3:30 PM ET, September 3, 2005
3:30 PM ET, September 3, 2005
SEATTLE (AP) -- Tyrone Willingham's presence alone hasn't taught Washington how to win -- even with an 11-point lead and 10 minutes to play.
Air Force rallied for 13 points in the fourth quarter, spoiling Willingham's Huskies debut with a 20-17 win on Saturday.
Quarterback Shaun Carney scored on a 1-yard run with 34 seconds left, handing Washington its seventh straight loss.
"We just needed to step up and make a play. If we make a play down the stretch offensively or defensively, there's a good chance we win the game," Willingham said.
With Air Force down 17-13, Carney directed a 14-play, 83-yard drive that ate most of the final six minutes. The Falcons (1-0) converted on fourth-and-2 with 4 minutes left after Carney scrambled for four yards.
Carney found Jason Brown for a 20-yard completion on third down, then hit Greg Kirkwood for 14-yards to the 1 on third-and-9 with 1:02 left. Carney scored two plays later.
"That last drive, everyone knew we were going to be fine," Carney said. "We weren't even really thinking down and distance."
It was a frustrating outcome for Washington (0-1), which last won on Oct. 9, 2004, a 21-6 win over San Jose State. The contest was a home game for Air Force, that was originally scheduled to be played at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo. The schools moved the game to Seattle in January 2004.
Clad in gold helmets, white jerseys minus names and gold pants, the Huskies looked eerily similar to Willingham's former team at Notre Dame. But a less than full Qwest Field, was hardly reminiscent of Notre Dame Stadium.
Wearing a purple golf shirt with gold trim, Willingham paced the sideline with a purposeful stride all afternoon. Willingham had won his first game with both Stanford and Notre Dame, his two previous coaching stops.
He seemed on the way to making it 3-for-3 with Washington ahead by two scores in the fourth.
"When you have a football team that hasn't had a lot of success, when you reach a point like that you get kind of giddy, kind of excited about where you're at," Willingham said. "In my eyes, that's almost the equivalent of a let down, and you have to guard against that."
Washington went up 17-6 early in the fourth quarter. Isaiah Stanback, who was named the starting quarterback on Tuesday, was conservative and efficient against the Falcons' defense.
When he finally took a shot downfield, Stanback made his best throw of the day, pumping right, then coming back to the left and finding Cody Ellis for a 27-yard touchdown with 10:43 left.
Stanback finished 19-for-27 for 242 yards in just his second start.
"Right now, it's just frustration more than anything," Stanback said. "No matter how good of a play I made or anybody else made we still lost."
Air Force didn't go quietly. Kirkwood muffed the ensuing kickoff, putting the Falcons at the 1. After moving the ball to the 16, Kirkwood made up for the mistake, beating reserve cornerback Josh Okoebor for an 84-yard TD -- the fourth-longest touchdown in school history.
Kirkwood, who grew up in eastern Washington and had 60 to 70 family and friends at the game, finished with six catches for 134 yards, as Air Force threw for 207 yards. Carney rushed 20 times for 69 yards.
"On the kickoff, I made a mistake and should have let it go," Kirkwood said. "I had to make a play to make up for that one."
Similar to last year, Washington's defense struggled to get off the field, especially in the second half. Air Force ran 13 more offensive plays, held an almost four minute advantage in time of possession, was 9-for-17 on third down and 3-for-3 on fourth down.
"I'm not so sure the time our defense spent on the field all day didn't somewhat have an impact," Willingham said. "We were clearly just missing things we had taken care of earlier."
Tied 3-3 at halftime, Washington went ahead midway through the third quarter. Fullback James Sims plunged in from 1-yard, after which Willingham held his familiar poise, raising one finger in the air for the point after touchdown attempt.
Louis Rankin had a career-high 112 yards on 23 carries for Washington.
The Falcons controlled much of the first half, but turned the ball over twice deep in Washington's end.
Washington scored on its second drive, when Evan Knudson connected on a 40-yard field goal. Air Force's Scott Eberle made a 40-yard field goal in the second quarter on his first collegiate attempt.
"We made plays whenever we had to," Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry said. "You never rule a Falcon out and I'm proud of my team."