Work in Sports
BOULDER, Colorado (Ticker) -- Cornerback Anthony Vontoure made sure Rick Neuheisel's return to Folsom Field was a triumphant one.
Vontoure punched the ball away from Colorado receiver Eric McCready to snuff a late comeback attempt as 10th-ranked Washington held on for a 17-14 victory.
Bitter feelings still remain in Boulder since Neuheisel left Colorado last year to accept a lucrative offer to coach the Huskies. But Neuheisel was able to leave with the win, thanks to Vontoure.
"It's draining, really," Neuheisel admitted. "You can't really tell your players that because they have to go out and play the game."
On first down at the Buffaloes' 44-yard line, Bobby Pesavento threw a short slant pass to McCready near midfield. Vontoure separated McCready from the ball and defensive tackle Larry Tripplett recovered the fumble at his own 45.
"I thought to myself, 'Pick it up and start running, get the ball, get the win,'" Tripplett said.
Coming off a 34-29 victory over then-No. 4 Miami, the Huskies (3-0) struggled offensively until the fourth quarter, when Willie Hurst scored on a two-yard run and Marques Tuiasosopo hit Wilbur Hooks Jr. for a 24-yard touchdown.
"I think we just regrouped at halftime and came out more focused," Tuiasosopo said. "This is just as big a win as last week's win was. It wasn't that great, but a win is a win. We'd obviously like to play better, but we are 3-0 and we think we will be all right."
Colorado took a 7-3 lead into halftime after freshman cornerback Phil Jackson scored on a 28-yard interception return. But the Buffaloes are off to their first 0-3 start since 1986.
"This leaves us in a tough situation, obviously," Colorado coach Gary Barnett said. "The hardest thing is not ourselves but how we handle how other people view us. That's the part that eats up kids at this age. They have got to be really strong not to take all of the harassment and the things that will be said and written about them being 0-3. We have to find a way to be tough-skinned enough to avoid all of that, or at least get through it."
Washington reached the Colorado 1-yard line on its first possession, but Paul Arnold's fumble was recovered by Jackson.
The Huskies forced a punt and grabbed a 3-0 lead as sophomore John Anderson's 22-yard field goal capped a 13-play, 49-yard drive.
The Buffaloes' first five possessions ended in punts by Jeremy Flores. But Jackson stepped in front of Tuiasosopo's pass and brought it all the way back just 97 seconds before halftime to put Colorado in front.
After a scoreless third quarter, Washington regained the lead on the first play of the final period. Hurst's run over left guard came two plays after Tuiasosopo and tight end Jerramy Stevens hooked up for a 32-yard gain.
Stevens caught seven passes for 102 yards.
"A lot of the catches were on 10-yard comeback plays," he explained. "Their defense played a cover-two, which would have me 1-on-1 with their safety. I am 6-7 and the safety was 5-10, so my height helped. I think Marques just laid out the passes and gave me a chance to catch them."
The Huskies increased the lead to 17-7 just over three minutes later. After forcing another punt, they moved 69 yards in eight plays. Tuiasosopo scrambled for 13 yards, hit Stevens for 15 more and reached the end zone on a 24-yard strike to Hooks.
Tuiasosopo completed 15-of-29 passes for 200 yards with two interceptions. He also gained 43 yards on 13 rushes.
Colorado was pinned at its own 3 with 8 1/2 minutes remaining after Pesavento's fumble was recovered by linebacker Jeremiah Pharms, who fumbled back to Pesavento. But the Buffaloes' offense came to life, marching 97 yards on 10 plays.
Pesavento completed his first four passes on the drive, including a 53-yarder to Javon Green, who made a spectacular one-handed grab before falling at the Washington 12.
"We knew we were struggling on offense, but we had to find a way to move the ball," Barnett said. "We had a couple of procedure calls that set us back every time we got the ball. We couldn't get ourselves into good field position in the second half. We really weren't moving the ball. We weren't blocking Tripplett, and Pharms caused us problems a couple of times."
Pesavento was 15-of-27 for 174 yards but was sacked six times.
Colorado's Marcus Houston led all rushers with 82 yards on 23 carries.
"I'll probably be sore tomorrow, but that's football," said Pesavento. "A couple of those sacks were my fault -- I held on to the ball too long."