Work in progress for Willingham

It's hard not to look at Washington's 56-17 loss to California Saturday and come away thinking that the Huskies' program has sunk to rock bottom. A typically tough team at home especially after a loss on the road (at Qwest Field), the Huskies rolled over and played dead - giving up 557 yards of total offense and the most points ever given up by a Washington football team in Husky Stadium history.

"My boss (Washington Athletic Director Todd Turner) instructed me it would be difficult," Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham said post-game when asked about the re-building effort he's in for. "I understood that."

After a tough loss to Air Force in Washington's season-opener, it appeared as if the Dawgs were just a few made plays away from turning the tide and possibly pulling a huge upset over the #19 Golden Bears. And for at least the first quarter-and-a-half, the possibility was becoming reality.

Then the reality of Cal's superiority in mind, body and spirit came crushing down on the Huskies like a ten-ton anvil. The Bears made plays when the Huskies had them pinned against the ropes, and it took all the wind out of Washington's efforts.

For instance, at the beginning of the second quarter and the score tied at 7, the Huskies had Cal at their own 29 facing a third-and-13. Golden Bear QB Joe Ayoob, flushed out of the pocket, ran for daylight and had a Cal first down 26 yards later. Two more plays and the Huskies had Cal backed up with a third-and-24. Ayoob shovels a pass over to Marshawn Lynch, who rumbles for 25 big yards.

"We had a tremendous respect for the opponent that we played and we knew that they were one of the top teams in the country coming in," said Willingham. "A lot of good things happened. At some points in the game we closed the gap to give ourselves a chance, but needed to make plays. We need to understand those moments and make plays to get over the hump."

Conversely, the Huskies had momentum-killers when underneath pass patterns were caught, but the yardage gained was still short of what they needed for a first-down. Simply put, the Bears made the plays and the Huskies didn't.

"Mentally, physically, whatever label you want to put on it, we didn't get it done," said Willingham. "There were assignment issues and physical issues that popped up and we need to eliminate those mistakes. Cal made some mistakes too, but when you're playing at such a high level and with such confidence, they were able to make the plays when they needed to."

And even down 18 coming out of the tunnel at half-time, Willingham knew that a critical moment for his team would come if they took the ball and went downfield to score. They scored, but a field goal was all they could muster when a touchdown could have swung the tide in their direction.

"We wanted to come out and put a drive together, get a score and put ourselves in one of those positions," said Willingham. "We got the drive, but couldn't keep it going."

While Willingham admitted that the team has a ways to go physically to match up against the best teams in the Pac-10 ("We need to be better physically everywhere. That's why recruiting is so important."), he also said that change ultimately has to come from upstairs.

"The mind controls the body and that's where it all starts," he said. "It's not just this loss. This football team has suffered a lot of losses. It's not just losing the game, but it's the mindset that goes along with it.

"There still is a certain level of confidence you have to have to seal the deal. We've got to get to that point. We've got a good system in place. I believe in it, and based on the results I've had in the past we're going to stick with it." Top Stories