The chants have been answered (partially)

SEATTLE - The ‘Fire Ty' chants grew louder and louder Saturday night during Washington's eventual 33-7 loss to Notre Dame. It started with one group in the Dawg Pack - the name for the students section - then slowly but surely more and more people joined in after each Fighting Irish touchdown. The paper bags also came out. Some would expect anger; from other students the reaction was laughter.

The bags with ‘Hire Mora', ‘Fire Ty', ‘0 and 7', ‘R.I.P Husky football' and others were all received positively and students were wondering where they could some of there own.

The state of Husky football has become comical to a lot of people. The sarcastic cheers and the thumbs up signs were used to mock Coach Willingham when he decided not to go for it on fourth and 2 down 27 and didn't go for an onside kick after their first and only touchdown. It has become bad. Instead of getting angry, people are laughing it off.

I don't know which is worse.

"I hear it all the time. I try and zone it out and just focus on what we've got to do. As a team, don't focus on politics, but it is tough when you hear the chants, people saying ‘Fire Willingham'. When people don't like your head coach it's always tough," said starting linebacker Mason Foster. With Willingham's situation becoming too much of a distraction to the players it was only a matter of time until the Athletic Department would finally answer the cat calls.

The embarrassment that was the game against Notre Dame proved to be the tipping point for new Athletic Director Scott Woodward. With virtually no improvement and lack of positive plays from this game, Willingham's fate was sealed. Even Washington's one score turned into a joke played out at the expense of the home team. "We yanked everyone early in the fourth quarter," Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis said afterward. "The one touchdown they got was against a bunch of guys that never play, so that's not our deal."

Ouch.

Take out that last drive versus Weis' self-appointed scrubs and Washington mustered a less-than-impressive 55 yards of total offense and four first downs. The Huskies failed to cross into Irish territory for the first 54 minutes of the game.

"I looked up in the fourth quarter and saw 55 total yards I was just sick to my stomach," said Husky wide receiver D'Andre Goodwin. With the offense not working and the defense not stopping anyone (except maybe the husky offense in practice), something needed to change.

With turnovers being few and far between for the Husky defense one would think any miscue would be a good thing. This time it resulted in Washington losing 31 yards of field position when Nate Williams decided to hold onto a pick at his own 1-yard line instead of dropping the ball on fourth down and moving the ball back to the original line of scrimmage.

"When you're in the heat of the moment and you see the ball in the air, your natural instinct as a DB is to get the ball no matter what," said Williams. "People might want to criticize me for catching it or whatever, but that's what I'm taught, that when the ball is in the air it's ours."

Maybe the coaches should be teaching the secondary about field position and understanding down and distance. For Notre Dame, it was the same as a perfect coffin-corner kick. For UW fans, it felt like another kick to the head.

With those still left in the stands wondering where a spark might come from this season, it's not a great sign when the players don't even know. "I really don't know, just keep playing hard," Foster said. "I believe if you keep doing things hard and keep playing hard something will change for us. Something will change for us sooner or later so you have to keep playing hard and keep having faith in our program and something will turn around."

That change has come sooner for Washington, but it wont take affect until later - maybe not until even next year. With Coach Willingham announcing his termination at the end of the season the players now have the answer they have been waiting for.

"There was a lot of rumors going around but I thought we did a great job of blocking them out of our ears and focusing on winning only," said starting quarterback Ronnie Fouch. "Now that we know I think it will help guys a little bit knowing what will happen after the season. I think we still need to finish the season out right and get some wins for him."

Willingham not coming back takes away one doubt, but the door opens on a lot of others. Between recruiting, assistant coaches and players, the uncertainty will continue to grow over time. The 'keep the faith' effort has not been very nice to Seattle fans in the last year and who knows what will happen next. Between the Sonics leaving, the Mariners sucking and the Seahawks listing to one side, the University of Washington cannot afford another blunder with their next head coaching search.

Is Willingham finishing out the season really the right choice? "Yes, I think that's best for our team to have him stay because he has built this program to where it is right now," said Fouch. "We're going to rally around him and try and win some games to finish out the season right for him."

Therein lies the crux: Willingham has built this program where it is today. Having Willingham around will be like having a living specter on the sideline. The players will be reminded of why they came to Washington but won't be seeing him much longer. It's the long goodbye nobody wants.

The team hasn't won a game in almost a full calendar year and they haven't had a season live up to Husky standards since 2001. With USC next on the schedule it is almost inevitable that Washington will be 0 and 8 the next time they play at Husky Stadium. For now some fans will be satisfied with the sole fact that Willingham will not be back despite the lack of results on the scoreboard. But is that enough? The athletic department needs to regain the fans' trust in order to return Husky football to where it should be. Everything is dependent on the next hire and getting a coach the fan base can rally around.

With this chapter of Husky football all but over, the players will have to dig deep for motivation. Perhaps all the way to China.

"We need to keep focused and keep playing hard," sophomore cornerback Vonzell McDowell said. "I mean, we have to have pride in ourselves and for our University and just make sure we are doing everything we can do to win. It's frustrating, but there's nothing you can do other than to keep working hard and it will pay off sooner or later."

With pride the only thing left to play for, will the team be able to parlay that into enough points against the Trojans to score a moral victory?


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