GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Washington quarterback Jake Locker came up just short of an upset of Hawaii at Aloha Stadium last night.
Huskies let victory slip through
Almost means nothing to Marcel Reece.
Washington's senior receiver nearly had the tying touchdown as the seconds ticked down against Hawaii last night, but he let the ball slip through his hands.
Just 12 seconds remained when the Huskies lined up at the Hawaii 6, trailing 35-28. Reece was on the right side of the end zone and jumped high for a Jake Locker pass with defender Gerard Lewis behind him. Reece got both hands on it, but the ball slipped out (it may have been tipped from behind by Lewis) and went off his foot into the hands of Hawaii's Ryan Mouton.
Three seconds left. Game over.
It was a brutal loss for the Huskies, who dominated the first quarter and took first-half leads of 21-0 and 28-7.
"It was a close call, you know," Reece said after the game. "I tried to go up and get it and I thought I had it in my hands, but I don't know where it went.
"It's always disappointing to not hold onto the ball. I always say that no matter what the defender does, I've got to come down with that ball. I was in the end zone and I didn't make the catch. I'm the playmaker on this team and I didn't make the play. It hurts. That one will stick with me for a long time."
Locker said the play was just bad luck.
"He got (his hands) on it, but I didn't throw it far enough to the outside. I saw it bounce off his foot and all of a sudden it was going the other way. But we really didn't lose the game on that one play."
If not for a second-quarter letdown, when Hawaii scored three touchdowns to pull within seven at halftime, maybe Washington (4-9) would be flying home with a season-ending win and the satisfaction of spoiling Hawaii's BCS bowl bid.
Instead, coach Ty Willingham and his Huskies are shaking their heads in disbelief at what they, literally, let slip through their fingers.
"This was a real disappointing loss," Willingham said. "Our young men played a heckuva football game. We just didn't make that one more play. But the truth is, we didn't do well enough on both sides of the ball. That's the tale of the tape. And we played against a very talented offense."
The 14-point-underdog Huskies recovered three Hawaii fumbles in the first half that helped get them on their way for the possible upset.
Offensively, the running of Locker and running back Louis Rankin (145 yards, 21 carries) was the driving force.
Defensively, immense pressure on UH quarterback Colt Brennan, who was sacked four times, kept Hawaii out of its rhythm, especially in the first quarter.
UW's defense kept Hawaii off the board in the third quarter, but couldn't find a way all game to stop the Warriors' Jason Rivers, whose fourth TD catch tied it 28-all with 8:01 left in the game.
"He was just good," Willingham said. "That last one (Rivers' fourth TD), we tried to stay on top of him, but he just got by us."
And Hawaii just got by Washington, too.
There are mild rumors that Willingham's job is in jeopardy. He stayed stone faced for about 8 seconds when asked if he has any reason to believe he won't be back with the Huskies.
"We're all behind him," Locker said. "We all have a lot of respect for him."