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FREEDOM BOWL NOTEBOOK : Huskies Make Their Defense Wait and Watch

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Washington safety Eugene Burkhalter cherished all the playing time he and the Huskies’ defense could get in a 34-7 victory over Florida Saturday in the Freedom Bowl.

There wasn’t much of it.

Burkhalter, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior, had four tackles, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup.

But he and the rest of the Huskies’ defense spent most of the game on the sideline. Washington’s time of possession was 41:52 compared to 18:08 for Florida.

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“I love to see the offense take the ball like that,” said Burkhalter, a former standout at Long Beach Poly High School. “But sometimes I get upset because I’m on the sidelines and I can’t hit someone.”

Burkhalter on his recovery of a fumbled pitchout from Don Douglas to Emmitt Smith at the Washington 7-yard-line in the third quarter: "(Cornerback) Le-Lo Lang had a nice shot on Smith and jarred it loose. The ball was right there for me to pick up.”

Washington’s Chico Fraley surprised Florida punter Hank Rone in the second quarter when he blocked Rone’s kick, which was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown by Jaime Fields.

But the blocked punt was nothing new for Fraley and the Huskies. It was Washington’s fifth blocked punt of the season and Fraley’s second.

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“We work hard on our defensive schemes for punts,” said Fraley, a sophomore. “With our schemes, you never know who’ll get into the backfield.”

Washington’s Dennis Brown, a senior defensive end, was asked what memories he will take from his final college game.

“I’ll go back in a few years and remember playing against Emmitt Smith,” said Brown, a former standout at Long Beach Jordan. “He’ll probably be a multimillionaire in the NFL by then, though.”

All kinds of thoughts raced through Brown’s mind when Florida’s Douglas scored on a 67-yard run in the first quarter.

“I was watching him run and kept thinking about (losses to) Colorado and Arizona,” he said. “We had to get together on the sideline and regroup.”

The Huskies handed Florida its worst bowl loss, surpassing Texas A & M’s 23-point victory over the Gators in the 1977 Sun Bowl.

Washington tailback Greg Lewis rushed for 103 yards, 86 more than Smith, Florida’s All-American.

“Our defense told me before the game that (Smith) wouldn’t get anything,” Lewis said. “They held to their word.”

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Washington linebacker James Clifford on Smith’s problems against the Huskies’ defense: “I can’t take anything away from him, but the grass (field) might have slowed him down a little bit.”

The Gators play on artificial turf in their home stadium, Florida Field.

The Huskies’ victory gave them a 1-6 record against Southeastern Conference teams. Florida is 6-4-1 against Pacific 10 teams.

Washington is 11-7-1 in bowl games; Florida is 8-10.


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