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Originally published Wednesday, November 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Huskies' Tripper Johnson still smarting over Apple Cup loss

Tripper Johnson was elated to play in his first Apple Cup, but he says a poor play cost UW.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A couple of days before the Apple Cup, Huskies safety Tripper Johnson once again regaled a few reporters with his made-for-TV tale of spending eight years in minor-league baseball before deciding to play college football.

During his time as a baseball player, he said, he attended a few Apple Cups, and in 2006, when the Huskies won in Pullman, he even charged the field in celebration with a bunch of other Washington fans.

So, he said, he couldn't believe his good fortune that two years later he would be taking part in his first Apple Cup.

"It's pretty crazy that I actually get to play in one," he said. "I'm pretty excited."

Tuesday, he met with reporters again, this time relaying different feelings after having played in his first Apple Cup.

"I've been sick to my stomach ever since," Johnson said of UW's 16-13 double-overtime loss.

And specifically for his role in the loss when he was unable to help stop a 48-yard pass completion from WSU's Kevin Lopina to Jared Karstetter that set up a tying field goal on the last play of regulation.

Johnson was positioned at safety on the play, with UW in what is called "quarters" coverage, meaning the back end of the field is divided up among the four secondary players, each responsible for their quarter. Johnson was in the game as part of UW's nickel defense — Johri Fogerson had started at that safety spot but was not in the game for that play.

As a safety, Johnson also has responsibility to help out to the side as well as his quarter of the field.

So when Karstetter broke past cornerback Quinton Richardson, Johnson ran over, initially anticipating an easy play.

"When I broke on the ball, I thought I was going to pick it off no problem," Johnson said, recalling the play. "And the ball kept sailing and sailing and it got over my head."

In fact, Johnson said he thinks tracking the football is one of his strengths as a safety because of his years as a baseball player chasing down fly balls.

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"I read the quarterback and saw he was going deep with the ball," Johnson said. "I thought I read it right. I was running over there and I looked up at the ball and just realized it was going over my head. I thought I had a perfect bead on it. Unfortunately I blew it. I made a bad read and that's all I can really say. It was partly my responsibility to help out and get over there and I didn't do it and I'm pretty disappointed in myself."

Johnson walked on to the Huskies last spring after spending eight years in minor-league baseball. He decided to give up baseball after not progressing past Class AA and being released, and turned to football, a sport he had starred in at Newport High School.

He has said many times he thought it would be a successful season if he merely got on the field in any capacity as a special teamer or a backup.

Instead, depth issues at safety have meant Johnson has started six games this season.

Tuesday, backed up against the wall, surrounded by reporters, Johnson didn't use his relative inexperience as an excuse. He was out there, and he expected to make the play.

"I'm embarrassed and frustrated and disappointed that it [the Cougars completion] had to happen," he said.

Tuiasosopo trying

to get another year

Huskies middle linebacker Trenton Tuiasosopo is petitioning the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility with hopes of returning next season.

Tuiasosopo missed all but two games of his freshman season in 2004 with a knee injury. He then got the year back as a medical redshirt.

He then missed the entire 2005 season after suffering serious head injuries in a bike accident on campus that initially looked like it might be career-ending.

Tuiasosopo, a Mariner High School graduate and cousin of former Huskies Marques and Zach Tuiasosopo, has played regularly the past three seasons and has started six of the past seven games in the middle.

Sixth years are generally awarded for players who missed two entire seasons for events beyond their control.

The return of Tuiasosopo would boost a defense that has eight other starters returning — the only seniors currently starting are defensive tackle Johnie Kirton and cornerback Mesphin Forrester.

Coaching

search update

Former Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione, mentioned by one Web site as a possible leading candidate for the UW job, said in an interview on KJR-AM Tuesday he has not been contacted by the school.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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