Coaches happy about finishing the job

STANFORD, Calif. - It was a bit dicey at times, but the Washington Huskies finally stood up to the challenge. And when the time came to put their foot on the proverbial throat of the Stanford Cardinal, it came from the bootheel of UW QB Jake Locker. The Huskies saw their opportunity and finished the job - walking the walk without a moment to spare toward their stated goal.

"Our players did an excellent, excellent job. I'm extremely proud of them," Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham said of the Dawgs' dominating 27-9 win over the Cardinal. "It's been a long time coming. We've been knocking at the door, and they found a way to get it done." The Huskies (3-6, 1-5) still need to win their final four games in order to make it to post-season bowl consideration - the long-standing benchmark for success in Willingham's third year in Seattle.

"We've been beaten up a lot, and our guys kept the faith and kept coming," Willingham said. "You have to take one game at a time."

Huskies' Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano was much more enthusiastic coming out of their locker room. "We won a game!" he shouted, a big smile plastered on his face. "It feels good. It should have been over at half, but we battled back and at half we told 'em that we needed to finish. And they did."

It was a game that really should never have been in doubt. Buoyed by a career-night by running back Louis Rankin - who ran for a career-high 255 yards - as well as six sacks by the Washington defense, the Huskies dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage like no game this year - save Syracuse. Just two weeks ago, the Huskies' got levelled to the tune of 465 rushing yards and 92 offensive plays by Oregon. On Saturday night? It was the Dawgs that tore Stanford up, running for 388 yards - sixth most ever allowed by the Cardinal - and 539 total yards on 95 offensive plays.

It was nice seeing the purple and gold on the fat side of the ledger for a change.

"Our guys made plays," Willingham simply said. "And they played with confidence."

Finishing on both sides means that a much-maligned Washington defense rose to the challenge of playing on the road and became what Willingham always envisioned - a bunch of road warriors. "I'm happy for the players," UW Defensive Coordinator Kent Baer said after the game. "It's not about me. How hard those kids worked and how much effort they've put in...you can hear it. They feel good about it. That's what it's all about. They feel like they had a big part in it. At the end, the way they played, it was good."

Baer, who had always been on the sidelines with Willingham during Willingham's tenure at both Stanford and Notre Dame, moved up to the box this past season. Well, he moved back down this year, only to move back up into the box this weekend. "It was just something I talked to coach (Willingham) about," Baer said. "There were some things that happened last week - just some alignment things that we didn't do a good job of seeing. We thought it would be better to go up.

"One of the concerns was getting everybody coached up on the sidelines," Baer added. "With the three different groups - the secondary, the defensive line and the linebackers - but Coach Williams and Coach Hart did a tremendous job of doing it all. They did a great job of listening. We drew up a lot of things for them and they did a great job of making adjustments on the things that needed to be done. So that felt good."

Willingham was asked why, and said there wasn't anything to talk about, so who knows just how much of a difference it made in the overall execution of the defense, but clearly the Dawgs played some inspired ball up front - tuning up the Stanford offensive line play after play. They sacked Stanford QB T.C. Ostrander - who spelled starter Tavita Pritchard when he came out of the game with a shoulder injury - twice to finish out the Cardinal's last two offensive threats - meaning that when the time came to make a play, the Huskies' defense delivered.

"In the past we might have shot ourselves in the foot, but today we didn't do that," Willingham said.

In fact, when the defense did allow Stanford to drive, the offense came back with a 75-yard scoring drive of their own to push Washington's lead to 20-9 with 14:57 left in the game. They were doing all the things good teams do when finding themselves in a spot.

And then they pushed it to the next level, using their running back and quarterback as tour guides. Rankin and Locker ran the ball 20 times for 94 yards - just in the fourth quarter alone. In a drive that lasted just short of five minutes, Washington's offense moved the ball from just inside their own half of the field into the Stanford end zone - capped off by a Jake Locker naked bootleg from seven yards out that put the game on ice.

"I don't think the touchdown was that important," Willingham said about the play. "We just wanted to get out of the game, win the game. We wanted to get the first down, but if he scored, that was fine."

Lappano shared a little different take. "I watched the (Stanford defensive) end and they were sinking hard, so I told Jake (Locker) to keep the football - not to tell anybody," he said. "Just boot it and you'll score and he did. I wanted to get it in. The kids wanted it. They wanted to score. We didn't want to take a knee. We weren't running it up on anybody."

It's hard to begrudge Husky Nation a chance to ruts it up a little - but it wasn't needed. What was needed was a notch under the word 'wins', and Washington got one of those - their first, in league play.

And whether he was talking about defensive stops, big offensive drives, scores, turnovers recovered or any other positive coming out of this particular game, Willingham had to be happiest about kicking a six-game losing streak to the curb.

"That was the answer you needed," he said.


Dawgman.com Top Stories