Emotional Rollercoaster Starts Over

As a coach, it's always hard to put away a game like Saturday's stunning 16-13 upset of the mighty USC Trojans because you only get one night to celebrate and by the time you wake up Sunday you're already grinding for the next game.

That's what the sport is all about for coaches, but I do hope at least the team took time to watch a TV copy of their game just to further reinforce their belief system. Of course they will have to watch the game with their coaches, and there is no sound except coaches telling you what you did wrong. On TV they say all kinds of nice things about you, your team, and your win. It's true because I've already watched it twice myself.

It was simply an incredible victory and certainly one of the greatest football games ever played in Husky Stadium. Considering where these players have come from, the depths of defeat and humiliation as one of the worst teams in the nation, this win was cathartic for not only the team but for the fan base and all of Seattle, who went through one of the worst sports seasons ever last year.

As the fans poured onto the field, I had tears in my eyes. I was just overcome with emotion. I immediately thought about all the kids who played for this team over the last seven miserable years of this program: Everything from Rick Neuheisel might be leaving, to Neuheisel lying; to Neuheisel's gambling; to Neuheisel's firing and subsequent trial; the firing of two Athletic Directors; the unfair treatment of Keith Gilbertson to the untimely firing of Gilbertson; the hiring of Tyrone Willingham and his complete dismantling of Husky football.

Wow! It was like all that crap was washed away with one big win. And that was a lot of crap. It also seemed to flush away all the negativity that has surrounded this program for almost a decade. It immediately restored hope in contending for the conference championship. Heck, they even got ranked by the writers.

It was one big win that officially brought the Huskies back, one big win that was the biggest upset in college football last weekend, and might end up being the biggest upset in college football all year long. It was one big statement by a group of kids who dared to believe.

And as BIG as it was, and as big as it is - it will mean little without backing it up with a win over Stanford. That's reality.

As wonderful as the win over USC was, the Huskies need to strap it on again and get ready to stop a locomotive name Toby Gerhart, the mountainous tailback for the Cardinal. To begin with, I don't even know what a Cardinal is because I'm told it's not the bird and it's not a catholic Bishop; it's just a color and the symbol is a green tree. Huh?

This year both teams come into the game tied for first place in the conference with identical 2-1 records. Winning this game is now way more important than beating USC. In order to win this game they will need to do these things: Tighten up their game by eliminating or at least cutting back on penalties; continue to win the turnover battle; stop the two-headed monster of Stanford's offense in Gerhart and quarterback Andrew Luck; not allow Stanford to win the kicking game.

The last one could be critical, as the Cardinal leads the conference in punt returns and has already returned not one, but two kickoffs for touchdowns. Chris Owusu went 85 yards to score against the Washington State Cougars in their opener, and then 94 yards last weekend versus San Jose State. The Cardinal are also highly ranked in their kick-off coverage and net punting. Washington's special teams were stellar against USC with the possible exception of a couple of Will Mahan's punts, but they must be great against Stanford. No long returns and no blocks would be made to order.

The Huskies' run defense and tackling will really be tested by Gerhart, who besides looking like a "Hulk Hogan" tailback, also goes downhill like a runaway train. He is averaging over 20 carries and 100 yards per game, and as a contact runner will literally run right through tackles.

Luck ranks only behind Jake Locker in passing and he does have an obvious go-to guy in Ryan Whalen. Locker has connected regularly with freshman James Johnson, who has already caught 16 passes, but at this point Locker basically passes to everyone. He has used nine receivers a game.

The Husky defense, just by being aware of Whalen, should help them to slow down Luck's passing. Regardless, Stanford is easily averaging more than Washington does on offense, although having played WSU, Wake Forrest and San Jose State means they have played a much easier schedule than Washington. They will be playing at home however, and this is the Huskies' first road trip of the season.

As always on the road, you want to take the crowd out by not making major mistakes like fumbles and interceptions, while at the same time forcing some yourself. Washington did just that in the USC game and the plus-3 turnover ratio played a big part in the win

Should Washington also be able to cut its penalties to four or five a game, or just eliminate the stupid ones, it would do much to enhance their chances of winning. In just three games the Huskies have been penalized 26 times for 202 yards. That is a whole lot of field position that would make them a better team. Simply eliminating the personal foul penalties would do much to help the team's chances.

There is little doubt that the Huskies' thrilling 16-13 win over USC could leave this team a little giddy and unable to focus in their preparation for their next conference opponent. Who could blame them? From this angle though, I don't think that's going to happen. These coaches won't let it happen.

These coaches have these kids believing, and winning two in a row has them thirsty for more. This winning feels pretty damn good so why not keep it going? Just clean up the misses like catches and tackles, concentrate on avoiding penalties, and this just might be a contending team. Winning three in a row would be great and hasn't happened here since the Apple Cup win in 2006 and the first two games of 2007. Simply winning the next game will be reason enough.

The win over USC has changed everything though, and with one more win this team will be alone in first place. Getting out of the blocks with a 3-1 start would be a great way to start the season and end September. Why not?

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