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Originally published Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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UW Football Notebook | Third down now a joy

There might have been no statistic more important in Washington's 29-19 victory over UCLA last Saturday than this one -- the Huskies...

Seattle Times staff reporter

There might have been no statistic more important in Washington's 29-19 victory over UCLA last Saturday than this one — the Huskies allowed the Bruins to make just four of 16 third-down attempts.

That was Washington's second-best defensive performance on third down since Tyrone Willingham took over as coach last season. It's an area the coach made a priority for this year after the Huskies were plagued by third-down failures in 2005.

UW defensive coordinator Kent Baer cites several reasons for the improvement, notably the fact the team has more depth and that allows for more substituting by situation.

"A year ago, we tended to play with more of our base personnel and not as much nickel [which is when the team puts in an extra defensive back in obvious passing situations]," Baer said. "We really have a lot of different role players on the team."

One of those is sophomore Mesphin Forrester, who is listed at both cornerback and safety and plays primarily as the nickel back. He has responded with key interceptions in the second half the past two games — half of the team's interception total for the season.

Forrester, whose first name means "Prince" in Ethiopian, played sparingly a year ago, making only one tackle.

But he impressed coaches in the spring when he was able to quickly pick up most of the positions in the secondary.

Hasty return

With school beginning, the Huskies were allowed to expand their roster, and among 10 additions was J.R. Hasty. Not included were Ashlee Palmer and Chancellor Young.

Hasty, a running back from Bellevue High who was declared ineligible over the summer, is not eligible to play this season, but is back on the roster and practicing with the team again and working toward regaining eligibility for next season as a sophomore.

Palmer, a highly touted junior-college transfer safety, did not qualify academically and will not enroll this year. That means his letter of intent is now void and he is again a recruitable athlete.

Young, a wide receiver from O'Dea, also was declared ineligible over the summer. Willingham had left open the possibility that he could return to the roster, but that door closed with the unveiling of the final roster. His future plans are uncertain.

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Also on the roster is JC transfer offensive lineman Aaron Mason, who had been ineligible. He is likely to redshirt this season and will have two years of eligibility left.

Notes

• UW QB Isaiah Stanback was given the Master Football Coaches Game Ball for offense for his performance Saturday. The Master Coaches Survey is an advisory poll of 17 former college football coaches and it names national offensive, defensive and special-teams players each week.

• LB E.J. Savannah, who missed last week with a broken hand, remains unlikely to return this week. Willingham said LB Scott White and safety C.J. Wallace were wearing red in practice this week for precautionary reasons, but they are expected to start Saturday.

• Defensive-backs coach J.D. Williams said he expects CB Dashon Goldson, returning from an ankle injury, to play significantly more than the 12 plays he was in for against UCLA.

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