Dawgbytes - 9/22

The closer it comes to kickoff between Notre Dame and Washington, the more Tyrone Willingham wants to show his team that this game is no different than any other. New ND Head Coach Charlie Weis is calling this game the 'Ty Bowl', a term that brings nothing but a poker face from Willingham.

But he's not on the winning end of this hand, by most accounts. Most have Washington a double-digit Dawg. Willingham isn't buying any of it, unless it's something that's going to affect his football team directly. If it doesn't, it goes under the heading of 'hype'.

So what do G.I. Joe and Saturday's football game have in common? "On television he was as large as life," said Willingham of the popular action figure decades ago. "But when you bought your G.I. Joe, how big was he?

"Don't fall for the hype."

And if the Huskies fail to win against the Fighting Irish, Willingham hopes that at least that one lesson sinks through to his team - a team still working hard toward getting back the mystique and power that was a hallmark of Huskies teams from as recently as 15 years ago. 15 years sounds like a long time ago, but in the span of a program that's been playing football since 1889, it's not much more than a blip on the football radar.

"I hope none of our guys have bought into any of this," Willingham said when talking about the emotion and 'hype' surrounding this upcoming game. It's a game that has captured the nation's attention because of Willingham's coaching stint at ND and his dismissal after only three years. "I hope they are focused on the football game, that's the first lesson. We keep saying, 'Don't fall for the hype.' There is hype around every football game, some type of buildup that can get you off track. Don't fall for it."

If that truly is the Huskies' mantra for the week, you would expect there to be a media moratorium on Montlake - no player access, and no browsing of newspapers, magazines and television to see what the rest of the world thinks about the game. But that's not Willingham's style. He wants to place a trust on his team to be aware of their surroundings, but not get swallowed up in them.

"I never stop our young men from speaking to the media or paying attention to what goes on," said Willingham. "But it's the mature mind that can handle all this. And we hope we have that kind of maturity."

And to his end, Willingham isn't changing up his team's routine. When he talks about Washington's weekly practice routine, it sounds eerily similar to the routine they had before they played Air Force, California and Idaho. "Tuesday is tough practice day for everyone around the country, because that's the day where you install your game plan there's a whole lot of learning taking place," he said. "And when you're learning, you don't quite move as fast, you're not as sure of yourself and what you're doing. Wednesday, you gain a little more. On Thursday, you hopefully can round yourself into shape, do your review and you're ready to go play."

And his team's intensity going into their battle with the Irish? "I set a real high standard and it's rare that they reach my standard," said Willingham, matter-of-factly. "And that's not a bad thing."

One thing Washington football can expect this weekend is a full contingent of support from their fans. While there will be more visitors in the stands than normal, there will also be more that are wearing the home colors. The support is part of the reason Willingham took the Washington job.

"Three things that leap out at you," said Willingham when asked about why the UW situation appealed to him. "First, the leadership. I don't think think any program can be successful without great leadership. With President Mark Emmert and Todd Turner, I think they are pretty strong. Secondly, I think this place has great passion. When I was here before (Stanford), there was only one color in the stadium. It was purple, nothing else was allowed in, and that was great. People here love Husky football. And then you've got tradition. This is a great program. When you combine those, you've got an excellent chance to be successful."

Willingham has been adamant in his declaration that the 'Ty Bowl' isn't about him at all. But would Turner feel a sense of vindication for the hiring of Willingham based on a win? Willingham isn't buying that either. "I don't see all of that," he said. "I think we need to win because the University of Washington needs to win as the next step for our program. Vindication and all of that? No, I don't see that. The people that hired me, they didn't need that to hire me."

And at the end of the day, win or loss, Willingham is going to have to live with feeling that comes with either a win or loss. If they lose? "It hurts," he said. "It's like you kind of get kicked in the gut by a big 'ole mule. It doesn't feel good."

But what does he plan on doing if the Dawgs pull out that precious 'W'? "I'll sit down in my lounger and watch ESPN," he said.

Why ESPN?

"Because usually they scroll your name across the bottom when you win."


Notes:
Injury Report: Roy Lewis and Kenny James continued to practice. "Not much has changed since yesterday," Willingham said in regards to those two. Joe Toledo and Chad Macklin were in shorts Thursday afternoon and didn't practice. Trenton Tuiasosopo was on the sidelines with undisclosed leg injury (left leg in a brace), and Jasper Henry, Jordan White-Frisbee (without boot on foot) and Ryan Campbell were all riding exercise bikes. Dash Crutchley and Brandon Ala appeared to be healthy and practicing on Thursday.

Husky Legend: Brock Huard will be Washington's Husky Legend to be honored Saturday after the third quarter of the game.

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