Willingham looking for answers

Pasadena, Calif. - The Rose Bowl has always been pretty friendly to the Washington Huskies away from Pac-10 play, but against the UCLA Bruins, the answers just haven't come of late. The Huskies suffered their sixth-straight away loss to the Bruins, 44-31, and Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham was left scratching his head. But he understood what was at the heart of it.

"It may have been just one of those days," Willingham said. "But it wasn't like our guys didn't want to or weren't trying. We've got to execute."

The Bruins, who rushed for 83 yards a week ago on the road against Utah - found the going a whole lot easier against Washington. UCLA finished the night with 333 yards on the ground, and two 100-yard rushers (Chris Markey - 193 and Kahlil Bell - 109).

"We knew coming in that they ran the split zone and that would be a play we would have to do a great job against," Willingham said. "And we probably just didn't get our end underneath to support it the right way."

The UW offensive machine didn't get fully on track until the fourth quarter, but when it did find some success, it really started to roll. Redshirt frosh Jake Locker threw for three touchdowns in the final stanza, but every time the Huskies threw a haymaker the Bruins' way, they shot right back with big play after big play.

"There were a couple of times when boom, one more play in we're in the football game," Willingham said. "But we couldn't come up with that one play we needed to stop another drive to cut that spread down."

It was point-counterpoint, and Washington never could get themselves out of a hole. Locker throws a pass to Anthony Russo in the corner of the end zone, and Russo goes up high and makes a great play. Four plays later, Chris Markey goes untouched 72 yards, and the Dawgs found themselves again down by two scores.

Locker was not to be outdone, finding Russo again - this time in a seam right down the middle for 63 yards for another big play. And like a champion prizefighter, UCLA took a short kickoff and ran it back the very next play to extend their lead back to 14.

"Our team kept fighting," Willingham said. "That wasn't an issue. But we didn't put ourselves in a position to jump on top of them. It affected our ability to get it done. Those are plays we can't give up. We have to avoid those. There's probably up to 30 points in there, on plays of that nature. We put our defense in a tough position starting the second half. They played on short fields, and it's hard to do that."

Short fields wasn't the Huskies' only problem. The Bruins were playing short-handed too, and when Pat Cowan left the game at a crucial juncture near the beginning of the fourth quarter, UCLA Head Coach Karl Dorrell put the game in the hands of completely untested walk-on quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Mesphin Forrester.

"Our team kept fighting," Willingham reiterated. "But the execution and consistency isn't there. And as coaches - we have to put them in the perfect position, and then we have to get the execution.

"It's never one person."

No question it was a group effort, all the way around. And since those in sport are ultimately judged by wins and losses, it's not going to be the yards given up, or the points, or that's going to hit Willingham the hardest.

It's that 'L' that will show up on the Huskies' ledger come Sunday.

"The loss is it," he said. "The loss is what gets you, no matter how it comes."

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