Coach's Corner

Just when we were beginning to think the corner had been turned, up pops a disappointing loss that really took the wind out of Husky sails. Getting beaten by UCLA is obviously not a new thing, as the Bruins, despite losing to the Dawgs last year in Husky Stadium, renewed their dominance over the Purple and Gold with a sound thrashing last Saturday night.

This sets the stage for one of the real cupcakes on the Huskies' schedule - the USC Trojans.

Now I've always felt the Huskies wouldn't officially "be back" until they consistently beat the two LA schools. Now they get them back to back to open league play. I guess it might be a bit of a stretch to ask that out of this Husky program at this point in time.

The Bruins have now won 9 of the last 11 games from Washington and 16 of the last 25. Not only did they rebound from their embarrassing loss to Utah last week but they thoroughly roughed up the Huskies and were in complete control.

The Bruins turned the ball over twice deep in their own territory resulting in two Husky touchdowns and continued to hurt themselves with untimely penalties. Yet they controlled both sides of the line of scrimmage, just as Ohio State did the week before, and waited patiently for the Husky kicking game to implode.

Which it finally did.

The results were another UCLA victory over Washington, and that win cemented the Bruins as Pac-10 contenders with a 2-0 record and a first place standing in the conference.

The defeat was devastating to a Husky team that was buoyed by its opening two wins over Syracuse and Boise State. Now at 2-2, the Huskies need to go back to the drawing board and see if they can regroup in time to challenge the number one team in America.

It won't be easy. They still are having a number of dropped passes and kickoffs (3) as well as missed tackles, which allowed the second straight opponent to run the ball right down their throats.

The Trojans, like the Bruins, have had their way with the Huskies of late winning the last 5 straight games and 7 of the last 11 and 14 of the last 25. The Huskies have actually beaten the Trojans at home 7 times out of 12 times during that stretch. It isn't impossible but it is highly unlikely unless they find some way to wake up in the 3rd quarter.

For the third week in a row the Huskies came out of halftime extremely flat and after scoring zero points against Boise State, zero points against the Buckeyes, again scored zero points against the Bruins. In all three games the offense has produced way too many three-and-outs following the halftime break and the run defense has been so porous in the second half that the opponents have run against it at will.

The players have to realize that if they could have matched their first half intensity against all three teams and had not turned the ball over in the second half they could've won the last two games.

No question the Huskies' young quarterback, Jake Locker, made costly rookie mistakes for the second week in a row yet still showed his brilliance as a runner and his great potential to become a wonderful signal caller. But just like his team, Jake is still a work in progress. He and the team will get better if they can survive this ghastly stretch of their schedule. I thought we saw his true grit when after throwing that pick he really lit up and almost brought his team back.

Now it's time for the seniors to be the ones to lead this team to victories. This is their team. They are the ones who have to step up and make plays. Dan Howell did with his interception that led directly to a late Husky score.

This loss is particularly frustrating in what it illustrated. Even though the team is obviously better than it has been in five years, it is still has a long way to go before it becomes an elite team again.

With USC coming to town, Washington will need to be perfect in all five phases of the game to have any chance. That starts with the run. First and foremost, the Huskies need to stop the run when they have to, which is usually in the second half of games. Then they need to somehow find a way to run the ball, particularly in the second half. Then they need to improve their overall kicking game that has really cost them all season long so far. Then they can worry about stopping their opponents from passing the ball as well as moving it thru the air themselves.

Those are the 5 phases of football and probably in their order of importance.

Football games are controlled by teams that control the football both for time of possession and for field position, which is precisely what the Bruins did against Washington. Teams also have to win the turnover battle and the Huskies have lost that the last two games and with it have lost both games.

If Washington doesn't throw the interception for a touchdown in the second half and doesn't allow a kickoff return for a touchdown, they probably win. Of course had they been able to stop the Bruins from running the football with their third string walk-on quarterback, they likewise would probably have won the game.

Too may ifs, and too many mistakes.

The kicking game has been one of the most problematic areas for the Huskies in all four games so far this season. They have been giving up way too much on kickoff returns since the first game and it finally proved costly. And that doesn't even count two kick returns against them that have gone for a touchdowns only to have been called back due to penalties. They did block a field goal against Ohio State but gave one right back themselves.

The punter, Jared Ballman, kicked much better in the first half against the Bruins only to go into the toilet with shanks and poor punts in the second. Then to compound it they dropped three, count them (3), kickoff returns against the Bruins to hurt their field position as well. This comes after fumbling a kickoff against Ohio State that also proved to be terribly costly. Every time they do anything in the kicking game you literally hold your breath. That phase of the game has been a nightmare in all four games. It's almost like whenever they do something good they have to do something bad just to balance it out.

Unfortunately, the bad kickoff coverage that allowed the UCLA return for a touchdown basically broke their backs.

Remember, you don't have to necessarily win the kicking game, but you just can't lose it, and last Friday night even though the Bruins missed an early field goal the Huskies gave away everything they had gained when they gave up that return for a score. These kicking problems must be corrected. I know they work hard at it because I watch them do it in practice every week.

After a great camp and opening game against Syracuse, Louis Rankin has struggled running the football. This team cannot win with just Jake Locker running the ball. They have to run it hard and they have to run it often in order to start winning games. That puts it right back on the offensive line that couldn't get the "push" necessary to get Rankin up field. Maybe if Washington could run a stretch play to Rankin similar to what UCLA used against them they could take advantage of his speed on the edge. They used it when Louis was younger and he is seems to like to use his speed outside.

The Huskies obviously have had great game plans going into the last three games because at half they have either been tied or ahead against favorites. Unfortunately, they have had terrible third quarters and have asked their defense to be on the field too much after halftime.

To state the obvious, this is precisely why they have to move the ball on the ground and move the chains - and perhaps score some points - in the second half of games.

Their fourth quarter production of 21 points was encouraging. Now they have to learn how to sustain energy and concentration for a full game.

They have a chance to shock the sporting world as much as Appalachian State did. As their coach would say, this is a great opportunity for them as a team to prove something to themselves. They can be a good football team and they can play with the best. Now, can they beat the best? It will take their best on every play of every series, in every quarter, in every half, for the whole game. Right now they are one half of a good team. Put two good halves together and let's see what happens. Top Stories