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The Seattle Times Extra Copyright © 1997 The Seattle Times Company
Sunday, Sept. 21, 1997

Tuiasosopo provides a reminder: All dreams of glory need not die

The hope for a national championship is gone. Nebraska dragged the dream up and down Husky Stadium yesterday, bigger, stronger and more prepared than Washington, just as Notre Dame was a year ago.

What chance there was vanished in a specious decision by UW Coach Jim Lambright to try an onside kick after the Huskies had drawn to seven points down early in third quarter.

Randy Jones kicked the ball out of bounds. Even if he hadn't, the lob intended for Tony Parrish would have been contested. Nebraska was ready; trickery wouldn't beat tradition.

But if the game said again that the Huskies still aren't ready to slug it out with the country's most mature programs, it did answer the question: What happens if Brock Huard gets hurt?

What was believed to be the weakest link on this team appears to be a strength. For this season and those to come.

The day was a contradiction. Dismal for the Huskies, brilliant for the Northwest, boats stacked on the blue waters of Lake Washington as if it were the parking lot at Northgate.

But if the national championship faded, the Rose Bowl somehow looked more attainable. A reserve quarterback who can really play makes that kind of difference.

Marques Tuiasosopo was extraordinary in the three quarters he commanded the Huskies in relief of Huard. He threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns. He gave Washington a reason to win the game, not lose it.

He is a freshman who has yet to attend his first class. A year ago he was running a wishbone offense at Woodinville High School in which he never threw more than 10 passes a game.

Huard was hurt when Nebraska defensive end Grant Wistrom tackled him around the ankle. Huard stopped short of saying the tackle and twist were against the rules, but left the impression they might have been.

In any event, behind 14-0 and without the antidote to Nebraska's power - the passing of Brock Huard - the Huskies appeared to be in for the same annihilation they got at Notre Dame.

Could Tuiasosopo handle a rush that had taken out Huard? Could he, after all, throw farther than 10 yards down the field? Might this situation destroy him for not just an afternoon, but a career?

On his second pass, he split the Nebraska defense on a pass to Jerome Pathon for 41 yards. He threw it from Washington's 17-yard line.

The next series he went deep again, 36 yards to Pathon, who made a heroic catch, and then came back on the next play for a touchdown to tight end Cam Cleeland. The ball was thrown down the middle, between defenders, a kind of pass Johnny Unitas, not an 18-year-old freshman, dared make.

This wasn't the way it was supposed to be.

No one questioned his athletic ability, but most colleges across the country recruited Tuiasosopo as a safety. In June, he played in a national all-star game in Florida. As a safety.

"I asked about playing quarterback," he said, "but they were set."

The quarterbacks were Drew Miller of Tacoma, who went to BYU, and Edmund Stansbury of El Paso, Texas, who went to UCLA.

"Defensive back came naturally to me," said Tuiasosopo, "but I loved the quarterback position. I wanted to give it a try."

The decision came down to Washington or UCLA, his father's school. Both recruited him as a quarterback.

"In our summer camp," said Bill Diedrick, the UW quarterback coach, "I saw a good motion, a fine release and an ability to make good decisions. What else are you looking for in a quarterback?"

In a surprise, Tuiasosopo moved ahead of Jon Minter in the fall camp, even though Minter had spent a season, a spring and two weeks of practice for the Holiday Bowl preparing to be the backup.

"It was Marques' presence," said Diedrick. "And his efficiency. In some areas he was ahead of Brock."

Tuiasosopo has the lineage. His father, Mano, played for the Seahawks and the 49ers as a defensive lineman. His sister, Leslie, is on the UW volleyball team. Then there is younger brother, Zach, a sophomore tight end at Woodinville whom Marques contends is better than he is.

The Tuiasosopo roots go deep into an athletic soil that produced Terry Tautolo at UCLA, Jesse Sapolu of the 49ers, '50s star Johnny Olszewski at Cal, even UW hopeful Toalei Mulitauaopele and his sister, Stanford basketball star Naomi.

"That's part of his past," said Diedrick. "It's like being a coach's son."

The Huskies expect to get Huard back for the game in two weeks here against Arizona State.

But no longer he is the one player they couldn't lose this season and win a Pac-10 title. The Rose Bowl remains, even if its outcome might not be for a national championship.

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