By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
When No. 20 Washington takes the field Saturday at Arizona Stadium, the team will be looking to erase the bad taste left in its mouth from its last meeting in Tucson.
On Nov. 7, 1992, a No. 1-ranked Husky team came to Tucson looking to beat up on a little-known Arizona team. But it was Washington (4-2 overall, 3-0 in the Pacific 10 Conference) that got dominated, by a defense that had just been nicknamed "Desert Swarm." The Huskies score were not only held to just three points, but their dominating defense allowed the Wildcats 197 yards on the ground.
"That game was a major turning point for both programs," Washington head coach Jim Lambright said. "For us it was a point that led into two years of NCAA sanctions, while for them it rocketed their program into national prominence."
Kickoff is at 7:07 p.m. The game will not be televised due to Washington's four-game limit on TV appearances stemming from NCAA violations two years ago. The game will be broadcast live on KNST Radio (AM 790).
While they might not be as seemingly overmatched this Saturday, the Wildcats (3-3, 1-2) will still be underdogs against the Huskies.
This season, however, Washington does not appear to have the dominating defense of old. In fact, the Huskies are last in the conference in rushing defense and ninth in total defense and passing-efficiency defense. But Lambright said he does not feel those statistics accurately represent his team's defensive efforts.
"I think a lot of our poor rushing standing is due to the fact that we've played two wishbone and option teams," Lambright said. "I also don't think our nonconference opponents of Notre Dame and Ohio State helped our defensive numbers. But that does not mean that I am satisfied with our effort up to this point. We could definitely use some improvement."
Those numbers might bode well for an Arizona offense that has been sluggish at best in the last couple of games. The big task for the Wildcats is to find someone to take some of the burden off junior running back Gary Taylor, who has been Arizona's only healthy offensive threat and leads the team in receiving (25 receptions for 226 yards), rushing (102 carries for 517 yards) and all-purpose yards (123.8 yards a game).
As a show of Arizona's ineffectiveness inside the opponent's 20-yard line, Taylor has only one touchdown to show for his 743 total yards. The two main candidates to help him out are receivers Rodney Williams and his twin brother, Cary Taylor. Their role is made even more important with the absence of big-play receiver Richard Dice, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during practice last week.
"Last game, every time we got the ball moving, something would happen," UA head coach Dick Tomey said. "What we need is for someone to come in and make a play for us in those situations."
A sleeper in the UA offensive mix might be sophomore receiver Jeff Nadeau. While Nadeau has yet to catch a pass, he has impressed the coaches in practice.
"Jeff Nadeau has the best ability of everybody we have at receiver, but he is not the best player," Tomey said.
But the big controversy revolves around the quarterback spot. Both Dan White and Brady Batten have a valid argument for the starting job. White has been a consistent force on offense for the past two years. He has the experience of playing in the big game that few offensive players have.
Batten, on the other hand, has been a spark for the Arizona offense in its last two games. His mobility gives him more options with the present state of the offensive line, which is still hampered by injuries. While there has been no official word so far, it looks as if Batten might be the front runner.
"We haven't made that decision yet because Brady has given cause for reconsideration," Tomey said. "We've told both of the guys that we'll make that decision later in the week."
The Wildcats are first in the Pac-10 in total defense, allowing only 268.2 yards a game. Senior defensive end Tedy Bruschi has been a major reason for Arizona's recent success on defense. Bruschi has eight of Arizona's 16 sacks and leads the team with 10 tackles for losses.
"You take one look at Bruschi and you see one of the reasons we were happy not to play them in the last two years," Lambright said. "He reminds me of (former UW defensive lineman) Steve Emtman as far as work ethic is concerned."
But Bruschi and the defensive line are going to have to find a way to stop Washington's dominant rushing attack, led by senior Leon Neal and freshman Rashaan Shehee. Neal is recovering from turf toe and might only see limited time, but with Shehee's play of late, that might be better for the Huskies. Against Notre Dame and Stanford, Shehee put up a combined 367 yards and five touchdowns.
"Washington is always a very physical team that runs the ball well," Tomey said. "We did a good job of stopping the run against UCLA and we will have to continue that against Washington. Our goal is to make them throw the ball."
But the UW offense has been double the trouble of late, with senior quarterback Damon Huard putting up 295 yards against Stanford. While Huard is not Washington's top offensive threat, he does just enough to put it in a position to win.
"Damon has made significant strides this year and he helps in both our running game and passing game," Lambright said. "But the biggest thing he brings is his senior leadership. To be successful you need a quarterback that will take charge and we feel we have that with Damon."
But as far as the halfway point of the season is concerned, Tomey realizes the Wildcats need a win to stay in the Pac-10 hunt.
"I'd be lying if I said I was satisfied with where we are right now," Tomey said. "I had hoped that record-wise we would be better right now."
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