Coach's Corner

What a wonderful college football game! The Washington Huskies had gone into Berkeley last weekend believing they could beat the number ten team in the country. They battle all game long and ended up tied with one of the best teams in the country at the end of regulation. They simply lost in overtime.

They very easily could have won the game, but they didn't.

Honestly, there were really very few of us who believed they could win the game. Regardless of the outcome, everyone has to be encouraged by the effort. They fought hard, but they didn't win.

The important thing is that they believed they could win that game, and now should believe that they can win every game they play. They should be thinking that way. They have been taught to believe that. They showed it against Oklahoma, the Mighty Trojans, and a California team that will play and probably beat USC for the league championship. They lost to three pretty good football teams there and could have beaten any one of them.

Saturday was a classic college football game, played on a spectacular fall day, with the leaves changing, and the bands playing, and two teams smacking it out in the trenches. I sat on the edge of my seat the whole game. It was big time college football at its best. Two pretty good football teams slamming away at each other. My kind of football game!

The Huskies had come in with a good game plan defensively and went toe to toe with the Bears. They ran just as many plays, had almost the same number of yards, and held a fast starting Bear offense to no points in the first quarter on 14 plays for 29 yards. They played like they belonged – and they did belong.

The last play of regulation will always be remembered as one of the greatest in Husky history. Marlon Wood showed his high end speed and obvious big play making ability and almost stole the game. They never quit.

But they didn't win.

The whole weekend for me was simply marvelous. I had gotten to go down early and see all five of my grandchildren and both of my daughters. I was in Papa bliss. We went to the beach and it was simply stunning looking at Alcatraz, the Golden Gate bridge, and all the sailboats. It was 80 degrees and we lunched in downtown San Francisco, drove thru parks, and took in the sights of a beautiful city. There is nothing like being a grandparent!

I got to roughhouse at least a couple of times a day with my two grand sons. We practiced tackling on the bed, had a pillow fight, wrestled three different times, and beat up Bozo, a blow up bop bag. We ran and jumped and held hands and did those heart warming family type things. We went out to dinner, went for walks, had lots of hugs, and we didn't have to win at anything.

I think the Huskies have become winners even though they lost this game. All they have to do is learn how to close the deal in the second half. They need to now finish the game strong and make some big plays at the end. Finish the job.

As you Dawgman folks know by now, my mind doesn't allow me to think in terms of the Huskies losing. And of course it goes without saying that I could care less about credibility in predictions. I will always believe in winning. I also happen to believe that the Washington Huskies are a lot better team now then they have been for the past few years and it is largely the same group of kids.

You have to think right. The Huskies played like they expected to win right up until the last play of the game. They never stopped believing.

It didn't happen, but it will. They know that they can and will win games before this season is over. In each of their losses this year they could have won, every single one of them. They will win and they intend to – EXPECT TO - win against ASU.

I can see the progress of Coach Willingham's team. This program is coming back. The players are playing with toughness. They battled. They slugged it out. They held a lead, lost it, and came back. The offensive front came to play. They cleaned up their snaps on kicks and in shotgun. They gave up no sacks after giving up five to the Beavers. They really looked better in pass protection. They obviously struggled at times in the run game, especially in their 2-back set, and especially on third and short. Still, they really never gave up on playing smash mouth. The Huskies run the football and they don't quit on it.

There were some outstanding performances by some emerging players. Jordan Reffett made a tremendous 4th down stop and has really developed into an added inside force. Louis Rankin had a beautiful zigzag run and finished with over 80 yards, while Carl Bonnell opened up 4-5 passing and proved he could both run and pass. Tight end, Robert Lewis returned from injury to make some nice catches and Anthony Russo made another long touchdown reception. Receiver, Corey Williams finally made a big catch. Ben Ossai really improved as an offensive tackle and the protection game by the O-line was better overall.

The defense really came to play and freshman linebacker, Donald Butler, had his most extensive playing time of the whole year and I think played pretty well. Dashon Goldson returned to the corner where he made some beautiful knockdowns and tackles. Defensive ends, Brandon Ala, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, and Greyson Gunheim kept coming all day long.

I really liked the level of hitting. We were in an outside press box and I could hear some hits from up there. It was obvious, though, that the Bears simply had the best player on the field and he put them on his back and carried them even tough he was hurt.

Not hurt enough to not drive the equipment cart around the field after the victory, but hurt enough not to start.

Marshawn Lynch might be the best player in the league and is certain to be an early round draft pick. He's easily better than another Cal back, JJ Arrington, who got drafted a few years ago. He is an excellent pass receiver and even blocks well. He is compact, quick, strong at 217 pounds, and really runs over his feet well. He is an excellent back and in a class with Adrian Peterson who the Huskies saw earlier this season.

Cal had thought they could rest him and actually hardly played him in the first quarter. They changed their minds. He changed the game. He's a great running back and proved to be the difference in the game.

The Cal game would indicate to me that the Huskies' future at linebacker really took a jump with the play of Butler. Chris Stevens, and EJ Savannah and Butler all return for the next couple of years and Dan Howell has one more year. This whole group can really run and will only get better. They will need to with the remaining four games on the schedule. All four are primarily passing teams and all four are winnable games.

The Sun Devils of ASU are the next team up. They can be beaten and the Huskies know that. They have to finish. Finish the block, finish the tackle, finish the play, finish the run, finish the catch, and finish the game.

The Sun Devils have benefited from a from an easy non-league schedule that saw them beat Northern Arizona, Nevada, and a really weak Colorado team. Then they got waxed by the Bears (49-21), the Ducks (48-13), before losing to the Trojans (28-21). Last weekend they got well against the Cardinal of Stanford. They come into Seattle with a 4-3 record looking to become bowl eligible by winning two more. The game sets up as a critical win for both programs.

Statistically, the Sun Devils are just about identical to the Huskies. They score about 4 more points per game but give up about 4 more per game. They are sixth in passing and overall offense while the Huskies are 7th in both categories. Both defenses are about the same except Washington has obviously played tougher opponents in their pre-season. This is a quality match-up and a critical game for both programs. The Huskies will need their crowd to win this game and they will need their "never say die" resolve in order to prevail.

But most of all, they just need to finish. Top Stories