Blown Out by the Trojans, Sun Devils Up Next

Wow! Totally outclassed in LA. Obviously, firing the coach and leaving him on the sidelines didn't inspire the still defeated Washington Huskies. This time it was embarrassing as the Trojans of USC literally did whatever they wanted to in shutting out an emotionless and almost flatlined Husky team by 56 points.

Nobody expected this team to upset USC, especially since the Trojans needed to impress the BCS. By scoring big and playing their great defense - along with Texas being upset - you would have expected USC to move up in the polls, but Washington is so bad they actually moved down! Their starting defense totally stuffed a tentative Husky offense; even though we did see the Huskies move the ball late it was against the Trojans' second and third-teamers.

This one hurt to watch as the Huskies were never really in it after the opening kickoff. Four straight three-and-outs resulted in the worst possible start for UW. Like I said, it was sad: Sad because they did not even compete with a team they were once on a par with not too long ago. For years - heck, decades! - the Huskies were the only team in the west that won like the Trojans did. In fact, there were times when the Huskies were clearly a better program.

No more. This time they were not even close to being competitive.

As the only team in Division-1 football not to have won a football game, the Huskies have slid on their backsides to the bottom of college football. The USC game was a total mismatch, and it was obvious the news of Tyrone Willingham's termination had taken a terrible toll on the team, the coaches and any chance they had of winning. They probably never had a chance in the first place, but certainly the news of his firing didn't help things.

As dismal as it was, all is not lost on this season except maybe for players like Jake Locker, Jason Wells, Darin Harris, Casey Bulyca, Chris Polk, Byron Davenport, and David Freeman. These players, all injured, would certainly have helped the cause, but the Trojans would still have probably won, and won handily. What the team misses is internal leadership, and unfortunately many of the walking wounded are some of their better leaders.

It will be really interesting to see how they respond with three winnable games coming up. Arizona State is struggling. So is UCLA; and Washington State is simply awful. The Huskies need to regroup and come out with some fire and determination.

If these kids are going to win any games, it will have to come from within the team. The coaches will keep doing their jobs because they are all professionals, but winning games is done by players, not by coaches.

After the USC game, I was more concerned with the team's body language, their spirit, and how they walked off the field than I was with the score. In how they reacted to adversity, watching the little things was disturbing.

If you're going to go down, then do it begrudgingly. Don't roll over and go belly up! Don't let injuries and defeatism show. Hold your heads up; hustle, fight and claw your way out of this mess. Have some pride and go win some games. Have a players-only meeting, or whatever it takes to find some resolve, find some determination, find a collective way to win a game. No more acting like losers, no more hanging your heads, no more self-doubts.

Finding rays of hope Sunday morning was hard, but I thought Tripper Johnson really showed some improvement at strong safety and the linebackers seemed to battle and had some great tackles. But still the defense failed to come up with any interceptions, fumbles or sacks: Not even any batted down balls or pass break-ups, not even one of those things in the whole game.

You've got to make big plays on defense to win football games; create some turnovers and get yourself off the field. Heck, the Trojans only punted one time and it was a perfect 50-yarder downed on the Washington two-yard line.

This team can, and will win a game. But like I said, it will have to come from within the team. Players need to show the hustle and desire to make a play like defensive tackle Johnie Kirton did in tracking down USC tailback C.J. Gable on a potential touchdown-scoring run. Husky receiver Alvin Logan ran down a defender to prevent a touchdown after USC had come up with an interception. He had a fire on that play and that is the kind of thing I'm talking about. Heck, I'd move him to defense the way he hits.

Logan and Kirton played hard, and I know a lot of kids did, but this team needs to decide for itself that they want to win and it will take lots of plays like theirs to do so.

No question the offense also needs a spark. I thought their protection improved, and at times Ronnie Fouch threw some nice balls. But they need to find their groove and settle into running the football better.

Sure they are missing some key ingredients to their offense, but that is part of the game. The offensive line needs to take it upon themselves to come off the ball and establish the line of scrimmage: Create some push and finish, finish, finish. If the Huskies are going to win against Arizona State (or anyone else this season) they will have to win the game up front.

My words to the players: Forget about this last game and all the others before it, forget about Coach Willingham's situation and put all your concentration into winning the next contest. Play this ASU game like it's a championship game. Quit playing like you're scared of losing and play like you did in high school when you won games and played to win rather than not to lose. Bring back that winning feeling.

I still maintain the future is bright for this program because there are a lot of talented freshmen and sophomores on the roster. I just want them to start their futures right now. Start with ASU and play with intensity the whole game and see what happens. That means all the players on the bench as well: Be into the game, be supportive, be a winner even if you don't get on the field. Don't let adversity dictate your spirit. Be a fighter and celebrate good plays.

Constant losing has numbed out a lot of this kind of positive energy. I've been there myself. My senior year of college we started our season at 0-8. It was a terrible rut, and as captain of the team I took it personally and somehow, someway we found a way to win our last two games.

Now it didn't mean anything to anybody but us. We were still a bad team from the record standpoint, but we recaptured the spirit of winning. Believe me, those two wins far outweighed the eight losses. We also had a coach who had essentially been fired. He knew it; we knew it. But it just hadn't been announced. We seniors went to the coach and helped plan the ending to our own season.

Now in history it is meaningless, but to each of us we still know how important those two wins were. Even 40 years later when I see my fellow teammates, every single one knows the scores of those two wins, but probably none of the losses.

These Huskies can recapture that wonderful feeling of winning coming down the stretch of an admittedly horrible season. The point is they are the ones who are in charge now. Not Coach Willingham, not the disgruntled fans, not the media - who is only doing their job pointing out how terrible everything is.

The players will decide the outcome of these last four games. Start with the Sun Devils on Saturday and leave it all out on the field.

This is only football, for cripes sake!

As players all they have to do is simplify and get back to the basics: Go out and block well and tackle well and play hard. You do that and you will win a game or two. Or three. Or four.

No more walking off the field with your heads down. No excuses. Go win a game.

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