My heart goes out to this group of Washington Huskies. They are a much better team than they have been for years. The have fight and they are resilient. They never say die and keep battling even though it appears at times that they are overmatched. They just won't quit. They keep you pulling for them, but it is getting harder.
Most just want them to win again. I'm also positive that's the most important thing to this group of players and coaches.
So can it happen this weekend in Eugene? It seems like over a year ago since this team was 4-1 and 2-0 in conference and pretty feeling good about themselves. They had become a team. They had learned to win.
But, alas, they have been oh so close in three losses this last month and even in their defeat to Oregon State saw them leading at halftime. The Huskies are still contending for a bowl game, but they are no longer winning. It's painful. It certainly is frustrating and honestly it's very disappointing.
It is disappointing because the expectations have changed. These kids and their fans expect to win games. These kids deserve to win a game. They will come out and play hard to win the next game.
They are improving, but they're just not winning.
ASU is a good team. Not a great team, but certainly one with some obvious talent. Any team that plays as sloppy as they do isn't a real good team (read: 16 penalties). They looked like at times they were going to blow the Huskies away just like they did last year, playing against almost the exact same group of players. They couldn't, because the Huskies have changed. The Huskies can play with anybody.
But they've got to finish the deal and win the game.
Week two of the Carl Bonnell era started a little like it ended against Cal - two more interceptions and a run game that was still getting stuffed. Still, Carl took over with his feet and kept his team in the game showing real poise and true grit.
The Husky defense was playing tough again and had a great game plan. They held an explosive ASU offense to a couple of touchdowns and a number of three and outs. The defense played like they had against Cal and really a lot like they have played all year. They kept hanging in there and making it a game. They refused to back down.
Sure, they missed some tackles. Sure, they continued to get lost in coverage periodically, but they kept playing hard. They kept hanging around until the offense finally woke up - and it did. They came back and made it a close game.
Now it's time to regroup, pack up the gear, and head south. It's Duck season and it's time to purge some demons. It's time to get a win. It's time to create some turnovers. Washington has gone two full games or eight quarters without getting a single fumble or interception. They protect the ball well themselves, averaging less than a fumble per game but have only gotten TWO fumble recoveries the whole season. After nine games, that won't get it done.
Even with the seven interceptions over the past two games the Huskies have stayed competitive, but they need to strip, club, or otherwise dislodge the ball from opposing ball carriers. They need to catch interceptions thrown their way. They have dropped some that would simply have won either the Trojan game or the Bear game.
It would also help if they blocked a kick for a touchdown or return a kick for a touchdown. Look at how the Beavers beat the Trojans, with a punt return.
Washington needs to make something happen. They need to create some takeaways. They need to score on defense or in the kicking game and not allow the Ducks to do one of the same against them. They need to help the offense because the offense can only score three touchdowns per game. A team probably needs at least four scores to beat the Ducks. Against the Sun Devils the Huskies were right on their average. They had gone into the game averaging 23.4 points per game. They came out scoring 23. They need to score more points in all of these remaining games if they want to win.
Face it, these Huskies are what they are - scrappy team that never quits and will play you tough, but they don't score many points.
Of course neither do the Beavers or Cougars who both only average 24.4 points per game, except those teams are somehow finding ways to win those games.
Oregon has manhandled, ridiculed, and otherwise insulted the Huskies over the past two years by scores of 45-21 last year, 31-6 in 2004. The Huskies have to travel down there again, but so what? Play the game anywhere. Play it hard and play it to win. Finish, finish, finish.
Oregon sure seems to have destiny on their side. They just finished playing Portland State. Are you kidding me? Why do they do that? They're such a good team and their program is well developed that to play a chump opponent from Division 1AA just seems weird. They moved their Stanford game to their opener and then beat a weak Fresno State team by a touchdown before catching a major break against Oklahoma in the most embarrassing game of the year for the conference. They then destroyed this same ASU team the Huskies could've beaten to run their record to 4-0 to start the year.
Since that game the Ducks have come back to earth with loses at both California and at WSU, leaving them at 6-2 and all ready bowl-eligible. They will have their boisterous and obnoxious crowd going for them. The stage is set for an upset, so go ahead, Dawgs, be courageous again. Play with your hearts, execute your game plan, win the kicking game, and create some opportunities for yourself. Tackle well, block well and play smart.
Only this time, WIN!!!
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