Coach's Corner

Washington is still in search of that elusive first conference victory. We're down to the last month of the season for the Washington Huskies. There will be no bowl game for this team, no winning season, no major turn around.

There are four more opportunities to finally get a win and crack into the left hand column with a conference victory. It's been since November of 2003 since a Husky team last tasted victory against another Pac-10 team.

Two straight years of futility in the game of football are really starting to get old. It's time to win a game. And who knows? Once they do, they'll probably win another and maybe another. Then it can finally be said that the program is coming back, because until they win, you can't really say it.

The next month features ASU on the road, Oregon State at home, then back to Arizona to play the Wildcats before finishing off their season with the Cougars. They could win any or all of these games. They could really begin the climb back by doing so.

The Washington Huskies are improving, are working hard, playing hard, and were competitive at times against the best team in America. They battled with the USC Trojans before caving in primarily due to their own mistakes. They held the mighty Troy offense to its lowest performance of the year statistically. Of course, Washington still got beat by twice as many points.

The Trojans actually went for it on 4th down six times in an attempt to maintain possession of the football. That, in itself, shows how much the Trojans wanted this game. The Huskies tackled better and moved to the football much better than last week.

I still honestly believe that the Washington Huskies are being rebuilt the right way, but unfortunately it will be a long and tenuous process. It is obvious that Coach Willingham will need the infusion of at least two good recruiting classes and probably a third before you can really start being fair about evaluating the Willingham era.

The schedule now becomes friendlier for the Dawgs, as their next 4 opponents have been struggling. All lost this past weekend and Arizona and WSU have yet to win a conference game. ASU and Oregon State have been inconsistent to date and there appears to be a quarterback change going on at least two of these four schools.

An upset win by the Huskies in Tempe this coming weekend could be that one game that sparks this team into a solid finish to their season. They need to finally put together all the pieces and get themselves a win.

So, what will it take to pull off this win and then hopefully get a few more after doing so? For God sakes, eliminate the mistakes. That was first and foremost on the "changes" list by Coach Willingham and his staff. Washington has succeeded in getting back to zero. The Huskies now are practically even when it comes to the all important turnover ratio. They now protect the football much better than in the past. Next up, they need to work on creating more takeaways. They got their first defensive score of the season against the Trojans and need to get some more coming down the stretch to help a struggling offensive line if they are to break into the win column.

They are playing decent run defense and at times have run the ball themselves much better. Although they had been terrible at returns, (last in the conference), they finally found one to open the USC game only to lose the returner, Marlon Woods, to a leg fracture. The Husky punter, Sean Douglas, might be one of the best in the league and their kicker, Evan Knudson, has proved a gamer as well as a pretty good kick-off specialist by consistently driving the football deep into the end zone.

Overall the defense is definitely better than last year, but they have not played consistently. Their two games against Cal and Oregon will testify to this. They have, however, played both the LA schools tough as well as Notre Dame. Those were three great teams. Washington is getting better overall on defense but is lacking a good pass rush and the ability to play lock down man-to-man coverage against receivers. Sorry to understate the obvious.

That needs to change immediately because ASU, OSU, and WSU are amongst the best passing teams in the league. The Huskies are improving in their zone coverages and tackling better but really need to mount some pressure now to pull off some wins.

Offensively, Stanback has made incredible strides in his development and once he improves his decision making on where to put the ball, then the team's chances of winning will improve dramatically. Regardless of this, the quarterback play is much improved over last year.

The receivers are probably the most improved unit overall on the team. Craig Chambers continues to impress with his obvious talent and the tight ends have made tremendous improvement in both catching and blocking.

The senior offensive line needs to take it upon themselves to be the deciding unit on this team for the final four games of their career. If they could crank up their game a notch or two by coming off the ball better on the run and protecting better on the pass, it would be huge. It would also set a good example for the young guys behind them that will be the future next year.

Joe Toledo returned and played the whole game against USC. Considering his conditioning and lack of practice, he played remarkably well. His presence alone should really boost the O line and Manase Hopoi, on the defensive side, needs to step up his game as well.

Where the Huskies could really use some help though is from their defensive ends and an improved edge rush. Having a defensive end that is only 225 pounds is really hurting, but you are what you are. Considering the passing games of their up-coming opponents it's time for someone to give a little heat off the corner. Potential is not applicable at this point in the season. Performance is what counts and until the opposing quarterbacks start getting a little more heat, they will continue to attack and go after the Huskies' already thin and depleted secondary.

What has really impressed me so far is the ability of the Huskies to stick together. There is no finger pointing, no quit, and a lot of resolve to get this thing turned around. They do what is asked of them and they have practiced and played hard. They now need to know what winning feels like. They need to taste the sweetness of the victory cup. They need to play a complete game and they need to score some points.

This Husky team just doesn't score enough. They need to put up 30 points in some of these remaining games if they are going to win. It has been obvious that they have chosen a rather conservative approach to the game by running the ball, trying to move the chains, and playing it rather close to the vest. It's time for them to open up a little and learn to ride momentum when it comes along. There are four more opportunities to build on. Four more chances to prove they are getting better.

One month to finish pouring the foundation for the future. Top Stories