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Late blocked extra point gives Washington the win over Fresno State

SEATTLE (AP) -- They pumped their golden helmets toward the
student section. Each thrust matched the pulse of rare Washington
Husky postgame roars.

It was an impromptu celebration of a second Washington win in
three games: Saturday's 21-20 escape from Fresno State, the result
of a blocked extra point by third-string defensive end Caesar
Rayford with 4:30 minutes remaining.

Yes, those victories are over San Jose State and mistake-plagued
Fresno State, members of the Western Athletic Conference -- the
Pac-10's supposed regional stepbrothers. The wins bracket the
Huskies' second-half collapse at Oklahoma.

Whatever. The team with just three wins in 22 games entering
this season will gladly take its best start since 2003, its last
non-losing season.

"Put it like this: Last year, we were 2-9. We're already 2-1,"
beaming safety C.J. Wallace said after his game-high 17 tackles --
many against bruising Bulldog Dwayne Wright.

Wright ran through an unofficial count of 18 Husky tackles en
route to 136 yards on 27 carries for Fresno State (1-2). The
nation's third-leading rusher coming in now has 448 yards this
season, the highest total through three games in Fresno State
history.

"We feel like we aren't even playing our best football,"
Wallace said, using the sloppy tackling of Wright as an example.
"We feel the sky's the limit for us."

Or, as coach Tyrone Willingham said of this mini-turnaround in
his second Washington season, "It validates every ounce of sweat
we've had."

The Huskies were sweating again after Wright's second rushing
touchdown, a 1-yard reach across the goal line, was about to forge
a third tie late. But Kenny Amendola's low snap and a problematic
hold led to Rayford blocking Clint Stitser's PAT with his right
hand to keep Washington ahead by a point.

Defensive coordinator Kent Baer added the 6-foot-7 Rayford to
the kick-block unit Monday.

"It was wild, man. I don't think I jumped at all. I just
stretched out," Rayford said.

The Bulldogs got the ball back a final time after Rayford's
block. But Washington's Mesphin Forrester intercepted Tom
Brandstater's pass and returned it to the Fresno State 1 with just
over a minute left.

Two kneeldowns sent Washington (2-1) into next week's Pac-10
opener against UCLA feeling renewed. And Bulldogs coach Pat Hill
feeling irate.

His Bulldogs, known for their special teams play, had problems
all over their kicking game in response to a narrow home loss to
No. 18 Oregon last week -- including Stitser missing badly on an
earlier, 41-yard field goal attempt.

Hill's postgame rant at his players resonated through the
locker-room walls.

"That's not acceptable for Fresno State football," a
still-seething Hill said later of a team that has appeared in seven
consecutive bowl games. "Guys weren't ready, weren't getting it
done. And I take full responsibility for that.

"And it will change. I'll tell you what, it's going to get
physical (in practice) next week ... We'll find some new players,
if we have to."

Washington took a 21-14 lead five minutes into the final quarter
on Isaiah Stanback's second touchdown pass. Sonny Shackleford made
a leaping catch while grabbing an 8-yard throw off the arm of
Bulldogs safety Vincent Mays.

Fresno State had evened the game at 14 just three plays into the
third quarter. Brandstater perfectly placed a soft pass onto the
hands of Paul Williams, who was banging shoulders with Washington's
Matt Fountaine. Williams dragged Fountaine the final 5 yards of a
38-yard touchdown pass.

Williams is the younger brother of Curtis Williams, a former
Washington defensive back who six years ago suffered a paralyzing
neck injury against Stanford. Williams ultimately died from
complications of the paralysis.

Washington has Curtis Williams' jersey number 25 painted on the
sidelines at Husky Stadium -- his younger brother ran by it on his
touchdown route.

The entire Williams family attended the game, in which Paul
caught six passes for 85 yards against coverage designed in part by
a third Williams brother. J.D. Williams is in his first season as
the Huskies' defensive back coach.

Stanback gave Washington a 14-7 lead late in the first half. His
zigzagging 36-yard scramble set up his 6-yard sprint into the end
zone on a quarterback draw. Willingham had extended that drive by
going for a fourth-and-1 at his own 49. Stanback converted that
with a 2-yard sneak, part of his 91-yard rushing day.

Wright rolled for 82 yards in the first half through
Washington's flailing defenders. Wright had 43 yards on the game's
opening drive. That ended with his fifth touchdown run of the
season, a 1-yard dive.

Washington answered with the first of its two 13-play touchdown
drives of the opening half. Stanback converted a third-and-20 with
a 38-yard completion to Marcel Reece to the Bulldogs' 16. He then
scrambled and hit Johnie Kirton, open in the back of the end zone
from 5 yards out.