Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham says that he is taking this weekend's game against Notre Dame just like any other game and judging from his brief answers he is.
Willingham was asked on Monday how difficult the Huskies' 0-6 start has been on him and replied, "It'd take me too long to tell you."
When asked what factors have contributed to the winless season Willingham responded simply, "We've not outscored our opponent."
But Willingham did open up to offer some more comments on the slow start.
"We just haven't made the things happen that we need to have happen. At the wrong times, we've made mistakes. We've done the things that keep you out of being in position to win," he said. "We've had some wonderful efforts along the way, but effort is not what it's about it, it's about finishing the task and we have not found a way to do that."
The Washington head coach did not mention the Irish by name in his opening statement.
"This week we've got another quality football team coming into town," he said. "We've got to play physical, we've got to get after it and we've got to put ourselves to eliminate the mistakes so we can be in a position at the end of the game to win."
But Willingham made it clear that he was not avoiding the topic.
"The first thing to make sure my reference is correct, I am aware that it is Notre Dame and I will refer to them in the proper name. It's not like some, you're not looking at them or not speaking to them or anything along those lines," he said. "For me and I think what I try to do is always try to take the Tyrone Willingham out of things. It's not about me, it's about the two teams for 2008 that will line up on the field and play and the team that plays the best that day will win."
In an attempt to see if he truly was giving this game the same attention, Willingham was asked if he could have been guaranteed a win in any game this season, what game it would be.
"I'd probably say the first one because that would give me a chance to have an undefeated season," he answered.
The matchup between Willingham and his former school provides media members with plenty of drama this weekend, but he is confident that in the end it will be about the game.
"That's something that everyone else will dwell on. After we finish this morning I'll be simply focused on our football game and trying to move our football team in that direction," he said. "At some point some of you will tire of that and you'll move on to something else."
Willingham knows firsthand the following that the Irish have across the country.
"History and tradition. They've been around a long time, they've been very successful and they have one other thing working for them, the Catholic Church," he said. "As far as I know that is probably every place in the country or maybe even the world they have a location and that makes a difference."
The former Notre Dame coach recalled what made his first season in South Bend in 2001 so successful.
"We just played great defense. Our offense was not the most productive that year, but we had an unbelievable defensive team that literally scored points," he said. "When you can get your defense playing in that manner it really helps everything."
Willingham has changed as a coach since his time at Notre Dame and offered a unique new role model for his growth.
"I was going home yesterday and I did listen to talk radio and there was some lady advertising a book about Warren Buffett," he said of Alice Schroeder's book on the man that Forbes calls the world's richest. "It was talking about how his continuing to grow and his continuing to learn was one of the characteristics that she found most interesting about him.
"I would hope that, I am obviously not in the class of a Warren Buffett, but at the same time that I'm a person that continues to grow and continues to learn as I do my job. And that you're always hopefully getting better at it, trying to learn more and adjusting with the times."
But while it appears that Charlie Weis is turning a Notre Dame program around, things seem to be getting worse in Seattle.
"Obviously the records might say that but I think there's still a lot of growth in our program," said Willingham. "I think unfortunately we're having to work through a lot of youth right now in a lot of starting positions. As we know in anything there's no substitute for experience. But at the same time, that's not an excuse and we've never made one for it."
Willingham talked about the changes that Notre Dame has made offensively over the first half of the season.
"I almost call them radical changes in my mind, in terms of especially what they're doing on offense. Going to an empty package and moving the ball around is I think a little bit of a change from what they've done in the past," he said. "I know they've used it, but they've put a great deal of time into it, it puts a great deal of pressure on your defense. They have some receivers that I think are truly talented, that have unique skills… (Armando) Allen is a very versatile runner as well as pass receiver. They threaten you in a lot of places and we've got to make sure that we're doing all of the right things."
When watching film of the Irish though, Willingham also sees some opportunities for his Huskies.
"If you look at the stats, it's kind of been almost a mirror that what (Notre Dame has) done, they're opponents have almost done if you go down the stat sheets," he said. "Hopefully that affords us some opportunities to do some things well and put ourselves in a position to win."
While Washington has been impressed with the play of quarterback Ronnie Fouch since he has filled in for the injured Jake Locker, the Irish figure to have the advantage at quarterback with Jimmy Clausen.
"Jimmy is an excellent quarterback. He's got, I think, a very strong arm. Because usually when you watch film it's really sometimes hard to see that but his stands out, his ball moves," Willingham said. "You know that he can get the ball to those receivers deep down the field, he can make clutch throws when you think someone else might not be able to do that because of his arm strength. I think he's doing a pretty good job for them."
Willingham knows that many Irish fans have followed his Washington tenure and does not seem to mind even if not everyone is rooting for him.
"It's exciting to know that people care, you never minimize that point in life because it's important. But hopefully, there and here, I've done the right things," he said. "I've tried to put teams in a position to be successful on the field, off the field and the overall environment that I carry myself and that our programs carry themselves. I hope those are very positive things, but as we know it comes down to one simple fact, that's winning the football game."
Willingham offered another one-liner when asked if he and Notre Dame should put their past behind them and move on.