Willingham wary of trap

Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham is imparting life lessons to his players that they can take with them to the football field. Take, for instance, the lesson learned in Tucson, Ariz. this past weekend in Washington's 38-14 trouncing of Arizona - don't take anything for granted. That point will be hammered home to Willingham's team as they prepare for the Apple Cup. This is their bowl game.

"It's a game that really divides the state," Willingham said of UW's upcoming grudge match against Washington State. "There will be no neutral municipalities."

Willingham himself has been involved in some solid rivalry games: Michigan-Michigan State, North Carolina-North Carolina State and Stanford-Cal - otherwise known as 'The Game'. "They all have their special aspects," Willingham said of rivalry week. "Some are a little more hostile than others. But the level of competition doesn't change. It should be emotional and highly contested.

"Rivalry games are different. There are different emotions that come out and it's amazing how strange it is that things happen in rivalry games that normally in other games you don't see."

The Huskies are flying high after their upset win - breaking a conference-worst 14-game losing streak, but Willingham doesn't want them to repeat the hubris of Icarus. The moral? Fly too high, and your wings may get burned. "Any time you have an opportunity to break a drought or a streak, it's a real plus. Someone today told me that it was nice to get the monkey off your back. I didn't see it that way, but it is nice to do that. Now that we've taken that step, hopefully it will allow us to take the next step.

"I told them that it was a great win and it's something they should be excited about. But at the same time it's one of those little steps that we took of many we have to take. If we understand that, we'll be prepared to go forward. If we don't understand that, then we'll probably make the same mistake that most people make in life. When something great happens in life, you think you're there. And when you think you are there, you're in trouble."

There's no question that 'The Play' - Isaiah Stanback's 69-yard bomb to a streaking Craig Chambers for a touchdown on the last play of the half against the 'Cats - gave Washington a spark as they headed in for the half. It also helped to catapult them to a 24-0 whitewashing of UA in the final 30 minutes of the game.

"I think we're (still) excited about that play," said Willingham. "It gave us some energy and drive. But if we did nothing the second half, what would it have represented? We've got to go forward. We have to understand what it is, but we also have to go to work for the future. With the right mindset, that play can be a great catalyst and somewhere down the road it can be recognized as that.

"Time dictates whether or not that truly will be one of those moments."

The irony of 'The Play' is that Stanback did what his coach would not have done - call the timeout previous to the hail mary. "No, I wouldn't have," said Willingham, admitting he was content to let the clock expire for the half.

Will the energy and excitement carry over to the Apple Cup? Willingham hopes so - especially when a hungry and hurting Washington State team is waiting to come to Seattle and earn their first league win of the year.

"We respect them and know they can play. We will have to prepare the best we have all year," Willingham said, matter-of-factly.

The Cougars are led by the nation's leading rusher, Jerome Harrison. The former junior college player has rushed for nearly 1700 yards this season, eclipsing Rueben Mayes' single-season rushing mark set in 1984.

"He's pretty good," Willingham said of Harrison, although he couldn't pick another back he would immediately compare the WSU senior to. "He's basically leading the country in rushing. That says something right off the bat. He's probably as explosive as any back we've seen this year. You give him a seam - I don't see him as necessarily a great cutback guy - but you give him a seam and he is gone. In the Oregon game, he had one long touchdown called back and 2-3 plays later he takes it in for a touchdown again."

Willingham hopes the play of Evan Benjamin - who was named the Pac-10 player of the week for his play against Arizona - will neutralize Harrison's effectiveness. Benjamin posted a team-high 10 tackles, 8 solo, including 2.5 tackles for loss (-11) and one quarterback sack (-8), plus he forced a fumble and intercepted a pass, returning it 44 yards against the 'Cats. Arizona running backs Mike Bell and Gilbert Harris ran for over 260 yards in their big win over UCLA, but combined for less than 40 when matched up against the Dawgs.

"Evan has been very consistent for our team and the last two weeks have reflected that leadership and that effort," said Willingham. Benjamin's 17 tackles against Oregon State matched C.J. Wallace's team-high against Notre Dame. "That is what you expect your leaders to do - not just to talk about leading, but step up and do it. And that's what Evan has done."

Willingham hopes his team takes more away from the Arizona game than just the win. The 'Cats should be Washington's object lesson for the week. They followed up a huge win by laying an egg. Willingham knows this. "That's my job and the job of our leadership to recognize that," he said. "This won't be the first time our football team has something good happen to it. And the good can be just as detrimental as the bad. If your head gets to big, it's difficult to perform well. You have to keep an even keel, but still be emotional about what you as you move forward."

But don't think Willingham didn't have a little celebration on Sunday. "Yes, I celebrated," he said. "I got home at 1 O'Clock after watching Washington State film."
Notes:
Food Drive: Saturday marks the 26th Annual Husky Food Drive. Non-perishable food items and cash donations will be collected by members of the UW Police Department and Law Enforcement Explorers will be at all the collection areas, right next to the stadium gates. The proceeds from the food drive will go to the 300 food banks and meal programs across Washington served by Northwest Harvest.

UW Players of the Week: After each win, Willingham and the UW coaching staff pick players of the week for that week's performance. The honorees from the win last Saturday at Arizona are tailback James Sims, linebacker Evan Benjamin, punt returner Sonny Shackelford, WR Alex Mercier and DL Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. Te'o-Nesheim, a 6-foot-4, 235-pounder from Kailua, Hawaii, is the only Husky this year to earn Player of the Week honors after both Washington wins. The final team captains will be voted upon during the team banquet a week from this Monday.

Injuy update: Willingham did not have updates on the two players injured on Saturday - Dashon Goldson (quad) and Darin Harris (concussion). But he did say that Louis Rankin, Johnny DuRocher and Joe Lobendahn would be doubtful at best. "Based on their work last week, they would be out," he said.

Meadow in or out?: Senior lineman Rob Meadow did not travel to Arizona due to a violation of team rules and his status for the Apple Cup is 'up in the air'. He is still practicing with the team.

KJ in limbo: It was thought that junior running back Kenny James' shoulder was such that it was going to limit his touches for the rest of the year, but Willingham said that wasn't the case. "James (Sims) and Isaiah (Stanback) have just given us more," he said. "One of the things we tried to do to balance out our running attack is try and find some rest for James Sims. One of the ways to do that was insert another runner, and Isaiah was that runner that we inserted to give us some additional ground game and at the same time, rest James."


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