There is Undefeated and There's Defeated

One of the only college football teams in the country without a win continues to spin in the spiral of defeatism. This latest loss for the Washington Huskies - at the hands of that mighty football power the Stanford Cardinal - was a particularly tough pill to swallow, simply because the Cardinal beat the Huskies the way the Huskies used to beat them; by physically pounding them.

Nobody likes or accepts the state of this team, but Stanford racked up their highest number of penalties in years by simply being nasty. They didn't care if their hits were late or if they got penalty after penalty for roughness, holding, piling on, or other personal fouls. I saw on one play where one of their offensive linemen buried a Husky. As he was getting off of him, the lineman speared him with his helmet just one more time. It was deliberate and he was sending a message.

Stanford had came into Husky Stadium with an attitude and played their close-to-the-vest, smash-mouth brand of football and beat the Huskies in the running game. Before the game was over, the Cardinal iced their cake by eliminating the Huskies' best running back, starting linebacker, and most importantly, their quarterback.

To lose Jake Locker is a terrible blow to the Husky program. He has been the heart and soul of this team for the past two years and even though his team has only won three of the past 16 games when he was the starter, he is still their best player, best athlete, and a generally recognized leader. Now it's Ronnie Fouch's turn. That's the way it works.

Fouch subbed in admirably when Jake went down to a broken hand (of course it was on his throwing hand). Fouch filled in for Locker after a hamstring sidelined him for most of the Huskies' fall camp and played great. He will now have a whole week working with the first team to prepare himself for the Arizona Wildcats, who just happen to have had two weeks to prepare for this game.

Only a third into the season, the Huskies need to regroup yet again and hope they can win this next game. There are eight more games to be played and they know they have no choice but to keep working hard and concentrate on trying to prepare for the next team. Regardless of what happens with Head Coach Tyrone Willingham and his coaches, the kids on this team need to put an entire game together themselves and simply win it. It doesn't matter how they play, they just need to win it, and win it for themselves.

These past five seasons have been one continuing nightmare of struggle, permeating defeatism and all those negative things that come with losing. You and I both know it's been like Groundhog Day. Somehow, someway, they seem to find a way to lose. They played Stanford close, just as they seem to do with everyone, but their defense just couldn't hold up again. They scored first, they came back in the fourth quarter, and were within one score at the finish. They didn't get slaughtered; they just got beat, again (Four straight losses ... good God, what a start to a season.).

Believe me, I hurt for all of them - the players and coaches alike. They are obviously fighting the demons that come with continuous losing. They can't stop anyone with their defense on a consistent basis and haven't been able to do so for years. They continue to miss key tackles that they should make, they continue to take bad angles, and they are getting knocked off the line of scrimmage on simple sweeps and off-tackle plays. Their youth on defense is obvious. They are trying on the defensive line, but because of inexperience have yet to record a sack on the season. They are who they are, and right now that is not good enough. Many times I would look out and there would be three true freshmen up front. For twenty-plus years I have never seen so many true freshman play on the defensive line, much less at a safety position on the back end.

I know they lost their very best players on defense before the season even started when Jason Wells and EJ Savannah were unavailable due to injury and dismissal, respectively. Then they lost Darin Harris, arguably one of their best tacklers. Donald Butler, their middle linebacker and defensive leader, is hurting with a concussion, and Byron Davenport - who has played at this level before - is most likely done because of a knee problem. All these injuries have greatly depleted whatever experienced depth they had in the first place.

Still, injuries are just excuses and the players and coaches refuse to use them. Regardless, this team won't win any games until they start playing solid defense for four quarters and make the plays on defense no matter who they have to play. Like on third down, for instance.

I promise you the defensive coaches fully accept the responsibility for this aspect of the team. I know they are not sleeping. I know they are paranoid about losing their incomes and putting their families in jeopardy. They are just as perplexed as any of us fans and are suffering way more than all of us put together. If they could identify and eliminate the demons, believe me they would. It is so important for them to stay positive with their position players, but the frustration of losing can infect a whole group. It's sort of like momentum in that it can dictate the whole persona of a team. The defensive coaches take what the defense does personally. How can they not?

The staff knows how to coach, but I know they are all struggling with the reality of this long losing trend. I sat next to Linebackers Coach Chris Tormey in the press box at Miami in 1994 and witnessed him call a masterful game in the 'Whammy in Miami'. I know he knows the game. I know he is a good recruiter and I know he doesn't teach missed tackles, getting stuck on blocks or not recognizing pass patterns. Chris was a damn good linebacker himself, he knows the position. Not having Butler and Savannah doesn't make him a bad coach; but believe me, good and experienced players can make you a better coach.

I worked 12 years with Randy Hart and know he is a warrior. He learned about the toughness of the game from one of the greats - Woody Hayes. He has never been down this road in his life and will never quit at anything. He personifies the tough approach to football. I know J.D. Williams gave up the security at Berkley with Jeff Tedford to come to Washington to honor his brother's legacy. I know Ed Donatell knows the defensive game and is well respected throughout the country at both the college and professional level. I have talked with Lawyer Milloy and Patrick Kearney - two great players - and they will tell you Ed knows the game and is a good coach. So, why don't these guys know how to turn this thing around? Why can't they come up with stops? Why is this one of the worst defenses in America?

It comes with the disease of losing. Disease is defined as 'to make unhealthy', and right now the defense is making the team unhealthy. So, how do they get healthy? By winning! That is the only known cure. To do that this weekend against Arizona on the road will be a tough task.

Arizona has excellent skill players on their offense, featuring a good and experienced quarterback (Willie Tuitama) who will throw the ball all night if the Huskies can't find a pass rush. They also have a big tight end (Rob Gronkowski), similar to the ones the Huskies had trouble covering against Oklahoma and BYU. They also have one really good receiver (Mike Thomas) and a lightning-quick running back (Nic Grigsby). Yikes!

Washington's defense will have to get stops on third down and get themselves off the field. They will need to get some picks, tear out some fumbles and attack the quarterback. They need to hope Arizona comes into the game overconfident and careless. They need to play as hard as they can on every snap. They need to respond to adversity. They need to be sure tacklers. They need to believe they can win this game and stop listening to all those critics talking about how bad they are, how poorly they are coached and all the doom and gloom that comes with losing. They need to look each other in the eye and be accountable to each other.

But basically they just need to win.


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