They were actually knocking on the door when time ran out. It was a great team effort but they still lost.
They played well, played tough, and played with the intention and expectation of winning. They could've felt good about their performance.
No way. There are no moral victories in defeat. They battled all the way, but in the end, they came up short. They did not enter the winner's enclosure, there is no victory cigar.
I had told you and anyone else who would listen on the radio that they could win this game, that the Trojans were vulnerable, and they could shock the football world with a classic upset. It was close, but not to be. They now know that they can compete with anyone. Even after a first half when they couldn't make the Trojans punt even once, they were still in the ballgame. They still had a chance to win it. It stayed that way right up until the last play.
Sure it came down to a questionable officials' call, but that didn't decide the game. There were plenty of plays before that last one that could have totally altered the final outcome. When it all was over, they had still lost for their fifth straight time to a team that has won a number of national championships over the past few years.
Washington is definitely getting better. They are better prepared and expected to win the game on Saturday. That's what I LIKE!
Now, it's on the Beavers. Washington now has to keep their home winning streak alive. They need to bounce back. They need to continue to protect the football. Winning the turnover battle vs. USC was a great accomplishment. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to win the game. I had felt turnovers would be the key to the game but this time it was breakdowns in the kicking game that helped decided the outcome. It was simple fundamentals like snapping, catching and kicking that swung the game to the Trojans favor.
The Huskies had out-rushed their opponent and had stayed in the game with a continuously effective red-zone defense, only to give it back with a blocked punt, a number other bad punt snaps, not to mention at least a half dozen shot-gun snaps that hit the ground right in front of quarterback, Isaiah Stanback.
Those fundamental detriments to timing proved costly to the Husky quarterback and punter because they had to rush themselves. These things can and will be fixed.
The Huskies find themselves at the half way point of their season and if they can duplicate what has happened so far, they will have completed one of the biggest turnarounds in the history of the program. They could also have a chance to play in their first bowl game in years and a chance to sweep their home schedule. That would be big in terms of the rebuild. It would be a wonderful comeback for all the players and coaches in the program.
No game is going to be easy and playing well against the Trojans now means nothing. This team is on a mission and this game against another northwest school is huge. If Isaiah is on, all of the games remaining on the schedule are winnable.
That is another unique thing about their game with USC. Isaiah Stanback did not have a particularly good game for himself and yet they still were right there. When he is hot and clicking, he might be one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in college football. Last Saturday he wasn't, but the team still stayed competitive. Even though he wasn't throwing well on the day, whenever he had the chance to set his feet and crank on his passes, he threw bullets. He completed some razor sharp hardballs and was obviously always a threat with his running. He needs have a good game against Oregon State.
He needs be best player on the field.
There is not question there was also some awesome tackling displayed by some of the Huskies and their corners, Matt Fountaine, Dashon Goldson, and Roy Lewis all improved and showed they can play with the best, although I'm sure both Goldson and Lewis wished they could have held on to a couple of sure interceptions. Both Goldson and safety Jason Wells suffered concussions from hitting so hard. That is not good but it shows how hard they were trying.
There is a lot of football yet to be played this season and this group of players and coaches will be fighting and clawing for everything they can get. Nobody but themselves believed they could be this competitive and many don't believe they can keep this up.
They will and they will win more games simply because they expect to. They have now tasted enough success to long for more.
What is amazing is that this is essentially the same group of players that lost to USC 89-24 over a two year period. Knowing what it takes to finish. Knowing and believing how to win. Knowing they can respond to adversity. Knowing they are tough enough to hit with anyone. These are great steps in the process.
I want to add that I thought Coach Willingham showed intensity during the Trojan game that was inspiring. He was working the sidelines and working the officials. He was on top of the rules, the situations, his players and the rules interpretations. Even though Pete Carroll ultimately got the final call he wanted by badgering the official to start the clock and by running his team on to the playing field to end the game, it showed how worried he was about the final outcome. He knows he could have lost on that last play and didn't want to take the chance.
Last year the Huskies played tough with the Beavers and actually mounted a fourth quarter rally only to fall short by a score of 18-10. Wide receiver, Craig Chambers had had a good game but dropped a potential touchdown pass over the middle that would have changed the outcome. The Beaver running back, Yvenson Bernard, rushed for 35 times for 122 yards but 57 of it came on one run. He never scored a touchdown but neither did anyone else on his team as their kicker won the game with 6 (count 'em, six) field goals. It was a game that Washington could've won but didn't know how to do it.
This year they'll know how.
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