3:30 PM ET, November 6, 2004
SEATTLE (AP) -- First-year Arizona football coach Mike Stoops finally has his first Pac-10 victory and the Washington Huskies are in last place in the conference all by their lonesome.
"I'm happy for them, even if it's only one win," Stoops said after his Wildcats beat the Huskies 23-13 on Saturday. "I'm not going to stand on my head or anything, but it's progress."
Cornerback Wilrey Fontenot returned a fumble 33 yards for the go-ahead touchdown for the Wildcats (2-7, 1-5 Pac-10), who ended a seven-game losing streak.
"The guys are more relieved than anything," Stoops said. "We know we should be better than we've been."
Stoops said Fontenot's touchdown was the play of the game.
"It was a great play by Wilrey to pick up that fumble and take it in for a score," he said. "It gave us a spark."
Fontenot, a freshman from Humble, Texas, made the biggest play of his young collegiate career.
"It just bounced up into my hands and all I was thinking was end zone," he said. "I'm glad I could make it to the end zone without falling down."
The loss shoved the Huskies (1-8, 0-6) into sole possession of last place in the league with their fourth straight Pac-10 defeat.
Washington self-destructed with four second-half turnovers after departing coach Keith Gilbertson took out starting quarterback Casey Paus and replaced him with sophomore Isaiah Stanback after one series in the second half.
Gilbertson refused to second-guess himself about going to Stanback with his team ahead with Paus at quarterback.
"We were going to give him a series anyway and we were 6-for-22 at the time when we made the change," he said. "I don't know if it would have been possible to do any worse than that."
The Huskies announced Monday that Gilbertson will resign as the coach at the end of the season; his team played an inspired first half. Gilbertson has a 7-14 record in his two years as Washington's coach.
Stanback threw an interception and lost a fumble in his four series.
"I'm tired of looking stupid and making the team look stupid," Stanback said. "I know what I can do, but I have to eliminate the dumb stuff."
Stanback said Washington's defenders did not have good thoughts about the team's offense.
"I know they're mad at us," he said. "I'm mad at us. We're letting them down."
Gilbertson brought Paus back with his team trailing 23-13 in the fourth quarter and he threw an interception, too, giving the Huskies 44 turnovers this season. The Huskies didn't commit a turnover in the opening half, when they led 13-9.
Washington leads the nation in turnovers and the Pac-10 with 19 interceptions.
Stanback had a pass intercepted and lost a fumble, but the Huskies' most critical turnover was a fumble by Shelton Sampson that Fontenot returned for a touchdown with 4:10 left in the third quarter to put Arizona ahead 16-13. It was Arizona's first defensive touchdown of the season.
Stoops left the Oklahoma program, where his brother Bob is the head coach, to take the Arizona job that opened up when John Mackovic was fired five games into the 2003 season.
Stoops watched the Wildcats go ahead 23-13 with 39 seconds to go in the final period on a 13-yard run by Mike Bell after Stanback's pass was intercepted by linebacker Kirk Johnson at the Washington 40.
Washington came back to lead at halftime after falling behind 9-0 in the first 3:18. Richard Kovalcheck set up an Arizona touchdown on a 1-yard run by Bell by completing a flea-flicker pass for 50 yards to Syndric Steptoe to the Huskies 1. The 50-yard pass was Arizona's longest of the season.
Then defensive end Copeland Bryan blocked a punt by Sean Douglas out of the end zone for a Wildcats' safety.
A 57-yard pass from Paus to Sampson, the longest play by Washington this season, set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Sampson midway through the first quarter. Sampson took a dumpoff pass from Paus and scrambled up the left sideline. Sampson's TD was Washington's first touchdown in three weeks.
Evan Knudson kicked a 42-yard field goal in the final minute of the opening period and added a 34-yard field goal with 2:51 gone in the second quarter for Washington.
Arizona lost two touchdowns, one on a kickoff return and the other on a punt return, in the first half because of penalties. Steptoe lost two fumbles, one on a punt return.