UW Enters Breather Part of Schedule (HA!)

A break in the schedule may allow the Huskies to get back into it. Huh? Come on! Notre Dame and USC are two of the greatest college football programs in the country, ever! And they just happen to be up next up for the 0 and 6 Huskies. Are you kidding me? How can anyone not feel the excitement a challenge like that?

If you're a player or a coach you know these teams represent the big time. As little as a decade ago that big time also used to include the Washington Huskies. Unfortunately, that was four coaches and four athletic directors ago, and with every change there has been a law of diminishing returns. The program has slipped so much since the Rose Bowl win of 2001 that the current team remains one of only two D1 teams in the country yet to get a win. It's been since 1969 that the Huskies have started the season winless in their first six games. It doesn't look promising but wouldn't a win over either of these next two opponents simply wipe away all those losses? Of course it would, and that is exactly how they must approach each of these next two games.

Groundhog's Day returned to Husky Stadium Saturday night when the Huskies started bad against Oregon State and finished worse. It was disappointing from the starting play, which featured a delay of the game penalty (are you kidding me?) to a finish that featured an unsuccessful attempt to score four times from the 1-yard line. (you have to be kidding me).

In between, the young Huskies played hard, but throughout the contest they persisted in shooting themselves in the foot every time they found a little prosperity. I think it's all part of the malaise that comes with continual losing. Seriously. For instance, why did every time the Huskies move into the red-zone they would commit another penalty, only to back themselves up to where they had to settle for field goals - which of course they could only make 50 percent of? I know they want to win, but you have to give yourself a chance. Throwing three picks and losing a fumble along with those stupid and costly penalties doesn't give a team much of a chance of winning. For cripes sakes! It was the Beavers they were playing not the Trojans. Oh yeah, the Beavers beat the Trojans, didn't they?

Beating either of these next two teams would make Washington's season but then again beating anyone at this point would make their season. It doesn't look promising but who would have thought that Oregon State would've beaten USC earlier this season? They did.

That's the point. If you don't believe you are going to win, you have little or no chance of doing so.

Somewhere along the way this group of Huskies is going to figure it out. A win over Notre Dame by this particular team would rank as the greatest win of the Willingham era. That is why you play these sorts of teams. So let's give these kids our support and see if they can pull it off. We're only at the half way point in the season, and with six games to go it's no time for giving up hope.

Hope might be all we have.

I still maintain that the future of Husky Football is bright. Maybe not the immediate future, but whoever the coach is next year will have a great nucleus of young and experienced players who will be that much more prepared and that much stronger and faster than they are now. Just looking at the depth chart shows there are only six seniors in the top 50 players on the team. This team's brightest players are almost all sophomores and freshmen. Plus, they will have Jake Locker back to go along with a now-experienced and tested back-up in current starter, Ronnie Fouch.

Had Fouch not had some miscues he would have had a pretty good game. He certainly got help from the latest Husky starting tailback when true freshman Terrance Dailey rushed for over 100 yards, the first Husky rusher to do so this year. He had one second half explosion for a 59-yard touchdown, but it was his getting three and four yards out of nothing that impressed me most. He showed really quick feet and vision on a number of runs and after the day was over had out-rushed the Beavers sensational freshman, Jacquizz Rodgers.

By the way, holding Rodgers under 100 was a significant improvement for the Husky defense. Of course, his brother, James, ran wild on the outside, gaining 110 yards and two touchdowns on only three carries. Are you kidding me? That's 36.7 yards per carry. Still, the Washington defense held Rodgers to his second-lowest output all season, and he had 20 carries.

The Husky defense really did improve their between-the tackles rush defense, which is another positive to take out of the Oregon State game. Even though 230 yards is a lot, it's the second-best effort by this team this year. Baby steps, folks. Remember how many rookies are out there.

So, UW found another running back and began to find out how to play some interior defense. What else was good? They only punted one time. Now granted it was a poor punt (35 yards), but the offense continually moved the ball - sometimes in big chunks - and the young receivers are just getting better and better. Probably the next best thing to come out of this game was watching the Huskies' kiddie-corps at receiver start to come of age. The Huskies really challenged the Beavers' in-your-face, bump-and-run play on the corner by using their speed to take a number of shots down field. That was the game plan, and they got over the top nine times.

D'Andre Goodwin, only a sophomore, had his finest outing of the year, catching five balls for 136 yards. Unfortunately none of those passes resulted in a touchdown. He is developing into a solid go-to guy and has legit top end speed (I believe he is the fastest kid on the team in the 40). Most importantly, he did not drop any passes.

Speed is obviously a factor in the game, especially top-end speed. Their recruiting in the last few years has really added speed at receiver and corner. The freshmen receivers all contributed, with Devin Aguilar leading the way. In his best performance of the year, Aguilar caught five balls for 73 yards. Fellow freshmen, Jermaine Kearse and Jordan Polk, both had some nice catches. as did redshirt frosh Alvin Logan. Logan is still impressing as a blocker too. Let's not forget about Chris Polk, who is arguably one of the best skill kids, and that's six kids with a ton of quickness and top-end speed. That speaks well for the future.

Fouch improved considerably from his first game to his second. He still held the ball too long a number of times but still showed marked improvement in his poise, delivery, and gamesmanship. He is in charge and although not near the runner Jake Locker is, he has good feet in the pocket and showed a strong arm on his deep balls. His over-the-top attempt at the goal line near the end of the Oregon State game was smashed back his face, and his bootleg run was thwarted as well. Now neither was a factor in the loss but those two plays showed the difference between he and Jake. All the same, he is a much better runner than those two plays showed and will have to pull it down and run periodically just to move the chains.

Some of his passes against the Beavers ended up being underthrown, which is not all bad. Some ended up in catches because his receivers had the advantage of seeing the ball. In fact, both Aguilar and Goodwin made some acrobatic catches on underthrown balls, something Locker could learn from. His tendency is to overthrow and it's always easier to adjust to passes a little underthrown than the other way around.

Regardless, Fouch will be up against it with Notre Dame coming to town, but he is getting better. He is young and he is learning on the job, but if he settles down a little better Washington could have a real chance against the Fighting Irish.

On the defensive side of the ball it is important to remember that only four seniors played last weekend. All the rest of the kids return and they are all getting better individually, if not collectively. They still really need a closer on the back end and that is probably Jason Wells, who is sitting out this season with rehab. Wells, along with Locker, are the two most significant missing pieces to Washington being a much better team. Regardless, they are not there, so they have to play who they have. Improved play by Fouch and the safeties, or the guys in the middle, will certainly enhance their chances beating the Irish.

I fully realize that things could get worse before they get better. There is no way these kids can do anything but try to get better and play each play one at a time. Their best hope is probably to just hang in there and keep it close into the fourth quarter and try to steal it. Eliminate mistakes and realize it's OK to intercept the ball, cause and recover a fumble, or block or return a kick. Those things are good. They help you win. Oh, and it's OK to sack the other team's quarterback. So go ahead and do any of those things - preferably at least two of them each, and see what happens. I think we'll all like it very much.


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