Coach's Corner

Another close game, another opportunity to win one at the end, another good initial game plan but still another loss for the last place, Washington Huskies. For the seventh time this season the Huskies just couldn't make the plays when they needed to and lost yet another close game that was well within their grasp.

There are no moral victories anymore, as losing now wears on everyone from the players, coaches, fans, media, and administration.

Somehow last weekend they managed to put themselves in position to beat Oregon State with 2 minutes to go and driving, only to come up shot on 2 shots at 2 yards.

The Beavers are a really good defensive team and have a good college running back, but the inability of the Husky defense to get a stop when they need to is really disappointing. Everyone in Corvallis knew the Beavers were going to run the ball in the fourth quarter in an effort to preserve their fourth straight win over a team that had dominated them for decades.

They did so and even though the officials gave the Huskies an unbelievable chance to steal a game, Washington could not capitalize and let yet another potential victory slip thru their fingers.

Washington is the bottom feeder now in a conference that they used to dominate and it doesn't get any easier with three tough games remaining against California, a team that is really struggling but has had the Huskies number for the last five years, their cross state rival, WSU, and finally one of the last undefeated teams in the country, Hawaii.

A win against any of these teams will be huge for this group and to win them all would at least help the Huskies head into recruiting with a feeling of momentum.

If losing to the Beavers wasn't hard enough then losing Jake Locker may have just been a little too much for this Husky nation, much less anyone else who was watching.

I figured at the time he had just got his bell rung and I still think that is probably the case. Everyone went into a state of semi-shock, especially with what this program went through with Curtis Williams. To watch him return to the field was uplifting and certainly a blessing. He is a warrior and he is a tough guy.

I don't think there is a single guy who has ever played the game of football who has not gotten his bell rung or seen stars or been knocked silly or gotten a neck stinger. If you are a hitter, and Jake is, then chances are you will also get a neck stinger somewhere along the way. The drama was overwhelming at the time but I do think the Husky kids responded with a little toughness and that certainly Carl Bonnell was game and determined in his efforts to bring his team back. He even took his team within scoring distance before two botched plays on third and short ended the game.

So, "Groundhog Day" continues. It was against Oregon State last year that the Huskies lost their starting quarterback and a game they had a chance to win and went into a season-long tailspin stopped only by their gutsy victory over the Cougars.

Right now however, they need to get ready to try and beat a California team that is in a tailspin of their own. The Bears have fallen all the way from second in the nation into the bottom half in the standings and have been losers in 3 of their last 4 games. Had they not padded their schedule with teams like Louisiana Tech and Colorado State, they may have been even worse. This Bears team is talented but oh so overrated.

Washington may have to do it without their best player but then again they might not. I wouldn't be surprised to see Locker play against Cal and I would be real surprised if he didn't play against WSU and Hawaii.

To beat Cal the Huskies needs to continue to run the football and stop the run – this time for a WHOLE GAME. Against the Beavers, the Huskies actually held Yvensen Bernard pretty well in check until the fourth quarter before he took over the game with 70 yards in the last stanza. Now they need to stop DeSean Jackson, probably the most electrifying player in the league who is both a receiver and kick returner. Washington is going to really have to improve their kick coverage team if they are to beat Cal. They might be wise to just kick the ball out of bounds on punts or kicks. Either Lavelle Hawkins or Jahvid Best, the fastest player in the league, is very capable of killing Washington's woeful return coverage team.

The kicking game was horrible against the Beavers and there is no question that the blocked punt for a touchdown ended up costing the Huskies the football game. To compound it, first year punter Jared Ballman had one of his worst games this season getting only 32 and 33 yards on two punts when the Huskies really needed some help in field position.

Certainly the Huskies will be glad to see the Beaver kicker/punter, Alexis Serna, graduate. Serna has had career numbers against Washington scoring over 50 points alone against the Dawgs and was a perfect 5 for 5 Saturday. What I found disturbing was that the Huskies never really try to block field goals. Sure, the inside guys push hard and get their hands up, but there is never an all-out designed rush and where is Caesar Rayford jumping in the middle?

A team like Washington needs to make something happen in the kicking game like blocking a punt themselves or blocking a field goal or running a reverse on returns.

That is exactly what Cal does and will try to do against the Huskies.

Cal can still position themselves for a good bowl game by winning their last two games against the 9th and 10th place teams in the conference, Washington and Stanford. The Bears have a good back in Justin Forsett who has already gone for over a 1,000 yards. He has carried the ball more than anyone in the conference so it is obvious that Washington's run defense will be tested again.

The good news - there has been a marked improvement by the two safeties and much better tackling in by the secondary and linebackers. The defensive front got lots of push and Bernard had less than 50 yards in the first half. The best run of the night was really by their quarterback when he kept it on a 3rd and short and went for 30.

Nate Longshore, the Cal QB, completes close to 60% of his throws and the receivers are the best unit in the Pac-10 at their position. Jackson and Hawkins are second and third in the conference in total number of catches and like I said, Jahvid Best, won the California 100 meter championship and can flat fly. They are so dangerous from the speed standpoint alone that they know they can blow right by you only to set themselves up for their breaking routes.

And their coach, Jeff Tedford, is one of the better play callers in this conference for at least the last decade.

California is one of the leaders in the important turnover ratio rating. They lead the conference in fumble recoveries and really go after the ball when tackling. Good ball security will be critical for the Huskies to win. Against Oregon State, the Huskies dropped 3 potential interceptions, and probably would have won the game if they had caught 2 of those.

Those are big errors in play making. When I coached we used to give "critical error" grades in evaluations of game play. There were two critical ones where the outcome of the game could've been impacted. One of those interceptions had a clear field in front of the defender that would have meant a sure touchdown.

These are the exact things that you have to do to be a consistent winner.

To beat Cal, Washington would do well to play solid in the team kicking game aspects like protection, coverage, and sure tackling. Then, the Huskies should run the ball and pass enough to move the chains, play the clock by keeping their defense on the sideline. This would keep Cal's strength, their offense, out of the game.

Then the defense can concentrate on stopping the run first and then putting the heat on Longshore's mobility and make him throw under pressure.

If Carl Bonnell is the quarterback then remember he took this Cal program into overtime last year. Had Carl not throw so many interceptions in that game, the Huskies would have won. Consequently, this genius thinks that if the Huskies don't throw any interceptions, they will have a much better chance to win the game.

Likewise, if they have chances to make interceptions then they need to CATCH THE BALL.

One of the most promising things to come out of the Beaver game that was the breakout of Curtis Shaw as a wide receiver. He showed some spectacular quickness after catch and was solid in his hands. He has speed to match that of the Cal receivers and as a former back, he is an excellent runner in open field. Considering that the Huskies are graduating so many receivers, it is nice to know there is someone of his potential waiting in the wings.

Washington can bang with Cal in the trenches and I think the line match ups are pretty even. I think the Huskies can run the ball against Cal. The Bears have given up more rushing touchdowns than any team in the conference. Washington will win this game by running the football. Carl Bonnell can run, he can run the option, he can scramble, and he can do all the same things that Jake could do, maybe not as well, but certainly he knows this offense.

I had a chance to walk with Carl to practice last week and we talked about his role, his life, and his future. He had come to the "Purple and Gold Football Camp" when he was in the 7th or 8th grade and I had gotten to know him then. I followed him thru high school and saw him win state championships. He has always been a special kid to me. I had always felt his high school coach, Tom Ingles, was on of the best in the state and that Carl had been taught the game well. He knew this opportunity was going to come and he was prepared for it. He is ready from every standpoint. This is his championship game. This is his legacy. This is his golden opportunity. Top Stories