A team that for two years in a row the Washington Huskies have taken right down to the wire. The same Husky football program that went 1-10 followed by a 2-9 season to start the Tyrone Willingham era.
I don't care what anyone else thinks, I know this program is getting better. Not that they matched the Trojans for talent, it's just that they competed toe to toe with them as a team and almost beat them with lesser talent and greater discipline.
Certainly the Trojans tried to give it away with 16 penalties and 4 turnovers, but unfortunately the Huskies just couldn't capitalize on all those gifts and win the game. They are getting closer and closer to becoming a good football team but we all know that close only counts in horseshoes and atom bombs.
To beat a team like USC you can't make similar mistakes and not finish the job whenever you get into the "red" zone. Washington threatened twice in the first quarter yet came away empty. If and when they can finish those kinds of opportunities on a regular basis they will most likely become a bowl bound team again.
They don't look ready for that yet.
There were probably few people besides the players and coaches of the Huskies who sincerely believed they could compete with and beat a team so loaded with talent. The Trojans, who I think have a swagger that borders on arrogance, are talented and an obviously a very well coached and successful football program - but they very easily could have been beaten on Saturday.
I was disturbed by the Trojans apparent lack of class when after the game I counted no less than a dozen and a half Trojans who totally ignored the sportsmanship of shaking hands with their opponents and immediately sprinted for the tunnel rather than going through the simple process of merely congratulating their game and fallen opponent. I was likewise offended when they celebrated an obvious late hit well within the white area on Jake Locker. Now granted it was a nice illegal hit intended to send a message, but rather than being upset with a player who hurt his team by adding 15 yards to the play, the coaches and players relished in the unsportsmanlike contact. They followed that up with at least two other unsportsmanlike penalties. They didn't care because they just play that way to try to intimidate you.
Their coach constantly argued almost every call and obviously he was correct on the dropped interception that ended up being the deciding three point margin of victory. He did exactly the same thing last year and successfully influenced denying the Huskies one last chance to win that game in LA as well.
There was obviously no coaches' box on their sideline as their coach spent more time on the field than many of his players. They play with an attitude and I appreciate that and they are good and they know it.
And I guess that there is no rule that says you should shake your opponent's hand.
I watch a lot of the action from the press box with my binoculars and regularly check the TV replays especially with regard to penalties. Even though there were 25 (count 'em) penalties assessed on both teams, almost every single one was warranted. I do agree with the Trojans complaints on at least a couple but following one holding call their coaches put on a fit arguing with the poor official assigned to their sideline. The replay clearly showed the hold and to top it off I watched the offender on the next play and he held even worse. It was a running play and he didn't even have to hold because the play was running away from him. Then I began to watch more closely and they always grabbed jersey when the defender was disengaging the block. It is obviously taught and although I do admit that the worst hold I saw was by a Husky, Juan Garcia, the Trojans use it as part of their running attack. They just do it as part of their game and dare the officials to call it.
On another play I saw both the guard and tackle on the same play literally grabbing a defender. Neither was called. My point is they are good enough and big enough that they don't have to be so flagrantly pushing the envelope. This is the arrogance I'm talking about. Then to bitch and complain and obviously try to show their distain for the officials is just a little too much. Now I know that if it's not called then it's not holding but this is what I'm talking about. I commend the linesman for ignoring their taunts although I'm positive he gave them at least one warning.
As someone who has competed against them both on the field and in recruiting, I know and respect their successes through out the years and certainly recognize their obvious status as the premier football program in the west, much less the nation. I just have trouble with their immunity and special treatment by the conference and the media. Then to witness their blatant disrespect for the officials and their opponent just reinforces my premise that this Husky program will never "be back" until they defeat this team. USC is the benchmark for excellence in west coast football and when that day comes and the Huskies win with class and dignity, I will personally relish the moment.
USC walked away scot-free when they had a series of major scandals surrounding their "housing" arrangements for their star football players. Apparently there was no "lack of institutional control" despite a pattern. Somehow their status as the most important program in this conference not to mention the biggest media market has given them a sort of Teflon cover. It might be good for the conference, who knows?
I know their being a private school helps protect them against public disclosure laws but who issued them the "get out of jail free" cards?
Regardless, I still admire this football program and will always consider it to be the benchmark for standards in this conference. There is no question they were the better team last Saturday but the gap has been narrowing since Coach Willingham has taken over. The Huskies are inching up and the day will come when they will put it all together and beat them.
Now when will Washington learn how to score some points in the third quarter? Go figure on that one. Four straight games with four straight goose eggs in the third quarters. And I can tell you from personal experience that it is NOT because the coaches don't make any half time adjustments. I promise you this is a priority with this staff and that they are just as perplexed by it as much as anyone.
The Dawgs now have two weeks now to get ready for Dennis Erickson and his latest rebuilding project. The Sun Devils are liable to be 6-0 when the Huskies visit Tempe two weeks from now. It doesn't get any easier, does it? Washington has lost three straight now, but they are ready to beat ASU in the desert. I think it's time for me to buy a victory cigar and carry it with me because I intend to light up in Tempe. A win at ASU would take them back to 3-3, thereby setting them up for the final 7 games. Win 4 of those 7 and they will have brought this program back to respectability.
Unfortunately, winning is the bottom line and getting close is not even a consolation prize. This program is sort of at a crossroads. They are better organized, they are better disciplined, they are better coached, but they are still losing games. Games that even though the statistics say otherwise, they could have easily won.
I'm going over to Pullman this coming weekend to see Dennis Erickson's team in person. I'll give you a short scouting report next week.
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