Coach's Corner

I let the dust settle a bit before writing this one. I know I always take the positive side of defeat but with Thanksgiving over and time to reflect, I thought I'd call it like I saw it and take off my rose colored glasses. The Huskies lost a game to WSU that they could have won.

Essentially they lost the last game of the season just like they lost the first game, just like they lost the UCLA game. They had it in their grasp but it slipped right through their fingers. It was as though the Cougars snapped the apple right out of their mouth just as they were about to take that first big crisp bite. The apple of victory was replaced by yet another stinging defeat.

With a 3 point lead and time running down, the Huskies somehow found a way to let the Cougars take back a game that was the Dawgs for the taking. The WSU Cougars had done everything they could to give away a game that was clearly in their control. They had fumbled a punt and given the Huskies a chance to get back into a game that the Cougars had clearly dominated.

Unfortunately, the Huskies weren't good enough to take the gift and run. They did what all hospitable hosts would do, they gave it right back, said thank you, and got caught with their pants down on a play that the Cougars had run multiple times in the game.

Another sad ending to another sad game that the Huskies had in their grasp, because their opponent wasn't good enough to put them away.

Essentially the Huskies ended the season just like they had started it. Losing a game they could easily have won.

Make no mistake, though, the Cougars were simply the better team. They had a running back that couldn't be stopped and was easily the best player on the field. They had a will to win when they couldn't beat anyone else in the conference. They had over 500 yards to the Huskies 325. Take away 70 for a trick play and the Husky offense was held to about 250 for a whole afternoon of work. Like I said, it was a sad ending to a sad game in another sad season. They completed the worst two year run of any Husky team in history with arguably one of their worst efforts of the year.

What was obvious is that they were outplayed, out hustled, and beaten at the line of scrimmage. Jerome Harrison couldn't and wouldn't be stopped. The Cougars went to their mighty mite running back over 30 times and he responded just like he had done all year long with a courageous effort and willed his team to victory. Even he, though, almost "Couged" the game himself when he lost his cool and drew an unsportsmanlike penalty late in the game that almost doomed the Cougars to defeat.

On this day, though, the Cougars were not going to be denied. They amassed 27 first downs to the Huskies 12. They only turned the ball over once and that was on the dropped punt. They only had 4 penalties to the Huskies 8. They threw no interceptions and had no fumbles. They ran the ball at will.

They beat their bitter rival and then proceeded to dance on the Huskies W at midfield in a sign of distain and disrespect. They, the second worst team in the conference, had beaten the worst team and felt it was worthy of the taunting and insulting behavior that officially ended the season for both team. Two teams that are struggling for respectability. Two teams that are going nowhere but up.

Two teams that weren't very good.

There is nothing to gain by even addressing the game ending fiasco except to say that it has been going on for years. The Cougars had no intention of walking across the field and shaking hands with their defeated opponent. It had been a hard fought game that they were lucky to have won. They planned to do what they did and that was to deliberately insult their hosts. The response by the Huskies was predictable. The resulting behavior was addressed by Coach Willingham and I believe he was absolutely correct.

You respect the game, you respect your team mates, and you respect your opponent. That is the correct pattern of behavior. You can't control their behavior and you don't lower yourself in response. You maintain your dignity in winning and losing. You shake hands with your opponent and if they refuse, then you simply walk away. Games are won on the field during the 60 minutes of the contest. Not afterwards, not in the stands, not in the bars, not on the streets.

Defend your end zone not your emblem.

So, now that it is over, where do we go from here?

Obviously, immediately into recruiting. That is and always has been the answer. The future is directly tied to the recruitment of good players. There is an obvious need to recruit a full 22-25 man class. Attrition will be there. It already is. Shelton Sampson would have been a key player at the end of this game had he not quit on his team. There will be others because this is a demanding program and a system that will weed out others. Plan on it.

Time to find some kids who are dying to be good players, who are hard workers, and want to be Huskies. I promise you there are kids in the state of Washington who fit this description. Bring in some tough kids. Go get about a half dozen JC kids and get them admitted. Work hard to keep changing the culture back. Stay the course. Don't waiver. If it takes five years then so be it. Bite the bullet and don't give in to the naysayers that have never played one fricken down of football.

This once proud program will come back. It will take time and it will take an incredible amount of effort, but it will get done. It happened at Cal, it happened at USC, it happened Oregon State, and it will happen at Washington.

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