tuiasosopo would hit Gerald Harris for a 36 yard touchdown pass to give the Huskies a 24-21 lead over the Buffaloes in the fourth quarter. The Buffaloes would tie the game up at 24-24 after a field goal which left Tuiasosopo and the Huskies time for one final drive. With three minutes to go in the contest Tuiasosopo hit Chris Jurgens for a nine yard touchdown pass which had 72,068 fans at Husky Stadium screaming. The Huskies took the lead 31-24 over the Buffaloes. The Buffaloes were driving for overtime had the ball on the Huskies 21 yard line with little over a minute to go in the game. That is when Anthony Vountoure intercepted the pass in the endzone to give the Huskies their 600th win in program history and for Neuhiesel his first of 33 victories for the Huskies. For the Huskies they won this game by controlling the clock. The Huskies ran the ball 52 times for 205 yards and held the ball for over 36 minutes. They were led by Tuiasosopo who was 12-23 passing for 210 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Tuiasosopo also ran for 56 yards on 14 carries. The Huskies ground game also saw Willie Hurst rush for 85 yards on 19 carries, Paul Arnold 21 yards on six carries. The Huskies would go on to finish 7-5 on the year finishing second in the Pac-10. They would win the Pac-10 and the Rose Bowl the following season as Neuheisel could have been elected mayor in Seattle.

In conclusion, these two programs were once powerhouse programs in the 1990's have both fallen in this decade. The Huskies led by Sarkisian appear to have recovered finally from their slump while the Buffaloes are headed for a long season. The Huskies hopefully learned from their mistakes against Eastern Washington won't take the Buffaloes lightly. This is a team that could easily be 3-3 but instead they are 1-5 without their top receiver Paul Richardson. The Huskies offense should have no problem against the Buffaloes defense who has a young secondary. Look for Price to light up the Buffaloes secondary as he is finally healthy for the first time all season long. Sarkisian like Neuheisel was back then is on top of the mountain at Montlake and unlike Neuheisel I think he'll last more than four seasons in Seattle. The Huskies are hoping to turn the corner as a program and that starts this Saturday with a convincing win over a conference opponent. This game on Saturday won't have the grudge match as that game in 1999 but this game is an opportunity for the Huskies to show they are for real this season.

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