Coach's Corner

Beating California was huge. Beating WSU will be even bigger and beating Hawaii would definitely be the icing on the cake. Especially, if Hawaii gets by Boise State and enters its match with the Huskies as one of the last two undefeated teams in the country.

All things being equal though, beating the Cougars in the Apple Cup is a must win for the program right now. This is a monster game for the Willingham era. A game they should win but history will tell them it won't be easy.

Both teams enter this one being only a few plays away from playing for a bowl opportunity. Perhaps based on last weekend's performances Washington is hitting its stride coming down the stretch while WSU appears to be staggering a bit.

The Cougars' record setting passer, Alex Brink, has produced the best numbers in the history of his school. But I'd bet he'd trade most of those records in for having taken his team to a bowl. He's never done that and will leave WSU having never done so. And unfortunately for his team, he adds another record, throwing 6 (SIX) interceptions against the Oregon State defense.

There is no way Brink can be counted on to throw that many picks against Washington but if he could serve up say, three or four, that could really help. The Cougar receivers, (if healthy) are extremely talented. Of course they play for one of the most pass happy schools in the conference and because their team throws the most and they get a lot of opportunities.

Washington's secondary did hold Cal's great trio of receivers below their usual level of excellence, and they'll need to repeat that performance against Washington State.

A deciding factor will be probably be the quality of pass rush the Huskies can bring against Brink. They failed to get to Cal's Nate Longshore for a single sack and if given time, Brink will pick the Huskies apart. Because Brink gets rid of the ball quickly at times, the Huskies may have to tighten their cushions a little and if the linemen can get their hands up then Brink won't have those quick outs, hitches, or slants.

That puts the corners a bit on an island but if they don't have to cover too long in straight man, they should be able to hold up. Nate Williams returns to help their depth and Matt Mosley and Jordan Murchison gives them extra corners for penny, nickel, and dime schemes.

I think that Husky free safety, Darin Harris, has gotten progressively better since replacing Jason Wells earlier this season. Against California he was the leading tackler and was all over the field making plays. Consider that this kid hasn't really played for a couple of years and most of the times not even practicing because of injury. He easily could have quit along the way but has stuck with it and is now playing his best football. He has learned to stick it in there low now and has become a good tackler.

His position is so critical because of the communications that goes with it. Free safety and middle linebacker have that in common. Because they are right in the middle, they make all the adjustments and signal calls.

Washington's defense though will be best helped by its own offense. If the Huskies can continue to run the football and dominate the clock by simply moving the chains then they will effectively control this game. Coming off a game where they had two 100 yard rushers, and neither one was Jake Locker, the Dawgs have to feel they can run the football against Washington State.

So on paper, it boils down to Washington's running game against the WSU passing game. I believe Brink will throw it somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-60 times.

Against California, senior, Marcel Reece made the most of his one catch, as did fellow senior, Cody Ellis, when both made game changing plays against the Bears. Add another senior, Anthony Russo's punt return, and those three plays represent the plays "you have to make" in order to win games. The Huskies made those plays when they hadn't made them in earlier games. All three also had big plays last year against the Cougars, something worth noting.

Realistically the Apple Cup represents the battle for the bottom this year in the Pac-10 as both teams enter the game with identical 4-7 records. The loser of the game will no doubt tie Stanford for the cellar.

Last year it was the kicking game that helped the Huskies win the game. Scores on a blocked punt and a kickoff return by the Huskies were huge factors in the outcome of the 2006 version of the Apple Cup.

Washington can and should try to win this game by running the football, winning the turnover battle, and not losing in the kicking game. They can not hope to totally stop the Cougar offense but they can still control the game by grinding it out, pounding the run in there, and doing it 60 times or so.

Winning the Apple Cup and then winning in Hawaii could also really be a boost to the Huskies as they head into the heat of recruiting. Already the Huskies have put together a nucleus of about 14-15 commits and a strong finish would help them both in-state and in Hawaii where they could convince a few kids to come to the mainland for school.

Given the current numbers situation, Washington needs to bring in a full (25) member class. They have been down too long in scholarship numbers.

In terms of recruiting class make up, the Huskies need a full line on both sides of the ball so that makes 9 linemen the goal. Add to that at least 3-4 receivers because of graduation, 3-4 defensive backs, 3-4 running backs/athletes, a couple of quarterbacks, a couple of tight ends, and at least 3 linebackers or big safeties. That adds up to more than 25, but that is probably what they really need. Some can be counted back to last year's numbers in order to get the numbers up.

So now it's time to beat the Cougars and show that this team can play back to back physical football games. This is no time to soften the attack.

This game, regardless of lowly records, will be the capper on this year's Thanksgiving weekend in the state of Washington. Bring it on! Top Stories