Coach's Corner

Make no mistake, the Huskies victory over the Bruins of UCLA might be one of their biggest wins in a long time. Perhaps of the century, which is all of six years old, but next to the Rose Bowl, and their "the ruling on the field, stands" win over the Cougars, this one ranks as their finest in the last decade of the program.

Not only was it a comeback, but it was based upon good adjustments made by both the Husky players and coaches.

They would be wise to look at history though, especially with regard to their next opponent. Last year, the Arizona Wildcats were just coming off of a similar victory over this same Bruin program, when they got beat by a hungrier and more prepared Husky team. It was to become the Huskies only Pac-10 victory of the season. It was clear that the Wildcats could not handle their own prosperity.

They hadn't won enough to know how to handle it.

The Huskies played that day with more emotion and simply took that game from Arizona. They out-willed the home team that night and kept their faith right up until the last second. Coach Willingham absolutely refused to let his team lose in that one, and now is trying to orchestrate the long awaited come back of the Husky program.

Surely, another win in Tucson would reinforce the positives of his efforts. And don't call me Shirley.

Beating UCLA only has increased the importance of the next game. They are in the race for the first time in years. They are tied for first with USC, California, Oregon, and the Cougars. It's pretty simple - as long as you keep winning you stay in the race for the Pac-10 championship.

Washington has gotten out of the blocks and won their league opener against a pretty talented looking team. UCLA will beat some people along the way for Washington, and the grit and perseverance showed by the Huskies in the second half proves they now believe that they can win. After playing toe to toe with Oklahoma and now coming back to beat UCLA, this team knows it can play with anyone.

Furthermore, they now know that if they make the right plays at the right time, then they can beat anyone. They are THINKING right. It has been a while since you could see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices, and see them walk with their heads up after winning.

The Arizona program, like that at Washington, has been struggling ever since they got rid of their long time coach, Dick Tomey. Even though Mike Stoops is working hard in recruiting, they are still losing. Personally, I think it was a mistake by Arizona firing Tomey. It resulted in the instability and lack of continuity that has landed Arizona into the bottom tier of the conference. It kind of sounds familiar.

Now both Washington and Arizona are being reshaped and re-cultured, and this game is another important step in both schools' rebuilding processes.

Coming into this season, one of the real questions surrounding the Huskies was with regard to their ability to handle adversity. Every time something seemed to go wrong over the past three years, the Huskies would get so down that another bad thing would happen, and then another, and then it was "game over."

This year is different. They can get down and still come back to win. They can make mistakes (like four fumbles, an interception, and a botched punt Saturday) yet still find a way to come back and win. They have trailed their last two opponents and still persevered. They now believe in their coaches, and most importantly, they believe in each other. They believe they can win.

The next step is to expect to win.

Now it's Washington's turn to prove they can handle their own success. They need to prove that they can win three games in a row. They need to prove that they can handle prosperity. They need to prove that they can go out on the road and win again.

This would indeed prove that they are indeed contenders.

This game marks a turning point in the Husky schedule. It will be another tightly contested game that will be a defensive battle with both teams trying to run the football. The road Dawgs won't have margin for error on Saturday, and will have to play their best game to win this weekend. I don't think they'll get away with turning the ball over four or five times.

Stanback and the running backs need to concentrate and protect the football. The receivers, who had immediately corrected their own "drop" problem from the Fresno game, need to simply get open and catch the ball. They seem to improve every game, and Sonny Shackelford appears to have emerged as a go to guy.

On defense, the Dawgs need to take the ball away by attacking the football, and to continue to improve in pass coverage. Again I want to emphasize that a good pass defense starts with the pass rush. It is not all about the defensive backs. Get to the quarterback!

Next they have to stop the run. No more allowing a running back to go off on them. Mike Bell set the Arizona rushing record playing the Huskies. While at the same time stopping the run, they have to likewise effectively re-establish their own running game. This of course involves designed runs for Stanback. He is the key, and the guy that the Wildcat defense must not make any mistakes with.

When Isaiah gets going, he can effectively have more impact on the outcome of a game than anyone else on the field. He is so explosive that it only makes sense to build the offense around his talents of running and passing. It forces defenses to account for them in their defensive run schemes. It tires opponent defensive fronts by making them chase him around, and because of his superior conditioning, he will still be sprinting in the fourth quarter and they will be sucking wind.

This is Isaiah's offense to run. If he has a good game then Washington will probably win on Saturday. It is obvious he is making better decisions and only needs to find a way to settle down earlier in games. Of course both sides of the ball would do well to start better and grab the lead and then play from the front by gradually building that lead until they are in control and the clock is working for them.

Arizona showed well last weekend against USC. They will be playing at home and they will be tough in that they will run the football, try to load up and stop you from running the football, and challenge you in the kicking game.

Washington can only view this as the most important game on their schedule and give it their full respect and consideration.

I think they will do just that, and of course, I think they will beat Arizona again.

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