"It is a pleasure for us to kick off the Conference this morning," said Willingham, in his trademark calm voice. "Because as the Commissioner just said, the Pac-10 plays one of the most demanding schedules in the nation and I think we have all of those tough teams on our schedule. We don't think there's anyone that has a tougher start than our first three games, but we also think our Conference schedule is demanding. Syracuse is an important game for us to play on the road, and then we have to turn around and play against Cinderella darling Boise State, followed by Ohio State. There is no question that it will be very challenging, but it is an opportunity for us to go out and prove ourselves."
Willingham failed to mention the twin specters of USC and UCLA looming immediately
after Ohio State. He has a right
(behind closed doors) to gulp once or twice. Still, UW fans would prefer
Willingham be bold and invoke more of a public stance of "Anybody, Anytime,
Anywhere." Instead, resentment toward the schedule is detectable in his
words—as he approaches a semi-anxious third year of a five-year contract.
Only the most diehard Husky fans envision emerging from September with a winning
record. This Husky team possesses little talent and frightening inexperience in
the secondary. But it holds one wondrous wild card—the combination of young
quarterback Jake Locker and wide receiver Marcel Reece. With the season a month
away, it is permissible to at least dream of connections reminiscent of
Hobert-to-Bailey and Huard-to-Pathon.
Understanding that the Huskies will enter October already behind the 8-ball, the
two critical games on the schedule are the October 20th tilt against Oregon in
Seattle, and the November 10th contest in Corvallis vs. Oregon State. Washington
cannot afford to lose these games again. If they
succumb to both, it would drop the Dawgs to 0-8 against the Ducks and Beavers
since 2004. Never mind their reputation in the Pac-10-- Washington's standing
in the Northwest would sink deeper than the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench.
In UW's three prior losses to the Ducks (31-6, 45-21 and 34-14) their effort
bordered on non-existent—as they clearly gave up without a fight. Against
Oregon State last year, the losing streak extended to three when the Beavers
physically dominated the Huskies at the line of scrimmage and on Washington's
In 2007, Washington needs to bring a full 60-minute effort to every game on
their schedule. Most critically, they must beat both Oregon schools. Husky
football, with a 21-38 record since 2002, is in danger of free-floating in a sea
of mediocrity for the next two decades. Once a precedent is set in defining a
college football program's expectations, it can take twenty years or more to climb
out. The poster child for this is California prior to the arrival of
coach Jeff Tedford; or Oregon State prior to the hiring of current coach Mike
Riley and former coach Dennis Erickson.
For Washington to avoid this depressing scenario, dramatic improvement must take
place this season. Toward that end, hopes are hereby pinned on Messieurs Locker
and Reece, tailback Louis Rankin and linemen Juan Garcia, Daniel Teo-Nesheim and
Cameron Elisara. The endeavor to resurface to respectability begins Aug 31st
against Syracuse, in upstate New York.
Derek Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
His website is www.derekjohnsonbooks.com
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