Coach's Corner

It was tough duty being a Husky fan the other night. It's hard, nearly impossible, to even comprehend how swiftly the momentum shifted in the game last Saturday. It swung hard and it swung deep, spiraling the game out of control for the visitors. It makes you stop and wonder just how good, or bad, this Husky team really is.

I have a feeling that it will get better but it might be a tough journey getting there.

No question that the game turned significantly when Roc Alexander made the ill advised attempt to return the opening kickoff of the second half. The resulting play all but swung the game back to the Bruins and by the time the game ended it was perhaps the worst half in Husky history.

Still with over six minutes to go in the third quarter the game was only 22-16.

Turns out it didn't matter, as the rest of the game kept careening down hill What worked in the first half was non-existent in the second. Six catches by the tight ends became none. Reggie's eight catches in the opening half were added to by just one in the third and one more in the fourth.

From the Rose Bowl, it was obvious to see that everyone on the Husky sideline was pressing. Body language alone began to tell the difference in literally two worlds.

It's that part of the game that makes it so difficult for coaches.

No way did any of them see it coming. It was like they were swimming up stream with an anchor around their waists. Nothing worked and everything that could go wrong seemed to do so. Momentum had brought the Bruins and their crowd back from the dead and before it was to end, 39 straight points had everyone shaking their heads.

So, what's next? Nevada, that's what.

There can be no doubt that there will be long range fallout from this performance but as coaches, you can't dwell on it past Sunday like fans can. You can only address and fix the problems, and not fix the blame. Everyone shares in a collective collapse like this one, coaches and players alike.

It's nearly impossible to explain, but there is no question that when the momentum changed there was nothing to change it back. Watching the UCLA section, I could literally feel the crowd come alive, and watching their sidelines closely, you could see that they smelled blood. It was an amazing phenomenon, one that the Huskies appeared hapless to stop.

It was ugly, but it's over and it's time to move on.

This team can still be a good team and if it pulls back from this disaster and responds with play like it did in the first half of Saturday. If they can do that, then they have an excellent chance of getting to a bowl and having another winning season. Sure, their pride is wounded, but there are still seven more games to play. Realistically speaking, if they win five of those then they probably will have had a good season. That's hard to write, but it's the truth.

For right now, however, they need to concentrate on Nevada and do whatever they can to pull together. It will be mostly mental. Not in thinking what to do, but wondering just W-T-F happened?

There can be no doubt that the team with the better talent finally figured out that they had it in the Rose Bowl. This could be the game that may ultimately turn UCLA's season around and I would not be surprised to see the Bruins be a real factor in the conference race. They play Arizona, California, ASU and Stanford coming up and could be undefeated by the time they meet the Cougars in early November. They have undeniable talent and it is obvious that they just received a major dose of confidence.

As for the Huskies, it remains to be seen how good or how bad they really are. One of the most disturbing outcomes was the deterioration of the blocking and tackling over the game Saturday. David Ball looked like Terrell Suggs, the kid from ASU last year, and the Husky defensive backs were literally getting run over. They will suffer as a team all week long and should now take Nevada very seriously. They have something to prove, and it is mostly to themselves.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the Huskies have been blown out over the past ten years. It wasn't as bad as Miami or Nebraska for a game but was the worst half of football I can recall witnessing from a Washington team. I just sat there and felt terrible but I'm sure not nearly as terrible as the kids and coaches. It just happens and sometimes there's really no explanation. Certainly if they knew how to stem the tide they would have done so.

In 1996, right after being blown out by Notre Dame 54-20, the Huskies beat UCLA the next week 41-21 then won the next 5 to finish 9-2. In 1999 after getting beat by ASU 28-7, the Dawgs won three in a row, and in 2001 after losing to UCLA 35-13, the Dawgs again won three in a row. Somehow, someway, they have to pick up the pieces and move on. It has been done before and this would be a great year to do it again.

Is this team very good? Not right now. Can they become very good? Gilbs will be burning the midnight oil trying to make that happen. It starts with the Wolfpack, who are well coached and have played everyone tough so far this season. It will be an excellent test to see Washington's resolve as a group. It will be a pivotal game in the season and could set them up for a trip to Corvallis in search of that elusive road victory.

Personally, I have to tell you that it would please me to no end to see them rebound from this devastation. There are a lot of great kids on this team and now they have all met "Big Mo" and know she can completely change the flow of a game. Hopefully, they can learn from this and next time Big Mo comes along it will be them who jumps on and goes for a ride.

And somehow looking on the bright side, Saturday still only counts as one loss, no matter how bad it was.

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