Coach's Corner

Well, here we are heading into the Apple Cup with an opportunity to go bowling and to borrow from the Beatles again - it don't come easy, you know it don't come easy. For those of you who didn't travel to Cal, you were smart. You got to watch it and listen to Bob and still be warm, dry, and drink your own beer because it was indeed an ugly game, but with an oh-so-wonderful finish.

Offensive line coach and running game coordinator Dan Cozzetto was wearing a T-shirt on the sideline that said "Finish" and it couldn't have been more perfect. After playing almost a complete game of ugly football, the Huskies' offense put together a finishing drive that that took 10 plays and went 79 yards, consuming all 4 minutes and 39 seconds left in the game to literally steal a win from the California Golden Bears. It was a beautiful sight and now sets the table for the final game of their finishing trifecta, and hopefully the right to play in a bowl game for the first time since 2002.

For the second game in a row the Husky defense controlled the game. They held Cal to 283 yards and no offensive touchdowns and kept the Huskies in the game until the offense finally woke up to win it.

Defensively the Huskies were stout, but of course for the second game in a row they were playing against a back-up quarterback who was simply not very good. Statistically, Brock Mansion was himself, throwing for only 92 yards on 12 of 23 passing with no touchdowns, plus an interception to Quinton Richardson, his second in two games.

Richardson's play has progressively gotten better over the past month and he is now playing the best football of his career. He and the rest of the Husky defenders are playing with great confidence, and his sidekick on the other corner - Desmont Trufant - probably had the hit of the day.

Not to be outdone, safety Nate Fellner settled down and finished with a team-leading 11 tackles. It was a team effort though on defense, with Everrette Thompson also having one of his very best games as a Husky, accounting for 2.5 tackles for loss, one key tipped ball, and one hurry. Mason Foster chipped in with nine tackles, and four other defenders - Victor Aiyewa, Hauoli Jamora, Nate Williams, and Cort Dennison - all registered six tackles each. They swarmed and they battled and they barely let the Bears past the UW 30, let alone cross their goal line.

It would be fair to say that Jake Locker and the offense struggled, but Cal is a pretty good defensive team and proved it for three quarters. Then the finish! Easily one of the most exciting ends to a Husky game in years, and one of the only times they have scored a touchdown on the last play of the game to win it.

The last drive was vintage Jake Locker, and in the fourth quarter alone he accounted for over 100 yards. He was 5 for 7 for 78 yards and added another 24 on the ground. He simply took over that final drive and willed his team to victory, giving the ball to Chris Polk to seal the win. It was a thrilling comeback, and a fitting finish for a Husky team that simply believes in itself and is determined to have a post-season.

So now they can start thinking about the Apple Cup, something that the Washington State Cougars have been thinking about for three weeks. That is a long enough time for them to have put in some things that the Huskies have never seen and to be fully healed and rested. Both teams are arguably playing their best football at the end of the season and now there is something to play for besides state bragging rights.

A win for UW would mean the first bowl game since 2002 for Washington and for the Cougars a win would simply be another chance to deny the Huskies that opportunity, something they have done in the past. Washington has already been listed as a nine-point favorite, but in the Apple Cup you can throw out statistics and odds. It is now a one game season for both teams: A chance to finish with some dignity and respect and a chance for the Huskies to go somewhere warm if they do so.

The most significant thing to come out of the Cal win is their belief in each other, their belief in the system and their belief in their coaches. I don't think at 5-6 anyone is saying this is a good team, but they are getting better and especially on the defensive side of the ball.

They may need to give the ball a little more to Chris Polk because of Jake Locker's rib situation, but they proved they will battle and nothing is going to get in their way. No question the Cougars will be a tough opponent and you won't hear any smack coming out of Steve Sarkisian's team. They know they can go on the road and win, and they know they are playing a worthy team.

They just have to do what Cozzetto's T-shirt said - Finish. Finish their season, finish their goals, finish the careers of their seniors, and finish what they set out to do when coach Sarkisian and his staff took over this program - turn this thing around and go to a bowl. It is as simple as that.

In the grand scheme of college football, this is only one game between two teams with losing records, but for Washington it is huge. They are playing for each other. They are playing for all the hard work they put in the off-season and they are playing for the right to eventually finish the year off with a winning record, something that hasn't happened in nearly a decade.

It was a wonderful victory over Cal and it marked the first time since Jeff Tedford came to Berkeley that the Bears have not had a winning season, the first time they have lost three in row, and the first time they haven't been to a bowl. Washington knows how they spoiled everything for the Bears and they also know that's exactly what the Cougars want to do to them.

I hope the Huskies play smash-mouth football and prove they are worthy of going to the post-season. If they play like they did in the last quarter against Cal then it will become a reality. It's the biggest game of the whole season and fittingly it's against their cross-state rivals.

It's time to finish the Cougars off. Finish. Top Stories