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"Throwin' Samoan' running into Heisman race

Published Sep. 27, 2005

Marques Tuiasosopo does it all for Washington's offense.

The Washington Huskies would be lost without senior quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo _ or maybe they'd just lose.

But coach Rick Neuheisel isn't about to rein in the man ABC's Keith Jackson calls "The Warrior," no matter how many hits he takes running the option this season.

That would be risking too much.

Tuiasosopo, or "Tui" to his teammates and coaches, leads the No. 15 Huskies against No. 4 Miami today at Husky Stadium in Seattle. He will run, throw and may solidify himself as a Heisman Trophy candidate. To hear the Hurricanes tell it, maybe he already should be.

"He can absolutely take potentially a broken play that might have _ with any other quarterback _ resulted in maybe a tackle for a loss or a sack or a pressure or an interception, (and) he'll turn it into a huge play," said Miami coach Butch Davis, who compares him with former Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb.

The U.S.-born Tuiasosopo (pronounced TOO-ee-ah-so-SO-po) is the son of former Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Manu Tuiasosopo and the grandson of Chief Asovalu Tuiasosopo of American Samoa. The athletic ability of his family is legendary: Little brother Zach is a Huskies linebacker, sister Leslie played volleyball at Washington, 10 cousins played NFL or Division I football and another cousin _ Naomi Mulitauaopele of Utah _ is in the WNBA.

Marques may be the next in his family to play professionally. More than a throwin' Samoan, Tuiasosopo is just as comfortable running the ball. In a 35-30 victory over Rose Bowl-bound Stanford last season, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder became the first Division I-A player to pass for 300 yards and run for 200.

The Huskies have a cadre of young receivers, so expect the option to figure heavily in Washington's game plan. Against Idaho last week, Tuiasosopo _ who ran for a team-high 80 yards and passed for 223 _ may have used it too much, Neuheisel said.

"There were a couple times he probably should have pitched the ball, but for the most part he was making the correct reads," said Neuheisel, who admits he gets nervous when Tuiasosopo runs.

"I think you always are concerned when you have as much vested in a player as we have in Marques. Certainly there is some risk in having to run the ball, but he is our go-to guy right now. I don't know how we can afford not to have him be part of our perimeter offense."

Though he became the full-time starter only last season, he needs just 2,165 yards for the school's all-time passing record and 1,076 yards of total offense for that record.

After playing behind Brock Huard for two seasons, he threw for more than 200 yards seven times. He finished with 2,221 passing yards, third best in the Pac-10. He almost led the Huskies to the Rose Bowl, where they fell to UCLA 23-20 in overtime.

"Shoot, we were one game away last year and we threw it away," Tuiasosopo said.

But Washington isn't going to sneak up on anyone again, either. Today's game is the first in a tough three-game stretch: The Huskies play Colorado next and Oregon in two weeks.

"(The Hurricanes) have a very aggressive defense, a lot of great athletes that can run around and hit, led by Dan Morgan," Tuiasosopo said. "They have a great secondary that doesn't mind coming up and stopping the run but also defends the pass."

Neuheisel said his quarterback is up to the challenge.

"He can be an All-America quarterback, and he can win the Heisman Trophy," Neuheisel said. "Anything he achieves this year wouldn't surprise me at all."

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.