By last Saturday night the evidence seemed to indicate that Hobert was not so much guilty as goofy, and that Washington was not so much indomitable as just very good. Other evidence suggested that Arizona was not the heir to last year's team, which finished 4-7. Lessons: No team is as good or as bad as the previous season's record might indicate, nor are any of its players any more sensible than the average 21-year-old.
Before the Arizona game the Huskies were neck and neck with Miami for the nation's top ranking—as they had been all last season, when the two teams finished undefeated and shared the national title—but neither team was so much better than everyone else that an upset was unthinkable. After all, when Miami played Arizona on Sept. 26 at the Orange Bowl, the Hurricanes squeezed out an 8-7 victory only because Steve McLaughlin's game-ending 51-yard goal attempt was wide by two feet.
Washington had had no such close calls this season. Only Southern Cal had come within a touchdown. But were these Huskies really as good as they had been last season? While linebacker Dave Hoffmann has matured into a Butkus Award candidate, Washington has no one of sufficient bulk or ability to replace defensive tackle Steve Emtman, this year's top pick in the NFL draft. And Hobert, who inherited the quarterback job for 1991 after projected starter Mark Brunell went down with a knee injury in the spring, had to share time with Brunell this fall. Brunell had actually started the last three games, and neither player was happy.
James said that he didn't see enough difference between the two to deny either one an opportunity to play, especially a hardworking senior like Brunell, who had a possible pro career ahead of him. In any event the two passers' numbers were so similar (before the Arizona game, Brunell had produced 100.4 yards of offense per game, Hobert 105.6) that the offense didn't suffer from James's timesharing strategy.
That is until Saturday, when the Huskies met the most boring team in America. Arizona coach Dick Tomey has survived with two odd precepts. First, no team of his will be beaten by the run. You can pass for 1,000 yards against him, but don't try anything off tackle. Second, no team of his will do anything more flamboyant than...run off tackle. "We run inside," he likes to say, "and if that doesn't work, we run inside."
This is old-fashioned, conservative football. It's not a lot of fun to watch. "If I were sitting at home watching us play," says Arizona tailback Chuck Levy, "I'd be bored."
The Wildcats, behind quarterback George Malauulu, will not hurt you with the pass. Indeed, against Washington, Malauulu completed only five of 12 throws for 54 yards. The Wildcats will, however, run off tackle—again and again.
Against this offensive resolve, Washington's defense suddenly looked mortal. Well, not suddenly. In the first quarter the Huskies gave up 10 yards. In the second they yielded 83. Then, in the third Arizona began putting together long drives, one inside rush after another, until the Wildcats had gained 251 yards by the end of the game. "Seventeen plays?" said Hoffmann, when asked about the Arizona scoring drive that began with five minutes remaining in the third quarter and ended 2½ minutes into the fourth. "Was it that many? You gotta find away to get off the field."
As the game wore on, Washington wore out. "In the beginning," said Levy, "they were tackling in piles. By the end, there were a lot of solo tackles. I knew we had drained them when we switched ends at the end of the third quarter. They were lagging down the field." Another observation from Mr. Levy: "There is no big Mr. Emtman this year, no monster in the middle creating his own space. Makes a difference."
Does it ever. During last year's 54-0 shutout, Emtman steamed through the middle, flattened Malauulu and warned, "I'll be back." Malauulu meekly answered, "I know." Last Saturday, Washington committed the kinds of errors it usually forces its opponent to make. Of course, a tenacious Arizona defense—led by noseguard Rob Waldrop, linebacker Brant Boyer and cornerback Keshon Johnson—had a lot to do with that. This season the Wildcats had forced 20 turnovers while committing only nine. One of two fumbles by Washington tailback Napoleon Kaufman set up a McLaughlin field goal. "Even the great ones fumble," said Kaufman afterward.