The Associated Press
SEATTLE Ä While Napoleon Kaufman has been making a lot of noise chasing the Heisman Trophy, Damon Huard has been quietly developing into a confident quarterback for the Washington Huskies.
The Huskies (5-1, 2-1), who remained at No. 9 in this week's Associated Press poll, have a five-game winning streak and the fifth win came because of Huard's passing, not Kaufman's running.
"This is a big improvement over last year," Huard said. "Last year we lost the game to Arizona State, I lost my starting job and it was a long plane ride home."
This year it was a long plane ride home for the Sun Devils (2-4,2-2). Coach Bruce Snyder's game plan was to stop Kaufman and Arizona State effectively did that, holding him to a season-low 80 yards rushing.
Still, Washington won easily, 35-14, because Huard connected on 20-of-33 passes for a career-high 268 yards and three touchdowns. Arizona State was able to avoid its first shutout in 61 games when backup quarterback Jason Verdugo ran and passed for touchdowns in the final 4:24.
"Last year was tough, but I grew up and I learned a lot," Huard said. "This season started out rough at Southern Cal but the last five games have been awesome. We've got to be doing something right."
In Game 8 last season, Huard was replaced by Eric Bjornson at quarterback for the Huskies' final three games. Bjornson is Huard's good friend and now Washington's top pass-catching target.
At the start of spring practice this year, coach Jim Lambright and new offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick handed the starter's job back to Huard because they wanted him not to look over his shoulder. At the same time, they moved Bjornson permanently to wide receiver.
Huard, a junior, got off to a shaky start in Washington's opener Sept. 3 in the Los Angeles Coliseum against the Trojans. He threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in a 24-17 loss. The Huskies haven't lost since.
In order, they've beaten Ohio State, Miami, UCLA, San Jose State and Arizona State. Huard has been intercepted five times since the Southern Cal game, including once by Arizona State.
Against the Sun Devils, the 6-foot-5 Bjornson broke free in the secondary to make a personal-best nine catches for 119 yards.
Kaufman had six of his 18 carries go for no gain or minus yardage. He did catch a career-high six passes for 61 yards.
Mark Bruener caught two passes to give him 76 in his career, the most passes ever caught by a Washington tight end.
"I think we showed some diversity on offense by making big plays through the air," Huard said. "Even after we had success with the pass, Arizona State didn't change their eight-man fronts. They kept forcing us to throw the ball, which I was happy to do."
Washington's final five opponents Ä Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, California and Washington State Ä will have to think twice now about their defensive game plans.
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