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October 15, 2006

Painful loss, powerful setback

On an chilly, foggy overcast Saturday at Husky stadium in front of 62,656 fans, you'd think the Washington Huskies would have had revenge on their minds, with last year's thrashing still an open sore. Instead, the Oregon State Beavers' mantra, "We always win at Washington" worked again to perfection, and they dropped the Dawgs in convincing fashion, 27-17.

While the game wasn't as close as the score would indicate, the true cost of this loss might be astronomical. Isaiah Stanback got knocked out of the game with 10:20 to go, as he turned an ankle sprinting up field trying to dodge the Beavers relentless pursuit.

On the replay, it looked like he took a knee to the helmet after getting hit, but as he lay motionless on the carpet, the crowd went into shock, fell silent. On the replay, and in a photo taken by our own Julie Webb, it looks like Stanback suffered a high ankle sprain or foot dislocation. Coach Tyrone Willingham didn't know the extent of the injury, but said it was a foot, not an ankle.

We should know more on Monday or Tuesday, "Based on the lack of information we've got right now," said the Huskies head coach.

The big question coming into the game was wether or not the Dawgs defense could contain Yvenson Bernard, OSU's gritty fullback. If they did, then the pressure on Washington's secondary would elevated, but J.D. Williams has shown confidence in his guys to get the job done. The problem was that the Husky game plan never got traction - and Bernard, with a net of 144 yards and two touchdowns, proved he just didn't want to be taken down.

From the opening moments of the game it seemed as if the Huskies were going to march into the end zone. Isaiah Stanback's 56 yard pass to a wide-open Anthony Russo on the opening play from scrimmage totally fooled the Beavers, but it was the first and last time that happened Saturday.

OSU didn't roll over, they stiffened up - dropping Stanback for an 11 yard loss on the next down, the first of six sacks on the day. Following a false start penalty, the Huskies continued to misfire - the offense never did look in sync - and settled they for a Michael Braunstein field goal for the early lead.

The 45 yard kick was Braunstein's was the longest of his career so far.

OSU's game of ball control worked all afternoon, but that hasn't been the case in previous games this season. Bernard's success pounding it out, grinding up the field, allowed the Beavers to take time off the clock, and wear the defense out. It also made their pass game all the more profitable, as the Beavers Matt Moore could pick his spots to strike at the Huskies defensive underbelly.

"We lost our identity the last couple of games," said OSU wide receiver Sammie Stroughter, "we just wanted to go back to the idea of Oregon State Football. We have a great offensive line, and a great group of receivers that block down field, and a great running back that is a work horse," he said of Bernard.

The Beavers drive was momentarily slowed by a false start call, but on the following play, on 3rd and 8, Stroughter caught a Moore pass, twisted through defenders, before tripping himself up just short of pay dirt.

Stroughter, who notched his first receiving TD later in the day, had a career day, with 223 yards. The next two plays, Bernard bullied his way into the end zone, at the 6:13 mark of the game, finishing off a 12 play, 73 yard drive to take the lead.

Needing to establish a running game, Kenny James did his part on the next drive, but the Huskies fell short.

"We felt like we could come in here and run the ball, and I think that we did that," said a tired James. "We just didn't finish."

James gained 83 yards on 17 carries, and Stanback snagged 44 yards on 11 carries. Because was sacked three times, he gave back 33 of those yards, so his final tally was only a gain of 11.

After the Husky drive stalled, Willingham said "go for it" on fourth and five. Stanback's pass to Sonny Shackelford didn't get to the first down marker, and Shackleford couldn't turn the corner, so Washington turned the ball back to the Beavers, who again marched the ball down field and collected a field goal to begin the second quarter.

Asked why the Huskies twice tried to go for it on fourth down in field goal range, coach coach Willingham said, "You're in the in-between sometimes, where the field goal might be a little long and you might not gain much in the punt, so in those situations, I like to keep the ball and see what happens."

Sadly, both times nothing happened.

"Physically, they mauled us taking the ball down the field." Willingham continued, "We tripped ourselves up a little bit, but we got turnovers, took some opportunities to put scores up on the board. You feel like you're in good shape at the half."

On OSU's following drive, Bernard cracked the 100 yard mark, but Oregon State shot themselves in the foot again. Scott White's second interception of the quarter gave the Dawgs another chance to crack the goal line, and Stanback didn't disappoint, hitting Cody Ellis with a 32 yard completion, and then popping the end zone with his own leg power. This gives the Huskies a 7 point lead at the half...

As the third quarter got under way, the game seemed close, at 17-10, Washington. In truth, the Huskies had generated very little offense to that point. Both touchdowns were scored by Stanback only after the perfectly positioned Scott White's two interceptions got them close to the end zone.

Oregon State moved the ball at will, and scored ten points in the third quarter, a field goal and an 80 yard Stroughter pass from Moore that Willingham insisted was not blown coverage, but good OSU blocking early in the play.

The fourth quarter was just more of the same. The Beavers final touchdown was scored, fittingly, on a three yard push by Bernard at the end of a 6 play, 78 yard drive with 12:32 on the clock.

At this point, Stanback tried to rally his troops, to no avail. Oregon State was in control, and perhaps Isaiah felt he needed to take the team onto his shoulders by himself. As he was taken off the field, many people wondered if the Huskies Bowl chances were evaporating into the fog, but not Scott White. He said the Dawgs still expect to go to a Bowl game.

"No doubt about it. We should win the rest of our games. That's our feeling. Wether or not we go and do that is something totally different. We are capable of winning the rest of our games, and that's our goal."

C.J. Wallace felt the same way.

"We expect to come back harder at practice. We know that we easily could've won this game. This year is different because we know that we are going to come back and work hard at practice, knowing we can win next week."

Next week.

That is going to be a tough assignment, and hopefully Isaiah Stanback will be okay, but looking at the photo, you just know it will take a miracle to get him on the field against the Bears of California. Beyond that, it's anyone's guess.

The Huskies will just have to take it one game at a time.




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