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Originally published Tuesday, October 10, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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UW Football | Huskies lament ending vs. USC

Two seconds from Saturday lasted about 45 minutes Monday. That's roughly how long reporters spent querying Washington coach Tyrone Willingham...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Two seconds from Saturday lasted about 45 minutes Monday.

That's roughly how long reporters spent querying Washington coach Tyrone Willingham during his weekly news conference, with much of the questioning on the highly disputed final two seconds of Saturday's loss at USC.

Sonny Shackelford was tackled at the USC 15-yard-line after catching a pass from Isaiah Stanback with UW trailing 26-20 and the clock stopping at two seconds. After officials met for a minute or so to discuss whether the clock should be reset, UW was unable to get off another snap and the game ended.

Willingham said his only problem with how the officials handled the final play was the setting of the clock. He said there should have been a minimum of four seconds remaining.

But he said he had no issues with the rest of the sequence, saying the play was a "unique" set of circumstances that made it difficult for all involved.

And ultimately, he said, the blame rested on his shoulders for not having the Huskies ready to run a play quickly enough to beat the clock.

Saturday

Oregon State @ UW, 3:30 p.m. (FSN)

"Regardless of whether it was five or two seconds on the clock, I felt like we should have gotten a play off," Willingham said. "And I just didn't do my job to get us up and over the ball quick enough to get it done."

One reporter said it looked like the Huskies were ready, but Willingham shook his head.

"We were still kind of moving around, feeling the officials, trying to get exactly where we were," he said. "It would have been my job to get them simply on the ball and get them going."

Willingham said he would have liked to have been able to discuss the clock situation with the officials but was not allowed. Willingham said there is no "protocol" for such situations, nor do the officials have to explain it to coaches or players. Such timing issues cannot be reviewed by instant replay.

Washington center Juan Garcia said after the game he thought the umpire started the clock more quickly than he had been previously after putting the ball in play. But Willingham said he didn't think that was an issue, again citing the "unique" nature of the play. Willingham said he thought the huddle by the officials made the whole sequence "confusing" for players and coaches on both sides.

Willingham said the Huskies often practice last-minute situations, but rarely have practiced getting off a snap with just two seconds left. But, he said to laughter, "we will now."

Willingham confirmed that the new clock rules this season did not affect that play — those rules pertain only to kickoffs (the clock now starts when the ball is kicked rather than when it is caught) and the first play following a change of possession.

Both of those changes, however, hurt UW on the last possession. The kickoff took five seconds, even though it resulted in a touchback. The first play lasted 16 seconds as Stanback took a little time changing the protection before taking the snap and throwing an incomplete pass.

"Everything has to go faster," Willingham said of how the Huskies handled the last drive.

Willingham said he was confident UW could score on the final play, which he described as "verticals with an option route attached," meaning a pass play with all of the receivers running into the end zone except for one who had an option to cut into the middle based on what the safety did.

Willingham also addressed a controversial fake field goal executed by USC for its first touchdown. On the play, USC holder Michael McDonald took the snap, then rose and threw to receiver Steve Smith, who had been on the field for the previous play, then began heading to the sideline, which confused the Huskies.

Willingham said he had no problems with any aspect of the play. He said Smith was "in the backfield" and that the Trojans had the needed seven men on the line of scrimmage without Smith.

"It was a legal formation," Willingham said. "It was a good call on their part and we just missed it."

Stanback ailing but probable

Willingham said Stanback suffered a hip pointer during the game and played most, if not all, of the second half hobbling.

He said he anticipates Stanback being able to play Saturday against Oregon State.

"It was a physical football game and he is feeling the knocks and bumps and bruises of a physical contest," Willingham said.

He also said he expects safeties Jason Wells and Dashon Goldson to be ready to play. Both suffered concussions and Goldson also limped off the field late with cramps.

Linebacker E.J. Savannah, out three games with a broken thumb, might return this week.

Notes

• The game at Cal will be televised by FSN and will begin at 12:30 p.m.

• UW's players of the week were Shackelford (offense), Goldson (defense) and Michael Braunstein (special teams).

• Willingham said the snaps of Garcia out of the shotgun and Danny Morovick on kicks have to get better.

• Oregon State coach Mike Riley said senior Matt Moore will start at QB for Oregon State "and we'll just play it from there." With OSU struggling at 2-3, there have been calls in Corvallis for freshman Sean Canfield.

• About 60,000 tickets have been sold for Saturday's game.

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

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