Another O-for-Oregon is unacceptable

As Washington Coach Tyrone Willingham sat down behind the microphone at the recent Pac-10 Media Day in Los Angeles, he made comments that, while not inspirational, were certainly accurate in depicting the stark reality.

"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 own turf.

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

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