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Fighting Irish Show Huskies A Devil Of A Time

And to think, this destination was previously thought to be accessible only by handbasket.

Not that it matters how the Washington Huskies got into hell, but only whether they can get the hell out.

Yes, this is hell. Don’t be fooled by all the fellows in funny collars, or the saintly mosaic on the side of the library.

And don’t be fooled by the score: Notre Dame 54, UW 20. It wasn’t that close.

The levels of purgatory are a labyrinth, to be sure, though the Huskies certainly got to the bottom of it Saturday.

To be a guest here is both an honor and a curse. You cannot just tiptoe through the lore, you must be bludgeoned by it - and, indeed, people queue up for the privilege. Three hours before kickoff, the line is 200 deep - to get into the bookstore. Out on I-90, business is similarly brisk at that most dignified of memorials, the Knute Rockne Travel Plaza.

You will be Knuted and Gippered and Touchdown Jesused to death. Your football program will lose all comparisons of grandeur and graduation rates and usually the game, too. You’d prefer, however, that the heinie kicking be confined to diplomas.

Well, too bad for Washington.

“They killed us,” said guard Bob Sapp. “They all played like All-Americans. I guess you should expect that from Notre Dame.”

Everyone does. That’s why quarterback Ron Powlus, who is merely damn good, has come to be regarded as such a profound disappointment.

He didn’t disappoint Saturday. He threw just 12 passes and three of them went for touchdowns and hardly anyone noticed that he was even suited up.

“The line of scrimmage is your lifeline,” said UW coach Jim Lambright, “and we lost that on both sides of the ball.”

Lost it early. Lost it often.

On Notre Dame’s second offensive snap, tailback Autry Denson took a handoff from Powlus and zipped through a hole bulldozed by guard Jeremy Akers and fullback Marc Edwards and into the end zone 33 yards away. The rest of the afternoon was just a variation on that theme.

The Irish rushed for 397 yards and totaled 650. Husky records regarding such generosity go back only to 1978, but there is nothing to approach this.

When the Irish offense had to stop to catch its breath, the defense tagged in to apply its own variety of body slams and step-over toe holds. They stunted and blitzed freshman quarterback Brock Huard - first to the point of distraction, then to the point of concussion. He left in the third quarter and even 2 hours later had to be helped to the team bus, leaving Shane Fortney and his tender knee to try and keep things respectable.

It didn’t work. Only an impossible fourth-down catch by Jerome Pathon and a couple of ND fumbles in the second quarter allowed for any hope, and it was fool’s gold. The Huskies were getting beat up. Sapp limped off with his left knee wrapped. Defenders Jason Chorak and Jermaine Smith had their arms in sling.

Beat up and lit up

No Husky team had given up 54 points since 1973, when a truly awful 2-9 outfit did it three times.

This team is not truly awful, but neither is it on the brink of greatness.

“I think this gives us a proper sense of where we stand nationally,” said Lambright.

Which, this week, was five spots behind the 11th-ranked Irish in the polls, once again reduced to pulp fiction.

Fortney, however, would like to believe the score says more about the Irish than about the Huskies.

“I think they’re one of the best teams we’ve ever faced,” he said. “Maybe not their skill players, but in the trenches they’re great. I went in there, trying to make something happen by scrambling, and twice I get run down from behind by defensive linemen. Sure, I have a bad wheel, but they’re pretty good.

“You don’t see teams that big and physical (in the Pac-10). Usually, the only team like that is us.”

Well, assigning value is always tricky.

Two years ago, the Huskies marched into Miami and manhandled one of college football’s premier programs in one of those statement games - though it eventually became clear that those ‘Canes had slipped substantially.

Now, the Huskies are the manhandlees. Yes, they are still very much Rose Bowl wannabes, but that says more about the state of the Pac-10 - which by way of national resume continues to cling to Arizona State’s upset of Nebraska and not much else.

“I guess we’ll just have to take our frustrations out on UCLA,” said Sapp, perhaps not aware that Bruins had just hit one to the warning track against ASU.

In truth, the Huskies didn’t know what to feel.

Embarrassed?

“You never want to say that,” said linebacker John Fiala. “I’m not embarrassed. I’d be embarrassed if this team quit and gave up. This team didn’t roll over and die.”

Nope. But they’d better hope there’s life after hell.

You can contact John Blanchette by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5509.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Blanchette The Spokesman-Review


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