Tyrone Willingham notes - OU

It's hard enough to play mistake-free football in a hostile territory, but the margin of error for the Washington Huskies coming into Norman, Okla. was razor thin to begin with. They couldn't afford to have a punt blocked or to have a turnover deep in Oklahoma's territory, but that's what happened Saturday as UW lost to the Sooners 37-20.

"We felt good coming out the second half," Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham said after the game. "But they added new pressures and we just didn't execute offensively. And on defense we let them get the ground game going, and we wanted to eliminate that. But give credit to Oklahoma. They have good size and speed and their quarterback (Paul Thompson) played well, and you knew that their running back (Adrian Peterson) was going to grind it out and he made some yardage at the end of the day."

Willingham was asked about possibly slowing the game down, as Oklahoma and UAB combined for 110 plays, while the Sooners had nearly as many plays through three quarters today as they did all last week. "We felt like we could come out and just play football," he said.

And for the first 30 minutes, they did. They outgained the Sooners and were tied on the scoreboard at 13. But then there were some of what Willingham calls 'sudden change' plays that ultimately gave the home team the edge they needed to pull away.

"That was huge," he said when asked about Isaiah Stanback fumbling a ball on the OU 4 after Washington's defense had forced Thompson to cough it up. "When you have an opportunity to be only three points down and you cash it in, it's a totally different ball game. But they did what good teams do; they got the ball right back and went down the field and scored."

It was that ensuing 92-yard drive that pushed Oklahoma's advantage to 17 and the Sooners never looked back. A lot of that was due to Thompson, who finished the day with 272 yards passing and two touchdowns. "He's going to get better and better and he did a solid job today," Willingham said of the senior that got pressed late into QB duty after Rhett Bomar was dismissed from the team about a week before fall camp started. "He kept most things where they needed to be."

But for the most part, Oklahoma expected Stanback and his 10.5 speed to be the ultimate factor in favor of the Huskies, and that difference just never materialized. "It's disappointing," Willingham said of Stanback's day, which went 9-22 for 139 yards and 12 carries for only 18 yards. The Sooners were keying on his speed from the start and a great job neutralizing his big-play capabilities. "But Isaiah will get better and stronger the next time around."

But in the end, not even the moral victory of outgaining the Sooners on the ground, for example (204 to 181) was not what Willingham had in mind when talking about 'victory'. The Washington defensive coaches felt good enough to play a lot tighter coverage against OU for much of the game in the hopes that they could exert some pressure. But it was not enough. "We came here to win a football game," he said. "They just did a better job of executing then we did. We knew we were going to have to get a running game going and I think in the first half we did a good job of playing solid on both sides of the ball. You can't say we put up a good second half. We just have to play better all the way across the board."

Willingham said they knew they would have to run the ball, and they did. Louis Rankin finished with 112 yards and Kenny James 69. But he said that while statistically the game was closer than the score would indicate, the game boiled down to just a few key plays. The first one was the 62-yard punt return off of Sean Douglas' record-breaking 82-yard punt. The punt was so long he outkicked the coverages for both teams, but the Sooners were able to take advantage of a spread field to make the first big 'swing' play of the game in their favor.

Add to it the 5-yard punt when OU's Jason Carter blocked a Douglas punt, and that gave the Sooners a chance to turn their lead into a two-possession advantage, and they did just that. And then Willingham made the prudent play to pin the Sooners back deep in own territory, hoping his defense could come up with a big play, and Chris Stevens delivered. The UW outside linebacker was able to strip Thompson of the ball, recovered by ILB Scott White.

And then in a sickening turn of events, OU's Demar Pleasant recovered a Stanback option fumble after LB Zach Latimer was able to wrest the ball free from the Husky quarterback's grip. From then on, the Sooners were playing with house money, and their ability to move 92 yards in six plays showed it.

There are going to be a few bright spots that will invariably come up upon further review, but one of the main ones coming directly out of the game was that Washington stayed pretty healthy. Dashon Goldson played more snaps than he did against San Jose State; Jason Wells and Greyson Gunheim both came out with minor dings but came back in to play at full strength later on in the game. The offensive line was again able to play the entire game with their starting five.

"We came out reasonably well," Willingham said when asked about any nicks. "I think we have some battered egos, but our bodies came out reasonably well."

Dawgman.com Top Stories