November 24, 1996 in Sports

Dillon, Defense Carry UW

Blaine Newnham Seattle Times
 

People leaving the stadium, and then coming back. The Huskies ahead 24-0, only to be tied 24-24.

John Wales, who beat the Cougars last year with a field goal, missing one with 2 seconds left in regulation.

Ryan Leaf, no yards passing in the first half, 200 yards in the fourth quarter.

A great game because the Cougars made it great, scoring three times in 7 minutes, failing to give up when a few of their fans had. When the Huskies had.

Ryan Leaf was remarkable. In Corey Dillon’s absence, he was nearly too much.

Without Dillon, it took a pass from Brock Huard to Jerome Pathon, a soft, perfectly thrown ball in the overtime from 3 yards out for a 31-24 overtime victory.

The Cougars answered with their own pass in the end zone, Leaf to Chad Carpenter on fourth down, but Carpenter just missed getting his foot down in bounds.

A wonderfully exciting game, if not a wonderfully played game.

Washington can wait now, probably for a bid to the Holiday Bowl opposite Colorado, although a Cotton Bowl invitation is still possible.

If we wondered why Washington was better than we thought it would be this season, the difference was Dillon.

He left the game early in the fourth quarter, warmed his sore leg by a heater, but was able to carry the ball only once more. Without him, the Huskies stood back in the flurry of Leaf’s final rally.

Washington has had nine-win regular seasons before - six in the past 19 years - but never had the Huskies done it with so little experience, so little expectation, especially on defense.

On a cold but comfortable late afternoon, snow ringing the field but none on it or falling from the sky, the Huskies stifled Washington State for three quarters and got stiffed in the fourth.

With guard Benji Olson running personal escort, Dillon rolled for 155 yards and three touchdowns, not unexpected at all.

While a year ago the Cougars had cut apart Washington’s defense for 411 yards, they couldn’t do anything until the furious fourth quarter Saturday. They had fewer yards than Dillon had carries in the first half, 10 fewer.

In the third quarter, Jason Chorak spun untouched past 308-pound tackle Ryan McShane to draw a bead on WSU quarterback Ryan Leaf. The ball popped up and David Richie recovered it.

Five plays later, Dillon bulled into the end zone for a 24-0 UW lead.

It should have been over. It wasn’t.

The UW offense dominated early. Washington, which led the Pac-10 in time of possession entering the game, had it 21 minutes, 51 seconds, the Cougars, who were last, had it the remaining 8:09

When the Huskies took a 10-0 lead in the second quarter, the Cougars not only didn’t have a first down, but their net yardage was zero.

Leaf had three or four balls dropped, but he was under wilting pressure, from Chorak, who was pawing his way to a school record in career sacks, and from Ink Aleaga and Jerry Jensen.

At the half, the Cougars had fewer yards than Dillon had carries. By 10.

WSU’s one first down came via an offsides penalty after the Huskies had stopped them. The Huskies were 7 of 10 on third down, the Cougars 0 of 6.

Leaf had completed 3 of 12 passes, but for a net of nothing.

So why is this Washington defense so good?

The strong, steady play of Richie in the middle. The decision to move Jensen outside in place of Ikaika Malloe, who wasn’t big enough to stop the run. Jensen proved able to do that, and blitz as well. So concerned with Chorak, he became the player the other team couldn’t stop, when the year before Malloe was the one they went after.

The defense got its personality, however, from Chorak, who never gives up, who plays every play as if it were his last, who is a defensive end and a linebacker all wrapped up in one.

And in the middle of things was Tony Parrish.

As good as Lawyer Milloy was the year before, and he was a consensus All-America pick, he wasn’t missed. Parrish, in fact, proved better at pass coverage than Milloy and almost as punishing a tackler. He had four fumble recoveries and intercepted two interceptions.

The defense had done it, surviving the best Ryan Leaf could throw at it.


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