Coaches feel the sting

SEATTLE - I didn't get a chance to see Lawyer Milloy during the fourth quarter of Washington's 48-41 loss to Arizona Saturday at Husky Stadium. If I had, I bet I would have seen the look of a Husky Legend that just had a tiny piece of him die on the inside. The Huskies of today resemble the Oregon State of 1994 more than the Washington Huskies of 13 years ago.

Just one week removed from giving up 661 yards against Oregon, the Washington defense surrendered 532 to an Arizona team that had been averaging less than 150 yards that total during the year. They gave up 48 yards to a team averaging 25. And they did it despite a record-setting day by quarterback Jake Locker.

"This one hurts an awful lot," Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham said after the Huskies blew a 41-26 lead with less than 13 minutes left in the game. "This one is very, very disappointing. Our young men gave their best effort, and for that I'm proud of them. But I'm also extremely disappointed."

Any adjective or adverb you want to choose to describe Washington's defensive performance will do. They were outgained 269-157 by Arizona in the second half; they allowed the Wildcats' Willie Tuitama to throw the ball at will, despite knowing that their rushing game was non-existant (UA finished the game with 25 total rushing yards). They gave up 22 points in the final 15 minutes of action.

And it doesn't appear like it's something that's going to get solved any time soon, especially with the coaching staff reticent to make any major changes. "This stream we are going down, you can't have any major overhauls to help yourself," Willingham said. "It was a frustrating day," added UW Defensive Coordinator Kent Baer. "We were shuttling guys in and out, there were guys not playing fast. We were trying to find the right combinations."

The Huskies' were playing banged up on defense, as E.J. Savannah and Dan Howell were clearly playing at less than 100 percent. "I love Dan Howell," Baer said of the senior from Newhall, Calif. "He's a great kid and tries harder than any kid we have. And he wants to do it all. It is frustrating, because he's just not as fast as he was right now. We played Josh Gage to help us out a little today, but I'm not sure where the next step is, or who it is. There's not many."

The fact that Gage, a walk-on junior from Huntington Beach, Calif., was backing up Howell is significant, because it shows just how paper-thin that defense is in spots. At one point, the Huskies were playing three true freshmen - Vonzell McDowell, Nate Williams and Mason Foster. Baer admitted he was very reluctant to put the young pups on a long leash.

"We would have loved to pressure him more, but those middle screens scare you out of it because it puts so much pressure on your secondary," he said. "We had two or three freshmen in there, so that backed me off some of that because I didn't want to put them in a tough situation. But that's something we could have looked at to do different."

But make no mistake - this game was a team loss - and the offense had just as much to do with the Huskies not leaving their own stadium with a W. Two turnovers inside the Arizona 35 on successive drives to start the game killed Washington. "We left a lot out there," Washington Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano said. "If we don't do that (turnovers) we might run them out of here."

The Huskies rolled over the 'Cats in the first half, piling up 404 yards on offense and 28 points on the scoreboard. But Arizona never took anything away from Washington, and they never forced a punt in the first half. Locker, the redshirt freshman from Ferndale, was riddling UA's defense with pin-point passes and big-plays galore - including a 98-yard pass to Marcel Reece, the longest offensive play in UW history. Locker accumulated 367 yards of total offense in the first thirty minutes, and legitimately had a chance to join former Husky Marques Tuiasosopo as the only two quarterbacks in D1 history to run for over 200 and pass for over 300 in a game.

The records were there for the taking - as well as the game - but Washington couldn't finish the deal. It has been a recurring theme. The 'Cats did, however. They sensed that Washington's defense was being held together with duct tape and bailing wire, and took the game to the battered canines. "I don't take it lightly," Baer said of the defense's inability to stop Arizona when it counted. "I have a lot of pride. I've coached a long time, and we've had some great defenses. And we just didn't become stupid overnight, contrary to what some people believe or write."

And as Arizona took a knee to kill the remaining 28 seconds on the clock, the Washington fanbase began to boo.

"I felt like I let them down," Willingham said. "I didn't give them what they came to see, what they expected to see."

Or maybe they did see exactly what they expected to see. Either way, the Huskies' backs are up against it. With five games left and five wins needed to be bowl-eligible, the last month or so of Washington football could get extremely irrelevant if they can't pull out a win at Stanford.

"I went into the season very optimistic that we could turn the corner, and now we're at the point in the season where we have to make something happen," Willingham said. "If we can get ourselves righted, we can do some good things."

"I want our fans to be happy and excited just like everyone else," added Baer. "Right now we have the guys we have, and we'll continue to coach them.

"But yeah, it's frustrating." Top Stories