Willingham continues to prime the pump

It is always unwise to jump to conclusions. But at today's press conference following the loss to Notre Dame, Husky coach Tyrone Willingham seemed a little more relaxed and light-hearted than usual. There was a glimmer in his eye, indicating relief to have put behind him the confrontation with the Notre Dame team that had fired him just last December.

Of course, as usual his responses to the media were close-to-the-vest. And true to his nature, Willingham's manner of being light-hearted is certainly closer to Don James than of Chris Rock. But Willingham possessed an air of confidence and focus.

"I can't tell you that I anticipated this kind of start (to the season)," said Willingham. "It's always difficult to not have success; at the same time I knew that having success would not be easy. We're going to continue to get better and see if we can win some football games.

In addressing the issue of a Washington possessing a lack of talent, Willingham took it in stride. "How I will comment on that is simply, every football team is trying to get absolutely the best talent it can get. We will work to continually improve our talent. As a coaching staff right now, we can't worry about what we don't have. The young men that we have right now are the best that we have, and we have to make them into the best players they can be. We have to do the best with what we have. Because there have been programs that have been supposedly laden with talent, and have done nothing with it. And there have been programs with supposedly no talent that win championships. We will focus on making our players the best they can be, and win football games.

And is Washington still able to reach a bowl game, as Willingham had set as a goal to his players before the season?

"Obviously with our (1-3) start, we have to play a lot better to get there," he said. "But I think if we can get hot and beat some teams, then we will be bowl-worthy. But if we don't start winning some games, it's not going to happen."

Willingham was asked about the upcoming matchup with UCLA, and their talented running back Maurice Drew.

"I've seen a little bit of last year's tape," she said, referring to when Drew scorched the Dawgs for 322 rushing and 5 TDs. "UCLA could be the best team we've seen so far, and that's saying a lot; in that we've already played California and Notre Dame, who are both ranked. They're very strong at their offensive skills positions. Very good, very aggressive. Defensively I think they are doing a very good job. They have played some teams and held them down.

"(Maurice Drew) is amazing, to be very honest about it," he said. "You hear so much said and written about the guy across town from him (USC's Reggie Bush) and I think "Drew becomes almost a forgotten back. But when people play against him, they come away feeling impressed with his toughness, with his speed, and his all-around running ability. I watched video of him playing the other night, and saw him do a move that you just don't see people do, on a punt return that went sixty or seventy yards for a touchdown. Very impressive."

Willingham concluded by addressing his Husky team as a whole, and how he relates to them with anecdotes.

"We've played spurts of football pretty well," he said. "That doesn't get you a victory. That's being very honest about that. You can't walk away from that feeling delighted or pleased. But there are some spurts in there that are darn good football. What we've got to do is put sixty minutes into place to get a victory. I haven't known many things in life that you can do without having a feeling of success. Until you've actually had success, it's hard to achieve success. Until you do something well. Whether it's knowing what it's like to win football games, or learning to get the feel of writing a great story, you need that experience. That's the way life is.

"I have to give everybody (on the team) pep talks. There's not anyone around who doesn't need some encouragement. That's the only way to keep people going, is with some encouragement. We believe that if you work and have a great attitude that success will come, and that's what we've got to do. Sometimes you can very close to having success (and not know it).

"It's kind of like an experience that at some point I will share with our football team," he said. "One of my childhood responsibilities was to pump water for my grandmother. It was a real old-fashioned pump. Sometimes the water is readily available with one or two pumps. But as a kid, sometimes it was easy to want to give up after ten or twenty pumps, but you never know. The water could be there with the next one.

"This is what I can do," he said. "To relate my experiences to them, to let them know, that sometimes you can be very close, and not even know it."

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