Musing on the state of the Washington offense last week after a loss to USC, UW coordinator Tim Lappano made an observation that lent a...

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Musing on the state of the Washington offense last week after a loss to USC, UW coordinator Tim Lappano made an observation that lent a hint of levity to a long season becoming longer.

Said Lappano, looking at the bright side, “We haven’t made a lot of just-total-idiot penalties and turnovers.”

Paging Walt Harris. Please grab a white courtesy phone, on your way to a bowl destination.

The most startling aspect of Stanford’s turnaround from its UC-Davis debacle six weeks ago is that the Cardinal has managed to negotiate three straight Pac-10 games without a turnover. Oh, yeah, and they were all victories.

Today, Stanford risks that impeccability against a team that statistically is even better at it. UCLA comes to Stanford Stadium with a plus-1.43 takeaway-turnover ratio per game, third in the nation. The Cardinal is at 1.17, tied for eighth.

All of which reinforces a time-worn road map for winning: If you don’t beat yourself, it’s a lot harder for the opponent to do it.

Not only is Stanford winning the turnover battle, it’s also the least penalized team in the Pac-10, assessed only five times a game for 40 yards. Opponents are being flagged to the tune of 33 yards a game more than Stanford, a gaping difference.


UCLA at Stanford, 3:30 p.m., FSN

Asked what’s changed since the UC-Davis loss, Harris, the first-year coach, said, “What’s changed is our practice attitude and our practice concentration. We’re starting to get our players to understand that not being good is not accepted — especially here at Stanford, because Stanford people are winning in everything they do.”

An upset here would put Stanford one win away from bowl eligibility. Meanwhile, the game represents a potential pothole for the Bruins and their march to a possible matchup of unbeatens with USC on Dec. 3.

UCLA is defensively suspect but has survived with its offense and late comebacks. The primary catalysts are the Drews, quarterback Drew Olson and tailback Maurice Drew.

Olson tops the Pac-10 in pass efficiency at 166.5 and his tailback could still figure in the Heisman Trophy race, though it probably would take some misfortune to people from USC and Texas.

Referring to his quarterback, UCLA coach Karl Dorrell says, “He’s really become a leader on this team. His leadership is at a totally different level.”

Arizona at Oregon State

OSU’s (4-3) path to the postseason is relatively clear if it can foil the Wildcats (1-6). If the Beavers can post a winning season, it would be their fourth straight, the best run in Corvallis since 1966-70.

Arizona has tried to ignite a spark with the insertion of 6-foot-2, 212-pound freshman quarterback Willie Tuitama. His first start will be against a defense that’s been porous, but in a testy setting.

“He has a long way to go to mature mentally,” said Mike Stoops, the Wildcats coach. “But physically, there’s nothing he can’t do. His skill level is extraordinary.”

Arizona last week lost punter Danny Baugher, the nation’s leader at 47.5 yards, to a knee injury. By season’s end, he won’t have the necessary games to qualify for the NCAA punting title.