Coach's Corner

Remember how we all felt after that mid-season three game stretch of Arizona, Stanford, and Oregon when our Huskies were outscored 138 to 30? Losing four of five after upsetting USC for the second year in a row, it looked as though the Huskies were about to fall off the face of college football yet again. Then something happened.

You can call it belief, call it resolve, or call it luck, but out of the depths of defeat this Husky team got back on its feet.

They won four straight games for the first time since 2001 and thoroughly dominated Nebraska in a decisive Holiday Bowl victory. Who would have guessed?

I tip my hat to Dawgman and Jay Torrell for having enough faith to join me in predicting a Husky victory over the Cornhuskers. Of course, Torrell would have been thrown out of his family had he picked Nebraska, and Dave showed his true colors - purple and gold - in also going with the Huskies.

I know I'm viewed as a hopeless homer, but I actually research for reasons to believe the team will or can win. I couldn't care less if I'm a good predictor or not. I can't allow myself to think negatively, and this time I was right on all accounts - with the exception of the final score. I thought it would be a low scoring game, but never imagined Washington would so thoroughly handle the Nebraska offense that they would hold them to seven points. Are you kidding me? That was probably the best defensive performance we have seen out of a Husky team in over a hundred games. It was the best thrashing of a national powerhouse since beating these same Cornhuskers way back in 1992.

Washington won by beating Nebraska at their own game. They smashed them right in the mouth and never backed down. It's funny, because Bo Pelini talked earlier in the week about having to be ready to play anybody, because if you aren't, you will get punched in the mouth. And that's what happened. From the very start, both Husky lines took control of the line of scrimmage. They were not going to be pushed around for a second time and they had no intention of just playing good - they were playing to win.

The score might have been 33-7, because the Huskies left points out there a number of times with two missed field goals, as well as getting stopped a couple of times on fourth down. Whatever - 19-7 might not seem to be dominant, but when considering the score of the first game, it was certainly an emphatic statement by a group of players and coaches who simply refused to quit on themselves.

Even when they fell to 3-6 at the three-quarter mark of the season, this team never backed down from their belief that they would be playing in, and winning, a bowl game. They maintained they would qualify for a bowl by winning their last three games, and they did it. They did it the old-fashioned way by playing smash-mouth football: That means playing good run defense, running the football on offense, and being solid in the kicking game. They also protected the football with not a single turnover, and cleaned up their act by eliminating penalties. They didn't have one flag against them the whole second half!

UW let Nebraska turn the ball over and they penalized themselves, just as they had all year. The Huskies got physical and never backed down. They beat the mighty Cornhuskers up front and took the big plays off the board. Not to beat a dead horse, but they won the game because they wanted it more.

Now I know it's tough to beat a team twice in the same year, and even tougher to get your kids' attention when they beat a team 56-21, but Nebraska was lucky the score of 19-7 did not tell the true story. The Huskies put a whooping on NU, and there is no other way to put it: They out-rushed them 274 to 91; they won the battle of first downs 21 to 14; they sacked them five times for minus-43 yards and gave up no sacks themselves; they dominated the time of possession in the second half 18:45 to 11:15. And at the end of the game, they simply ran over them to run out the clock.

All of this culminated a season in which the Huskies staggered out of the gate against a BYU team they clearly should have beaten, then they beat Syracuse (which now looks like a pretty good win), then lost a game to Nebraska, then won a game (USC), lost a game (ASU), then won a game (Oregon State). Halfway through the season they were all level, and then all hell broke lose with that three-game losing debacle. Granted, those three teams - Arizona, Stanford and Oregon - were all considered pretty darn good teams, but all of a sudden Washington was being viewed as the same old losing team they had been for seven years. Except by themselves!

They maintained their belief in what they were doing and in their system. They simply dug in and decided to F-I-N-I-S-H: Finish their blocks, finish their tackles, finish what they had set out to do from the beginning. They were going to be winners and they didn't care if anyone believed in them or not. They were determined, they had resolve, and they did what they set out to achieve.

They finished 2010 as the best season for a Husky football team in eight years, and they won their first bowl game since the 2001 Rose Bowl. More importantly, the seniors finished out their careers the way they needed to, including the indomitable Jake Locker. This group of young men endured the worst season in the history of the school, only to finish with one of the greatest bowl victories ever. They beat a team that had thoroughly dominated them earlier in the season. They beat a team from one of the most storied programs in America. They beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers at their own game - smash-mouth football. They ran the ball right down their throats just like the Cornhuskers had done to them. They brought the Washington Huskies back to where they belong.

At 7-6, 2010 will never be mentioned in the same breath as 1977, 1984, 1991, or even 2000. But it will be seen as a watershed season and was still a great year for Washington football. It will certainly be one that will always be remembered by their players, coaches, and fans. It was indeed a wonderful finish to a hard fought season. They were the first Husky team in four to win in the Holiday Bowl and finished a surprising third in a tough Pac-10 Conference.

That's not too bad for a rebuilding program. It's not bad for anyone. Top Stories