Willingham not taking much enjoyment out of win

Tyrone Willingham didn't have a bounce, a skip or anything else to his step, despite winning his first football game as head coach of the Washington Huskies. In fact, his demeanor was eerily similar to last week when the Huskies lost by 38 points. But after a 34-6 win over the Idaho Vandals Saturday at Husky Stadium, let's assume Willingham was excited on the inside.

"I have no thoughts personally," said Willingham when asked about his emotions after winning his first game for Washington (0-1, 1-2). "It's always nice to get a win. It makes the water better, and I do enjoy good water."

The team, according to Willingham, took on the demeanor of their head coach. "It certainly wasn't festive," he said of the mood in the locker room after the game. "They were excited about their performance and extremely happy to get the W. From a coaching standpoint, there hasn't been much focus (on snapping the eight-game losing streak). Hopefully we can use this game as a stepping stone for the future."

But he wasn't totally without cheer. Willingham had the players go in front of the student section and the band after the game to join them in a rousing rendition of Washington's fight song. "We have great fans and anytime we can involve them and have them be a part of that energy, it's great."

So will the purple and gold post-game serenade happen after every UW win? "Sounds like a good idea," said Willingham.

While the Washington offense played steady football, it was the defense that made a massive turnaround. They held Idaho to -4 yards rushing, the lowest rushing total since the -7 yards allowed against San Diego State back in 1997. It's a 290-yard reversal from last week against Cal.

Ironically enough, the Huskies went 0-fer in third down conversions (0-9)

As he has been saying all week, improved practice would amount to improved play. In this instance, Willingham turned out to quite the prophet, although he sees it as simply a matter of fact.

"The team had a good week of practice," said Willingham. "There was more effort there and hopefully we'll continue to get better in that area. I think our confidence started this week in practice. When you get more confident that the guy next to you is going to do his job, it allows you to not be as reserved in your play.

"It almost bears no comment because of the job the front seven did, to get seven sacks and to lead to a negative rushing total," Willingham said of their play. "When you can do that, it helps you win football games."

Wilson Afoa and Erick Lobos had big games for the Huskies, but Willingham was especially pleased of the play by his seniors up front, especially Manase Hopoi. "I think the entire group played well, but because he's a leader we asked him to take some leadership," he said of Hopoi. "I think that he embraced that. He was excited to have a little more of the focus placed on him and he stepped up."

Willingham was also quick to praise the work of his offensive unit, especially when it came to the running game. Early success allowed Husky OC Tim Lappano to open up the playbook and keep the Vandal's defense guessing. Louis Rankin's 115 yards led a Washington run attack that nearly doubled the century mark.

"It makes the game easier to call for our coaches when you can depend on both of those," said Willingham said of their blend of run and pass. "Most coaches in this country would say they like to play a one-dimensional game, meaning forcing their opponent to have only one thing to go to. Then you can gradually take that away - kind of squeeze it, kind of suffocate it. What we were able to do was have enough of a rushing attack, especially early in the ball game, and then add some very timely passing to that."

Another theme Willingham addressed during the week was finding a way to win, no matter the form. On Saturday, the Huskies found a formula they can go back to time and time again. "We got closer, but we're not all the way there," he said when asked if he felt his team found a way to finish. "But I'm excited to see that happen.

"We're very confident in the manner in which we do things. We didn't change how we practice or what we do, we're just getting better."

The Irish come calling: Willingham's former team, Notre Dame, is Washington's opponent next week. While the game takes on national significance because of the circumstances revolving Willingham's departure from North Bend, he knows that it will not be difficult to deflect the attention away from him and new Irish Head Coach Charlie Weis.

"That's easy," Willingham said. "When the scoreboard goes up, it'll be 'Notre Dame 0, Washington 0', not 'Tyrone-Charlie'."

Like playing your brother: It'll be a tough ride for Willingham when he sees his former Notre Dame players next Saturday after the game, win or lose. "It's always an emotional moment, because you recruited them and you know little tidbits about them. Since I've done this a few times, to me it's like playing your brother - there's still a lot of love there, but you want to still want to beat him."

DuRocher Back: Quarterback Johnny DuRocher will be available for the Notre Dame game after having missed the first three games. Because of a rule that applies to players that go from four-year schools to two-year schools and then back to a four-year school, DuRocher had to wait a full calendar year from the day he left Oregon before he could officially suit up as a Washington Husky. Will DuRocher's inclusion into the lineup shake up the quarterbacking status at all? Yes...and no.

"It changes his status," said Willingham. "He'll start the week at the number-two spot, but it won't affect the nature of the starter. Number-four (Stanback), it's his job and I think he's played well, in my opinion."

Kirton Call: Johnie Kirton had a big game for the Dawgs, leading the Huskies in pass receptions against the Vandals. Kirton's totals also included his first career touchdown for the Huskies. "Today he looked like the player I hoped he would be, but there's a lot he hasn't shown us," said Willingham in regards to Kirton, who moved from running back to tight end during fall camp.

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