Upside down in Willingham's world

In Tyrone Willingham's world, things aren't what they appear. Playing at home hasn't been an advantage. Washington only has two BCS wins since his arrival. A win over a once-hapless Oregon State team used to be as sure as death and taxes. UW was 25-3 against the Beavers from 1975-2004. Not anymore, apparently. Not in Willingham's world, where right-side up is now upside-down.

"There's an advantage, but we haven't taken advantage of it," Willingham said Saturday night after Washington lost to Oregon State 34-13. "We have to play the way Huskies play to energize our crowd and our people. This is a great place to play, no question about that. But we haven't taken advantage of what we have." The 63,996 attendance sure looked more like 6399, and by the end of the game I could have sworn there were more people at the Skyline-Issaquah game Friday night.

But such is the life the Huskies have been reduced to in Willingham's world. Bad road teams get healthy in Husky Stadium. Oregon State was 0-3 on the road before Saturday night.

'Small victories' was the term coined by UW Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell Saturday night after his defense held the Beavers to a season-low 421 yards. That's a season-low for Washington. And unfortunately for Ronnie Fouch, Terrance Dailey and D'Andre Goodwin, a decent offensive effort went for nada in their loss to the Beavers - the largest home loss in the history of the series in 35 years.

"I sure don't like to pat ourselves on the back in the midst of a defeat, but you do have to tell guys when they are improving," Donatell said. "The hitting was better tonight. I thought our guys were knocking 'em around pretty good. I was pretty pleased."

In Willingham's world, the game doesn't necessarily start when it's supposed to. A delay of game was assessed the Huskies on the very first play of the game. "We didn't have the awareness, that's all," he said. "And it's disappointing."

In Willingham's world, rookies have to play like veterans. Fouch's 276 yards passing, in only his second start as a Husky, was the sixth-best effort since Willingham stepped foot on Washington's campus. Dailey, in his first career start, ran for 102 yards and one touchdown on a 59-yard gallop in the third quarter. Dailey was the first 100-yard rusher all year for Washington, and is one of only three (Louis Rankin and Corey Dillon) to run for 100 yards in his first start in the last 15 years.

Goodwin, the beneficiary of Fouch's passing, caught 136 yards worth of passes, both season and career-highs. He is UW's first 100-yard receiver all season.

"Some of those young guys are doing some really good things," UW Offensive Coordinator Tim Lappano said. "Terrance, you saw what he did. He gives us hope back there. I love his competitiveness. If we could have protected our quarterback, we could have scored a lot of points against them."

In Willingham's world, the 1642 pounds of his offensive line - the apparent strength of the offense going into the season - wilts under the 483 combined pounds of OSU's starting defensive ends - Victor Butler and Slade Norris. It was so bad, the game plan was to 'double' OSU's ends, thereby neutralizing some of their rush.

"It was a constant chess match," Willingham said of the battle on the line between his OL and Oregon State's defensive line. In most worlds, doubled defensive ends means no penetration for Butler and Norris, yet in Willingham's world they combined for a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss.

And in Willingham's world, punching the ball in from the 1-yard line is a lot tougher than it looks. Two Fouch rushes and two Luke Kravitz rushes netted the Huskies exactly nowhere, unfairly putting the efforts of Fouch, Dailey, Goodwin and the like on the back pages, while failure after failure continue to mount like my Aunt Erma's dollar-sized pancakes on Christmas morning.

"Not getting the goal line is pathetic," Lappano said. "It's ridiculous. When you can't score on the 1-yard line, that's not acceptable."

In Willingham's world, you can't utilize the motivation, pride and passion that can come from involving the 1977-78 UW Rose Bowl team in your game-week preparation. Apparently in Willingham's world, a bye week is simply not enough time to organize, plan and put into action a game plan that includes former Huskies because he was not notified early enough in the process.

"You always want winners to talk, because they understand what it takes to get things done," he said.

And when it comes to winners in Willingham's world, they are just competitors that haven't won yet. Winners that haven't won? I think you're starting to get the picture.

"If you are a competitor you find a way to rise up and play your next ball game and meet your next challenge," he said. "If you are not a competitor, you wither. It becomes too heavy for you and you can't find a way to fight."

"It's definitely a challenge," added Donatell. "If you talk to the kids, it's wearing on them a little bit. There's no other way than to roll up your sleeves and win small victories. And if you win enough of those than you're going to win a football game."

By that time - in Willingham's world and on Willingham's time - he will have landed on his feet, right-side up, via a golden parachute, while his assistants find themselves upside-down on their mortgages.

And most of the time, Willingham's world isn't all that it's cracked up to be. No matter how you look at it. Top Stories