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Sunday, October 31, 2004 - Page updated at 12:14 A.M.
By Bob Condotta
EUGENE, Ore. Craig Chambers went from potential bust to future star in the span of three hours here yesterday.
It wasn't enough to prevent Washington's 31-6 loss to the Oregon Ducks here yesterday, but it was enough to give Huskies fans at least something to feel good about.
Chambers, the graduate of Jackson High School in Mill Creek who was the most touted recruit in UW's Class of 2003, caught four passes for 106 yards. Chambers, who hadn't seen significant playing time before yesterday, became the only receiver other than Charles Frederick to top the century mark in a game this season.
All four catches came in the third quarter as the Huskies piled up 155 yards of offense, though they scored just three points in the period.
Speculation about whether Chambers, who was compared to Reggie Williams when he signed, would ever meet expectations had begun to mount.
But UW coach Keith Gilbertson said Chambers, whose 6-foot-3 frame makes him the tallest UW wide receiver, had been impressive in practice the last few weeks and finally earned some playing time.
"He just started to get better and faster and more explosive off the line of scrimmage," said Gilbertson. "And he just really started to catch the ball in practice. Before, he was dropping it. He ran some beautiful routes and made some great catches. I'm happy for Craig.
"People have been wondering, 'Where's Craig Chambers? Where's Craig Chambers?' I know that's been hard for him, and it's great that he stepped up like that."
Chambers said that "basically the last two weeks, I've just been focusing a lot more."
He said he took it "like a slap in the face" when coaches moved Bobby Whithorne ahead of him two weeks ago when Quintin Daniels who Chambers had been backing up was hurt.
"That fired me up, basically," Chambers said. "I came back and said I have to get moving."
Gilby mum on QB
Gilbertson said Thursday that Casey Paus would start the rest of the season barring something "catastrophic."
Four interceptions and a fumble by Paus who took every snap for UW may have been just that.
Asked afterward if Paus would start Saturday against Arizona, Gilbertson declined to answer.
"I'm not saying anything about it," he said. "I'm real tired of talking about it. I'm exhausted."
As had been expected, Evan Knudson replaced Michael Braunstein as UW's field-goal kicker and he made the change look like a good one when he booted a 41-yard field goal in the first quarter and a 37-yarder in the third quarter on his only two attempts of the game
UW hadn't made a field goal longer than 29 yards all season and hadn't converted any since the third game of the season at Notre Dame.
Braunstein had missed his last three attempts, including two last week, to lose the job and UW entered the game last in the Pac-10 in field goals, making 3 of 9.
"It's a bittersweet kind of opportunity," Knudson said. "But it was nice making that first field goal and getting back into it."
Knudson had struggled with mononucleosis early in the season and lost the job when he missed two field goals in the opener against Fresno State.
Solomona finally hurts Huskies
Oregon defensive end Chris Solomona all but sealed Oregon's win with a 10-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to make the score 24-6.
The play had added meaning for Solomona, as he had signed with UW in 2000 before being declared academically ineligible, then attending a junior college and resurfacing at Oregon.
"Washington is a team that I've always wanted to beat and it was just a great, great feeling to have beaten the Huskies my senior year," he said.
The Huskies may have escaped major injury. Gilbertson said the most serious appeared to be an ankle injury suffered by WR Anthony Russo. S Dashon Goldson also may have aggravated a chronic shoulder injury that may require off-season surgery. And senior CB Derrick Johnson left the game briefly in the first quarter after being poked in the eye but returned later in the half.
Redshirt freshman LB Kyle Trew, a graduate of Edmonds-Woodway High School, made the biggest play of his career, recovering a fumbled Oregon punt in the second quarter, setting Washington up at the Ducks' 43-yard line. But the Huskies were forced to punt.
Cody Ellis, moved this week to receiver, caught a pass in the third quarter for 5 yards and will continue to play the position.
The Huskies' football team attended the UW women's volleyball game against the Ducks at Mac Court Friday night. The football watched as the Huskies won in three games. The volleyball team then attended the football game before heading home. The volleyball team is 19-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
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