Dawgbytes - 9/13

As writers, we enjoy the luxury of looking ahead without fear of repercussion or reprisal. Football coaches don't get to experience that benefit without putting their jobs in peril as a result. So even though journalists from Chicago are starting to arrive in anticipation of Washington's game with Notre Dame a week from Saturday, Huskies' Head Coach Tyrone Willingham has the Irish tucked away far in the recesses of his mind. Right now, it's all-Idaho, all the time.

"I'll be excited when it comes, just like I'm excited that Idaho is here," Willingham said Tuesday when asked about Notre Dame. "The veteran coach in me understands that every game is critical. This is the most important game we play. It's easy to say, always hard to do. If we mess around, if we screw around, if we don't execute, if we don't do things well as coaches and players, Idaho will beat us.

"I think Oklahoma can testify to that."

The Sooners lost their home-opener to TCU, a game where OU was favored by as many as 25 points.

"I like big names, little names - it doesn't matter," added Willingham. "It's about playing and competition. And the game is so different today because everybody's got players. At one time, it was a monopoly on players, but that's not the case anymore. Everybody's got players, kids that can line up and really get the game done. And Idaho is no different. They have some players that can flat play the game."

Idaho is a school that has benefitted from the two things Willingham says have fundamentally changed the game of college football; television and scholarship limitations. "Almost every game is on TV nowadays, so your Mom can see you on TV every weekend no matter where she's at," he said. "So you don't have to just go to Ohio State or the top three schools in the Big-10 or the top-two schools in the Southeast Conference or the top-two schools in the Pac-10. You can go to any school and gain visability. And then the scholarship limitations, which goes back to around 1972. Increased competition makes things more difficult."

And with 17 players on their team from the State of Washington, Willingham knows those Vandals in particular will be playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. "It's motivation for them, absolutely," he said when asked about those players that may have been passed up by the Huskies and picked up by UI. "The old story is, 'Let a sleeping dog lie,' but in this case those kids won't be sleeping. They will be very excited about the fact that maybe they are better than what coaches here viewed them to be. So yes, they'll come in with an attitude, an approach."

And as with most games, the team that garners the 'W' is typically the one that wins the line of scrimmage. The Huskies are looking for bigger things from their pass rush, as well as their run game. It could be argued that the key behind both things is simply attitude.

"You've got to make the transition," said Willingham when asked about his defensive line. "When you know it's a pass, then you've got to change your skills and get into the right areas and do the right things to get it going. And we haven't been doing that as well as we need to. It's all awareness, techniques. All of those things go into it."

And the run game? Willingham admitted that the coaches didn't stick with their game plan in regards to running the football as long as he would have liked to last weekend against Cal. "As coaches you have to be very patient sometimes with the run game," he said. "When you don't have success you have a tendency to get away from it. We hope to have more success so we can put more into it.

"But if you are not having success and you stay with it and continue doing the same thing, nothing changes. We've got to figure out changes, adjustments, things we have to do with the execution to fit so we can stay with it."

And overall effort? "We're not getting the result," Willingham said, simply. "There's some hustle, some right approach, but we're not getting the result that we need. Doing is always more difficult than saying. Talking about it is easy. And that's not an indictment of our football players. Doing it at any level is difficult. There are pro basketball players that can't make free throws. It's just very difficult to do."

As the Huskies continue to prepare for the Vandals, Willingham feels that morale will not be an issue for his team. "I think we are resolved to continue to work to get better and become victorious. But I haven't seen us practice, and that's the next step. But from what I can gather in their movement so far, that's the feeling of our football team."

Injury Report: Nothing really new to report, as Willingham hasn't seen his players practice yet. "We'll get a feel for it today, what guys can do and can't do," he said. Kenny James re-injured a shoulder and is considered day-to-day. "Usually when you re-injure something it takes some time for it to get well," Willingham said of James. "I know a lot more when we get him on the field." And Roy Lewis took a blow to the knee this past Saturday and his status right now is up in the air for Saturday's game. "We just don't know his status yet," said Willingham. "He could be in, he could be out." If Lewis can't go, expect more of Josh Okoebor at corner and either Cody Ellis or Anthony Russo alongside Shelton Sampson for kickoff returns. "Marlon Wood could enter into the picture," added Willingham.

Large and in charge: Willingham used a jumbo set that included both Johnie Kirton and guard Tui Alailefaleula Saturday against Cal. Could Husky fans see more of the big guys matched together? "It depends on the situation," he said. "If the situation presents itself again, we'll put him back there. It gave us an opportunity to get awful large in a down-and-distance situation."

Replay gets thumbs up: Willingham was pleased at how the initial use of instant replay went against Cal. "I thought they did a pretty decent job of finding the right plays to review," he said. He did add, however, that he has mixed emotions about the general use of instant replay in a football game. "The review is a real plus from the standpoint that it probably helps improve the game, but I think life is about human error," he said. "We're going to make some mistakes."

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