The Final Nail?

At first I didn't know if I was at a Washington football game or a New Orleans Saints game circa 1980. I could see a fan with a paper bag with 'Fire Ty' on it and holes cut out for his eyes, nose and mouth. It looked like he was prepared to use it. Another person yelled in my direction. "You have to let everyone know!" he said. He was wearing a Jim Mora shirt with the word 'Change' on it.

As if the intermittent showering of boos coming down on the Huskies wasn't enough as they meandered their way through a 33-7 loss to Notre Dame at home, the announced crowd of 70, 437 had to sit through a coaching display the 'Aints would have been proud of. In the court of public opinion, diverse thought has coalesced into one voice, and that voice has come down hard on Washington Head Coach Tyrone Willingham.

It's hardly surprising.

The crime? The dismantling of a once-proud Division-1 football program. The verdict? Guilty as charged. And he didn't have much to say in his defense. There wasn't much he could say.

"It was a very difficult night," Willingham said during his shortest press conference to date.

The embattled coach has talked endlessly about putting his players in the best position to win football games. Saturday night in front of his own fans, Willingham was found guilty of not even trying. Why didn't he try and get the ball back with 45 seconds left in the half to muster up some momentum heading into the locker room?

"My thoughts were that we had been very limited up to that point, so I wanted to try to get out of the half no worse than what we were, and then get back to the second half," Willingham said. It was unclear whether or not the team went with orange slices or juice boxes for their halftime snack.

Back to the game. How about going for it on 4th and 2 down 27 after Notre Dame was called for being offsides? Are you kidding me? "What dominated my thought in those places was field position and the fact that we still hadn't had the success that I would have liked to see us have to give us the hope that we would be successful there," Willingham said.

In this day and age of UW football, fans left their home field with the not-so-fresh feeling that progress had been made defensively despite giving up a truckload of points. And even when they would make a play, it completely backfired on them. On 4th and 19 during the second quarter, Nate Williams intercepted his second pass of the night. The first one was nullified by a pass interference call on cornerback Vonzell McDowell, Jr. Williams was not to be denied. The only problem was, instead of just batting the ball down at his own 1-yard line, giving the Huskies' offense the ball at their own 32, he held onto it, thus putting them in their biggest hole of the night.

"They are so starved to get the ball, it was going to be tough keeping them from clampin' down on it," UW Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell said when asked about the play.

And it was equally difficult for Irish fans to not act giddy as Dublin pubcrawlers after every Notre Dame score. Flashbulbs would flicker from the west end of Husky Stadium and you'd think Mick Jagger had entered the building. Or that Tyrone Willingham had left. One last look at the man that left their program in tatters. Notre Dame's successful fake punt in the third quarter up 24-0 felt like a fitting farewell from a fan base that had waited three years for their final 'I told you so'. They got their pound of flesh, and then some.

"I thought we'd make a bigger impact," Donatell said after being asked if he was surprised Washington was currently 0-7. Mathematically-speaking, Washington is as done as Lou Reed's Last Great American Whale. Stick a fork in 'em. Willingham and company have been reduced to playing for 'basic pride'. We have to all step up and do better than what we did tonight," he said. "Because this was not a good performance."

For a Washington offense that produced their first 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver the week before, it was 'almost unbelievable' the Huskies didn't make it past mid-field until there was barely six minutes left in the game. They went from 377 yards of offense against Oregon State to 124 against Notre Dame - 73 of that came in the final quarter when the game was well out of reach.

"We just didn't handle that quick jolt," Donatell said, noting the 51-yard pass from Jimmy Clausen to Michael Floyd that looked an awful lot like the same pass Oregon State's James Rodgers took to the house during the Huskies last game at home.

0-7. 11-32. Guilty as charged.

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