Frankly Speaking….

Saturday's game disappointed me for more reasons than one. I was primed with this article to take the Seattle P-I's Art Thiel to task for being so constantly negative about the Husky program. For being so quick to disparage the integrity of the UW's athletic department. For being so quick to predict that the Huskies would be drug up and down the field by Ohio State. After all, surely Washington was going to battle Ohio State tooth and nail until at least the late third quarter.

But as is often the case, Mr. Thiel was accurate, even if he's too often a curmudgeon and a pessimist about college athletics in general. (After all, his readers read about sports because they deeply enjoy them. They don't want to be nagged three times a week about how bad, wasteful and corrupt things are). Nevertheless, Thiel's game prediction was rock-solid, and mine was wrong. Washington was pillaged and plundered by the defending national champions. It was clear after just the second offensive series for Ohio State that the Huskies stood little chance.

There were a couple of troubling things from Saturday. What happened to the new mission statement of aggressive man-to-man coverage, utilizing the talents of seniors Roc Alexander and Derrick Johnson? Buckeye QB Craig Krenzel took advantage and feasted on the underneath tosses when the Buckeyes needed yardage and first downs. The underneath stuff hurt and reminded us at times of last year's horror show. All that was missing was Neuheisel grimacing along the sideline.

But at least they stayed in a base defense all game and didn't have the Chinese fire drills on defense, trying to substitute in guys at the last minute to adjust to the offensive schemes. I liked the fact that the defense was never caught unaware when the ball was snapped.

Then there was a second disconcerting occurrence. With 10:00 left in the fourth quarter and trailing 28-3, Washington was driving and in desperate need of points. Positioned fairly deep in Buckeye territory, the Huskies finished each play by slowly getting to their feet and gingerly ambling back to the huddle. This was unconscionable. Why weren't the players aware of the need to speed things up? Why weren't the coaches imploring a sense of urgency to their players? An unofficial count showed that over two aggregate 4th quarter minutes frittered away when we needed to hurry things along and use the clock as efficiently as possible.

This was followed up by Gilbertson opting to kick a field goal, despite trailing by 25 points with 6:00 to go. Was there really the belief that Washington would be able to get the ball back three additional times and pull off the miracle? It seemed evidence of the fact that Washington had given up, and was looking to gain experience for their kicker.

But the bottom line is that the Ohio State game teaches us that the Montlake talent talent cupboard is behind the curve in some areas. There are no more than three Husky players who would start on the Buckeye team. Washington's younger players (recruited by Neuheisel when he wasn't allowed in-home visits) are for want in the strength department. As for the starters, you must be able to line up and gain one yard when needed.

As has often occurred the past two years, Rich Alexis is receiving a lot of the blame for Washington's pathetic running game. Unfortunately, he is the recipient of the finger pointing, despite the fact that football is a team sport. Rich Alexis was not to blame for what occurred against Ohio State. We saw it last year against Arizona State, Wyoming and USC, among other contests. Oftentimes, the onrushing defenders are collapsing upon Alexis even as he takes the handoff. Even Tony Dorsett in his prime wouldn't be able to make anything happen in the face of what the Huskies saw on Saturday. Rich Alexis is running hard, is better at reading holes and very capable of hitting them for yardage. If #24 has a fault, is that he lacks the durability and natural instinct that the great running backs possess. But if given some adequate lanes, Alexis can be a factor in winning some games for Washington this year. Starting with Indiana next week.

Overall, Husky fans shouldn't hit the panic button yet. However, more important than next week's score, if Washington comes out and gives a lethargic performance against Indiana, then it may be indicative of some recruiting evaluations and strategies need to be changed. But if from the opening kickoff the Dawgs play with passion and hunger, then we'll know that Washington is headed in the right direction.

Even if Husky fans must be patient in order to reap what Gilbertson will sow.
Derek Johnson can be reached at Top Stories