UCLA loss takes something out of Willingham

If you were to tell Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham that the Huskies would limit UCLA star running back Maurice Drew to 33 yards, would get two picks against UCLA QB Drew Olson and finish the football game ahead in total yardage and possession time, I bet he would come away thinking his team won. They almost did, and it's these 'almost wins' that leave Willingham scratching his head for answers.

"Any win is important and any win is a good win," Willingham said after the Huskies lost a heartbreaker in Pasadena to UCLA 21-17 on a last-second Drew score. "And we had an opportunity to win, just we've had a couple of other times this year. And we haven't found the right formula to close the deal. We didn't finish and they did. They did a great job of making plays to put themselves in a position to get it done."

The Huskies had the ball on their own 20 with just over a minute left in the game, but the Bruins' Bruce Davis came up with a big sack that stifled whatever chance Washington had.

"I thought all along we would find a way to win, even with a minute left," said Willingham. "I thought we could take the ball downfield and make a play. But then we got our first sack, which means you have to expend your final time out and it makes it difficult to move it down the field."

"You are trying to make plays, and when you're trying to make plays you want to hold onto that ball as long as possible to give those guys every opportunity. And I think that's what he (Isaiah Stanback) was trying to do."

Stanback again looks like he's continuing to progress in his on-the-job quarterback internship. He finished the game 14-27 for 188 yards and no picks. He had some chances to make plays with his feet, but for the most part chose to stay in-pocket and try to get the ball to his receivers.

The other thing UW Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano did was make a concerted effort to pound the ball. The Huskies ran 41 times for 213 yards, almost matching the 219 they ran for against the Bruins last year. Overall, Washinngton outgained UCLA 401-352 and had a 32-28-minute advantage in possession time.

"Execution and we had a mindset to stay with it," Willingham said when asked about the Huskies' success running with the football. "It was part of our gameplan this week, as opposed to last week."

But in the end, the Bruins stayed close when Washington couldn't extend the lead in the second half and had two key fourth-quarter drives to put them ahead. Olson went 11-15 for 99 yards in the final 15 minutes, with three catches going to Marcedes Lewis. Lewis, the big, rangy tight end from Long Beach Poly led all UCLA receivers with 8 grabs for 77 yards.

"We couldn't stop the passing game in the second half and they made some plays," Willingham said. "Some missed tackles also affected the outcome. We tried to pay attention to him (Lewis), but he made some key plays on us."

Early on, Willingham took points off the board on a roughing call, only to tack them back up when Mark Palaita was stopped one yard short of paydirt and the UW Head Coach didn't want to risk making a mistake early.

"We wanted to make sure we came away with points," he said when asked about his call. "We didn't want to have something negative affect our team at that point. We possibly could have risked it, but I thought it was better to come away with points."

They got points, but a touchdown there would have forced UCLA Head Coach Karl Dorrell to go for it or to play for overtime. Hindsight is always 20/20, but Willingham's comments make it seem like he wanted to give the team confidence instead of possibly giving their fragile psyche an early body blow.

"They tell me that every loss takes something out of you," said Willingham. "I don't think it matters how it happens. It eats away at you." What he hopes for his team, however, is for them to bounce back during a bye week and prepare hard for a road trip to Oregon in two weeks.

"I told them that we have to keep going forward," said Willingham. "For a lot of the game we kept their offense bottled up, but they came up and found a way to make some plays. We did too, just not enough of them."

Dawgman.com Top Stories