No. 18 Washington Wins Conference Opener

Sept 27, 2003

Huskies Use Big Plays To Get A Win In Pac-10 Opener

AP Sports Writer

SEATTLE - Last season, Rich Alexis averaged 62.5 yards rushing per game. He almost got that much on one carry Saturday.

Alexis ran for 128 yards, including a 53-yard for a score, while Cody Pickett threw two touchdown passes to Reggie Williams as No. 18 Washington beat Stanford 28-17 in the Pac-10 opener for both schools.

'It's a little momentum,' Alexis said. 'We've got our first conference win.'

The Huskies (3-1) improved to 20-2 against the Cardinal (2-1) since 1976. Stanford hasn't won in Seattle since 1975, an 11-game streak.

Alexis broke a 53-yard run for a TD late in the first quarter. He started right, then took advantage of a Stanford stunt by racing into a gaping open space at midfield and sprinting up the right hash mark to tie it at 7.

'I saw a big hole, the goalpost and the end zone,' Alexis said. 'I told myself, 'Keep running, just keep running.''

Alexis averaged 62.5 yards rushing a game last year at the same time Pickett set a Pac-10 single-season record by throwing for 4,458 yards. The Washington running back credited his improvement to a year's seasoning.

'It's a little momentum. We've got our first conference win.'

'I'm healthier and the blocking is there,' Alexis said. 'We all know each other better. We've worked a little more together this year. We understand their blocking schemes and where they're going to be at the point of attack.'

Stanford had a late chance, taking over at its own 25 and trailing 21-17 with 2:54 remaining. Derrick Johnson sealed Washington's victory by intercepting freshman quarterback Trent Edwards' pass and returning it 36 yards for a touchdown.

Jimmy Newell intercepted another pass on Stanford's final series.

'We were in the game for 55 minutes,' Edwards said. 'It really hurts a lot, but we've got to learn from our mistakes.'

Stanford led 17-14 midway through the third quarter after Michael Sgroi kicked a 28-yard field goal, but the Huskies answered on the ensuing possession when Pickett threw to Williams on a 6-yard score to cap a 76-yard drive.

Pickett completed 20 of 33 passes for 231 yards, but he fumbled twice. His second came inside the Stanford 20 late in the first half, spoiling a chance for Washington to put up more points before the break.

'If I don't drop the ball we score another touchdown,' Pickett said. 'I was trying to get a couple of extra yards.'

Williams had a big day, catching 10 passes for 138 yards.

'We're going to throw him the ball,' Huskies coach Keith Gilbertson said. 'You can bracket him. You can double him. You can high-low him. We're going to find ways to get him the football. That's just the way it is.'

The Cardinal defense, which led the nation after allowing only 4 net yards rushing in two games, faced a bigger challenge this time. The Huskies had 92 yards rushing by the end of the first quarter, with Alexis running for 91.

'We knew it would be a physical game and that they would try to run the football,' Stanford coach Buddy Teevens said. 'They did some nice things, but I thought we did some nice things as well.'

After Alexis' long run, the Huskies didn't wait to make it 14-7.

Derrick Johnson returns an interception 36 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

After forcing a punt, Washington needed three plays before Pickett connected with Williams again, and the All-American receiver streaked down the left sideline for a 74-yard play.

Last season, Pickett and Williams were Washington's main offensive threats, but the Huskies have established a reliable ground game this fall. They gained 165 yards on 40 carries, with Alexis carrying 24 times.

'We're pleased with what we're doing, that we have balance,' Gilbertson said. 'We're pleased with what Rich is doing. It takes a lot of the burden off Pickett to have to do what he did a year ago.'

Last week, Alexis had 116 yards rushing in a 45-14 win over Idaho. He posted consecutive 100-yard games for the first time since he gained 127 yards against UCLA and 134 against Washington State as a freshman in 2000.

'That's a long time,' Alexis said. 'But it doesn't bother me as long as we win.'

Edwards was 16-of-32 for 159 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. He threw a 12-yard scoring pass to tight end Alex Smith for an early 7-0 lead, then found Smith for an 18-yard TD to tie it at 14 early in the second period.

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