I was convinced that if they played their very best, they would have a legit chance. Now, it is pretty obvious that those teams, along with UCLA and ASU, were clearly better teams than Washington. They were quality opponents.
Granted they have been every game for at least a while but there was a reason why all these teams were nationally ranked.
The defense went flat against Oregon just as their offense had in the second halves against the Buckeyes, Bruins, and Sun Devils. With the exception of the Ducks, their first half game plans on both sides of the ball have been sound all season long and they have hung in there against some of the best teams in the country.
It was just incredibly disappointing to see the defense lay such an egg against another northwest rival. They simply couldn't stop the Ducks from the start and even though the score was tied at the end of the third quarter, they hadn't really stopped them the whole evening. It was sad and disappointing to everyone including the fans who actually hoped things had changed when the Huskies finally took control of a third period.
Heck, with 6 minutes to go in the ballgame, somehow the Huskies were only a single touchdown away from tying the score. Their offense had fought all the way and even though the defense clearly had no answers, the team still had a chance to win the ball game.
They just didn't.
That game is over. So now there are but six opportunities left in the season. And now we are into the part of the schedule where it looks to be more evenly matched for the Huskies, and even though California has been ranked as high as number two in the nation, they too have stumbled with two straight losses and look vulnerable.
All six are really good opportunities for victories however, with the exception of maybe WSU, the Huskies are liable to be underdogs in every game.
Next up is Arizona and the one good thing is they live and die by the pass. Of course, that strategy is liable to change with the Huskies' difficulty in stopping the run. Still, this is a game where Washington has a real chance to get a victory, and let's face it - any win right now will be a big win. This might be the game.
Like the Huskies, the Wildcats of Arizona have been struggling all season long and have only beaten WSU and Northern Arizona, a team they had no business playing except to get an automatic win. Scheduling teams like NAU would be like the Huskies playing Eastern Washington.
However, the Wildcats must also feel this is a winnable game for them. They narrowly lost last weekend to Stanford and have the worst rushing team in the conference but have one of the best passers in Willie Tuitama, who throws for nearly 300 yards per game.
Their defense is middle of the pack so this shapes up to be a pretty good match up of two second tier teams. This game will probably be decided by a close score and won by the team that protects the ball the best and wins the kicking game. Washington will need to play a complete game for a change, though. A loss here could be disastrous for either team.
These kids need some momentum before they go on back to back road trips to Stanford and Oregon State and then come home to play the Bears and Cougars. The final game with Hawaii, also on the road, may be against one of the last undefeated teams in the country.
This is a time for the Husky fans to rally around this team and to realize there is still plenty of work to do before this Husky program can consistently win in this conference. They are getting closer but it is obvious that they are still a full recruiting class or two from parity with the upper echelon programs like Oregon. It hurts to say that because recruiting is what I used to live and breathe.
Mike Bellotti is in his 13th year as head coach at Oregon. Of course he had also been there for years before that as an assistant to Rich Brooks, but he has a nucleus of coaches who have been at that school and in this conference for years as well. Defensive coordinator, Nick Aliotti has been a part of Oregon football for 17 years, running backs coach, Gary Campbell for 25 years, line coach, Steve Greatwood for 23 years, linebacker coach, Don Pellum for 19 years, tight end coach Tom Osborne for 7 years, and their weight and strength coach, Jim Radcliffe for 23 years. These guys are entrenched and they are Oregon's identity. They know this league, they know their system, they know their recruiting areas, and they know the high school coaches. When they come calling on a recruit, everyone knows who they are and what program they represent – no one needs to go grab a media guide to figure out who they are.
Oregon is good because they have only had two coaches for almost 40 years. They know what they are doing and everyone associates them with the Duck program.
Washington has a good and well respected coach and eventually he and his staff will turn this thing around. It wasn't an instant turn around at Oregon because I know Washington won six straight from them in the 70's and then five straight from them in the 80's. The fact that Oregon has now taken four straight from the Huskies is as reflective of the lack of continuity at Washington as it is of Oregon going with the same system.
This game against Arizona is a chance for this system to right itself. They are not going to the Rose Bowl. They aren't going to be a ranked team, and they probably won't even finish in the upper half of the conference. But, they have a chance to win a ballgame against a conference opponent and for now, that has to be enough, and hopefully is enough to garner the support of all of their fans.
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