Coach's Corner

There is only one month to go. Four more games to regain some respect and a little momentum for the future. Four more opportunities to get four more wins. Four more weeks of work that will hopefully pay off in a bowl game experience.

For the record, the Huskies are already four and four, so why not four more?

Statistically 4-4 means they're a nice, average team. That dog has never hunted for the Husky faithful, but still, Washington has a chance to end up a good team. Not a great team or even a real good team, but a good team if they take care of business and beat Oregon, Arizona, California, and WSU.

Washington still has a chance to restore some of that Husky swagger that comes with wearing that gold helmet. If Oregon State wasn't the breakout game they were looking for, this Saturday is as good of one as any to get it started. After all, it's the Freakin' Oregon Ducks.

All four of the remaining games on the schedule are winnable. They will not be facing better talent such as they did against Ohio State and the L.A. schools, most notably USC. The biggest problem ahead is the lack of depth due to injuries and defections.

Injuries are part of the game, so putting them aside for a minute, the rate of attrition over the past five years has been embarrassingly high. It is almost impossible to maintain a high level of competition without experienced depth. Of 92 signees in the first four years of the Neuheisel era, nearly 30 are no longer part of, or have ever been in, the program. Not having 1/3 of your team will cause the depth problems you are seeing, and it also lessens the talent pool you can go to. With the injury bug poking its head up, things have gotten very ugly.

When you're at this state of the season, it is critical to refocus on what there is left to play for. With the Ducks coming to town next weekend, there could not be a better opponent to start their resurgence. This rivalry has reached a peak over the past ten years or so and carries as much emotion to it as does the annual Apple Cup.

The Ducks are coming off their best performance of the year and should be prime for the plucking.

As noted above, injuries are part of the game and cannot really be used as an excuse. However, it would sure be nice to get a couple of breaks along the way. The Huskies have lost starters Aaron Butler, Nate Robinson, Robin Meadow, Joseph Lobendahn, Roc Alexander, Tusi Sa'au, Joe Toledo, as well as Josh Miller, and now Rich Alexis and ET!

That is a lot of talent left on the sidelines.

This doesn't include two-deepers Chris Singleton, Junior Coffin, William Cava, and Chris Massey, who are all not available.

You need bodies to win at the major college level. When you lose so many kids along the way it makes conducting a meaningful football practice almost impossible. You are afraid to have too much contact because you can't afford to get anyone else hurt.

Think about that for a minute. If you don't get to slam during the week, how do you expect to slam on game day? It's a vicious cycle, but they are part of the game so you must play the cards you're dealt. You don't fold, so you take those cards and try to win the next four hands, one at a time.

That's what it's all about.

Husky fans might as well face it. This is one of those years where things just haven't gone well. The distractions have been many and you can't help but feel for the kids and all the tribulations they have had to overcome. They have been tested. They have hung in there against teams that were simply better than they were. The effort was there for the entire game against an obviously superior USC team. There was no quit in the Dawgs.

Now it's time to focus not on the destination, but the journey, and all of the lessons that go with it. The cooperative struggle of a bunch of men still battling, still preparing, still working hard, still staying together, still wanting to win, still wanting that great feeling of satisfaction when they get each and every win. It's called corporate education, and it can be a wonderful lesson in humility. It's a crucial part of these young men's collegiate education.

These kids are growing, and the hope is that they'll continue getting better these next four games. If you stay in the game long enough, sooner or later these kinds of seasons come along. Think of where the Cougars would be right now if they had fired their coaches after they went 3-8 in 1998; 3-9-1 in 1999; and 4-7 in 2000. If Price had been forced to leave, Doba wouldn't have been able to stay. They would have had to start over and wouldn't be where they are today if they hadn't have had patience. Husky fans have not been forced to have that kind of patience in nearly three decades. Washington has been through three coaches since 1998, and that has become as much the identity of the program to an outsider than anything.

The change has been radical, going from Lambright to Neuheisel and now to Gilby, all in a five-year period. Add to that all of the NCAA problems, investigations, ongoing battles with Neuheisel, a drug scandal, and consequential media scrutiny, and you have a perfect formula for destabilizing a program. It's those types of things that drop a program from a premier one to an average one.

It is time for all loyal Husky fans to back off this team and realize that they are all trying hard to overcome many extenuating circumstances and will have four more chances to prove something. Resolve, a stick-to-it attitude, and character are what's ahead. I wish them all the best because I know they are really trying to win.

Get the Ducks and then there will be three.

ADDENDUM: STILL MY FAVORITE

Of course I have my prejudices, and Owen Biddle is still one of my favorite Huskies. I had actually recruited him in high school and know I helped encourage him to follow his dream and become a Husky. He knew he could play, I knew he could play, but there was no scholarship. He took the challenge and became a Husky because that's what he always wanted to do. He is one of the last of the walk-ons, as due to departmental restrictions, the walk-on program as we know it will slowly be phased out. He is one of the toughest players on the team. He is the human torpedo, a true flat-out "hit you as hard as he can" sort of guy.

All year long, I have watched him through my binoculars on special teams. He is the best tackler on the team and this last weekend got extended playing time when Evan Benjamin went down to injury. Owen didn't bat an eye and in a little over a quarter of playing time ended up the second leading tackler in the game. He was everywhere and his fourth-quarter hit on a USC receiver was literally the biggest hit of the game and one of the best by a defensive back all season long.

Owen brings hat. He is the ultimate team player, proud to wear the purple and gold, and he played like a winner. As usual. Owen Biddle, to me, is worth the price of admission. He plays with heart. He plays the game the way you're supposed to.

He is still my favorite Husky. Keep it up Owen, because there are plenty of us out there who appreciate players like yourself. You are a true Husky, unsung hero and a champion. You belong in the same category as Joe Jarzynka and John Fiala. You're my kind of hero.
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