Coach's Corner

Husky football season went exactly like the movie, "Groundhog Day". Almost the same scenario played out the same way for almost every game this season. In the finale, the Huskies again squandered a lead to Hawaii in the second half without scoring a point and lost to another team that they could have easily beaten.

Their collapse against the Warriors of Hawaii was a carbon copy of their debacle the previous weekend against the Cougars, or Arizona, or Oregon, or ASU, or USC, or Ohio State, or even the second half of the Boise State game, except that they won that one.

It was usually on the defensive side of the ball when at some point in the game that they couldn't stop a leaking faucet. Some games they couldn't stop the run and some games they couldn't stop the pass. Of course not scoring any points offensively in the third quarter of almost all those loses didn't help either.

It was as much psychological as it was physical or schematic. I also believe it is the result of the continuing funk of losing that has infected the program over the past 5 years. These kids have been almost paralyzed to perform when the game is on the line.

I don't want to put it all on the defense even though they will go down as the worst defense in school history. Those kids on the defense played their hearts out against Hawaii but were honestly helpless in defending the pass (42 out of 50 attempts with 5 touchdown passes after giving up 5 touchdown passes the week before).

The kicking game was marginal most of the season. Too many missed field goals and blocks at crucial times.

The Hawaii game was a microcosm of the Husky season. The Dawgs literally had them on the ropes but just couldn't land the knock out punch. All too familiar.

So how do the Huskies go from just playing toe to toe with every opponent against eight bowl bound teams, including one that will play for the national championship, to winning those types of games? Changes are imminent, and by changes, I'm talking schemes, personnel decisions, and quite probably staff turnover. Willingham said as much without saying it directly when he said that he would do what's best for Husky football.

His team played hard, they were always prepared, and they started every game the same way by believing they could compete, all admirable qualities but none of them hit the objective of winning the game.

It has to start with confidence. Confidence that you will win, and make the plays with the game on the line. And confidence is built with success. Year four of Tyrone Willingham has to find success, and will be measured in the win column in 2008 no matter how brutal the schedule.

To open next season with non conference opponents like BYU, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame is admirable but idiotic to me. Then to consider moving Oregon to the first game, a team that clearly has had Washington's number for the past five years, only compounds the difficulty of rebuilding that fragile confidence.

This program needs a break and one way to possibly get it is to schedule down. That is exactly what Oregon State did years ago and it has really paid off well for them. Of course the Beavers also have the best defense in the conference but the fact is they don't play the types of schedules that Washington does anymore. They don't have to. They realized the importance of developing a winning attitude and stopped scheduling first rate opponents in the non-conference games.

Look at what WSU did to Bill Doba the past two seasons. Their administration prostituted themselves by signing the Cougs up to play on the road against Auburn and Wisconsin to open both of the past two seasons. Of course neither will ever come to Pullman for a pay back but the Cougars pocketed big pay checks.

And Bill Doba is now out of a job.

Rick Neuheisel admitted such when his administration, that knew nothing about football, signed up the schedule Huskies have played these past few years. He even admitted it to his coaches that the "next coach" would really appreciate the challenge.

I admire Coach Willingham for never balking at his schedule, choosing to approach each as another "opportunity" to prove the Huskies could beat anyone. In less public moments, I'm sure he would have appreciated a New Mexico, a Utah State, a Northern Arizona, an Idaho State, or even a Portland State kind of school like other teams in this conference play.

Do you think anyone cares now that USC opened with Idaho or that Hawaii beat Charleston State and Northern Colorado on its way to an "undefeated" season?

I honestly admit that we would probably would have never have scheduled Hawaii back in the eighties or nineties but then I saw us reschedule Nebraska after we had been put on sanctions that cost us 20 scholarships. How stupid was that? It directly affects your teams' psyche.

Does losing really breed losing? Well, look at what happened to both California and Oregon this year. Once it started at those schools, they couldn't stop it. That wasn't an anomaly – it is the same thing that happened to Washington once the wheels fell off in both 2006 and this past season.

This program needs an infusion of confidence and that won't happen for years if they don't stop scheduling Ohio States, Oklahomas, or even Notre Dames for the time being.

Of course the real answer is in recruiting. Good players will turn this thing around, but it has to be good players who expect to win. Good players that are allowed to develop because the program is solid and doesn't need to play 18 year old true freshmen. Willingham now is making great strides in his recruiting efforts, particularly in the state of Washington. That is paramount to winning.

It seems like forever now since this program was a contender for the conference championship and has been disappointing for everyone who has followed Husky football through the years. After Tui led us to the Rose Bowl to start 2001, that the Huskies began a slow sink to the bottom and have remained there for the past four years. The infection of losing has compounded Coach Willingham's problems but I think that he has been a wonderfully positive leader throughout this perplexing and obviously dilemma of rebuilding attitudes. His kids' dedication and hard work on the field show this.

For all of you fans who have endured this struggle, don't turn on each other. Never forget that we are all in this together and we are all Husky fans. No one is right, no one is wrong, we are all passionate about our Dawgs and love them to death. We have that bond that makes us special. There should be no "us and them" within our ranks. It should be a "we".

Usually about 5-6 key plays determine the outcome of games and maybe next season those plays will be made by the Huskies, and WE can all be proud of them and celebrate them TOGETHER.

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