Coach's Corner

This group of Huskies is faced with possibly one of the biggest games in the last two decades of the program. It represents the ultimate challenge for a team that has finally found the secrets to winning football games. Washington now expects to win and believes that they can play with any body.

That includes the Trojans from USC. Although playing with someone and beating them are two different things, this is just the next team on the schedule.

I believe that this Husky team can beat this Trojan team. More importantly, the Husky team believes it. The Trojans may have more 5 star recruits, more "big name" players, and are currently ranked as one of the best three teams in the nation, but I feel that they are beatable and they are ready to be beaten.

If the Huskies can put together any of the good halves they played against Oklahoma, Fresno, or UCLA, with the second quarter of the Arizona game, they could beat anyone on a given day.

This Husky team can hit with anyone. They block and tackle better than they have the past couple of years, and that alone makes them a better football team regardless of talent level. This is a Husky team that is getting tougher with every game. With some lucky bounces, some solid football, and they play their very best game of the season, they can go into Los Angeles and leave with a victory.

Of course, it will take the best game by a Husky team in the past five years to knock of USC in Los Angeles. Should that occur and the Dawgs do the unthinkable, it would not only will be an upset, but would serve as hard evidence of the incredible turn around of one the greatest football program in the western part of America (besides USC of course).

Besides the Trojans, the finest football program west of the Rockies for the last half century has been the Washington Huskies. I know the Ducks have been a solid program over the past decade and that California has been improved over the past five seasons, and UCLA always fields a talented team, and we can't forget that the Cougars won 10 games a year for three years since 2000, but when you look at the statistics over the past 50 years, you find that only Washington and BYU are up there with USC as the winningest and richest programs this side of the big mountains.

In fact, I think that west of the Mississippi River, over the past 50 years, only Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas have had as good as football history as the UW and USC.

Before Don James arrived at Washington, the Huskies had lost 10 in a row against the Trojans. Since then (1975), The Trojans have won 15 (the last 4 in a row) and the Huskies have won 12, and they tied once.

Not counting the past four meetings, the Huskies have played the Trojans better than anyone else in the conference including a number of wins in Los Angeles.

Go around the country and look at the football programs in other parts of this nation. Nobody in the west has the big time football atmosphere of the SEC or Midwest or the Big 10, but the closest you'll find on the left coast is the University of Washington. Compare the total number of Rose Bowls and other bowls, NFL players, attendance through the years, sell outs, championships, runner ups, media market, as well as the academic ratings and those are just some of the reasons why Lou Holtz told me the UW and its stadium and fans are one of America's great football venues.

It was coming down the elevator at Husky Stadium when I visited with Coach Holtz less than ten years ago. He marveled at the atmosphere and told me he has always considered USC and Washington as the two premier football programs in the whole western part of the country. As the recruiting coordinator, I chose to believe him and used it. It's the truth if you are interested in basic comparisons.

Remember all those first round draft choices SC lost last year not to mention all the other players they had drafted? They're gone. Remember Dwayne Jarrett, the best underclassman left but did not go pro? He's gone. Remember the very best player in America last year? The one who changed around every game he played in, like he did with his punt return against the Huskies last year? He's gone. That was a tremendous senior class USC graduated last year.

This USC team is not the same one that won a couple of national championships.

This Trojan team soundly beat Arkansas in their opener, then had a bye before they beat Nebraska 28-10 at home, and then went on the road and struggled to beat Arizona and WSU. Both the Wildcats and the Cougars could have beaten this team had a few breaks fell into place. The Cougars were driving for the winning score and ran out of time while the Arizona team didn't really believe they could win but still had it 3-3 at half and 10-3 at the end of three quarters.

As good teams do, the Trojans still found a way and won all their games. But they look vulnerable.

What it will take is to not give them the game via turnovers. No interceptions, fumbles, kick blocks or returns and this Husky team has a chance of winning. Then, try to get some of those exact same things back. USC leads the conference in turnover ratio and has only lost the football a couple of times. They are way over due to lose the football. It's time for the Huskies to create some turnovers with tip balls, ripping the ball out and hitting so hard that you separate them from the football.

Washington must punt the ball well, play field position, and get some stops by the defense. That simple formula for winning has been working.

If the Huskies follow it and make few to no mistakes, they could be the first team to beat the Trojans in their last 25 conference games.

They can break the streak just like Washington broke Miami's streak years ago. It would be the greatest win by this program since that one, and every kid on this team will remember it the rest of his life.

This is a wonderful opportunity, and that's the way this team should look at it. They could move into a first place tie in the conference standings and be right in the thick of a championship run that no one thinks they have any right to be in. They would be ranked again. One big win and just like that, the Huskies become contenders.

It's going to be a tough game against a great team, but Isaiah Stanback is the Huskies' toughest weapon to defend against. He is their "lightning in a bottle" and he is capable of changing a football game all by himself. He has an impact on the game like no one the Trojans have seen since, well, Vince Young.

If #4 in white has no turnovers and remembers to run first, the Huskies have a real shot. He is that special when he is on, like when he hit 10 passes in a row when they scorched Arizona in a 6 minute span.

Of course, his receivers and backs will have to have big games as well, and kicker Mike Braunstein will have to make all of his field goal attempts.

Not a lot can go wrong if the Huskies expect a shot at this win. But get ready, because it could happen.

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