"I think it's the football gods"

Wallace and Goldson (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

To be in the media room with the players following the loss to Notre Dame on Saturday, was like a scene out of the film Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray; Or "we keep singing this same song", as safety CJ Wallace so aptly put it. For the Dawgs, it was the same downcast eyes, self-recriminations, defeated tones of voice, and the underlying expressed faith that the team is improving, despite the record being a paltry 1-3.

Wide receiver Craig Chambers stood before reporters and fielded questions. The curious thing about Chambers is that he is visibly nervous each time he addresses the media, and yet expresses himself with such raw candor. This is rare amid the cliché-filled world of college football players.

Chambers was asked about his fumble at Notre Dame's 1-yard line in the first quarter. "I didn't think I fumbled," he said. "I thought I scored. (And) I thought my knee was down. I will have to go back and look at it. But it stayed with me the whole game, not in a negative way, but in a positive way. I kept thinking to wrap it up. A lot of guys were supportive when I came back over to the sideline. I thought I was going to get a lot of negativity, because it was the first time that I have fumbled. So I didn't know how it was going to be handled. When you're not around, people will say things, but to your face, they'll say something else. Coach was real supportive, saying to look forward to the next series. So that helped a lot.

Was Chambers surprised that the Huskies were able to throw so easily? "We knew against play-action their safeties like to bite a little bit," he said. "There wasn't anything beside that. But they knew that against Idaho we didn't throw a lot, so they probably thought we were going to run a lot more than we did.

One thing to really like about Isaiah Stanback is the way in which he addresses the media this year. Last year after defeats, he was sullen. This season, as illustrated after the Notre Dame game, there is a resolve and strength in his mannerisms. He is 1-4 as a starter; yet it seems like a degree of his confidence would remain intact through even the direst of game day circumstances. He maintains eye contact and a firm voice.

"We have to stop hurting ourselves with turnovers," he said. "Me and other guys on the team are putting our defense in a bad situation with turnovers. We felt like we could move the ball today. We feel like we can move the ball against any team we face. I was very excited to play Notre Dame, but I get excited every week, I have to keep myself calm."

Stanback was asked about the interception he threw into the end zone on a rollout play.

"Coach (Willingham) was reminding me to run, but I've gotten so used to sitting in the pocket, that I forgot that I can run too. Coach felt like I could have run it in for a touchdown… It was an easy throw, I had a guy wide open in the end zone. It was a bad throw. Instead of trusting my instinct and just throwing it, I tried to aim it. I second-guessed myself. I'm going to go back and study and learn from my mistakes, and progress and go back out and try to help us win. Last week I pressed and tried to do too much. I have to find that balance."

Defensive coordinator Kent Baer was asked about his perspective on the game and of safety CJ Wallace.

"I thought we had a heck of a (game) plan," he said. "The things we emphasized were that we didn't want to give up the big play, and we did a good job of that until the 4th quarter. But they are a veteran offense, and a very talented group. It proves that we did some good recruiting when we were there.

"CJ had a great week of practice. He really stepped up and made plays. I think he's going to become a big-time safety."

Johnny DuRocher admitted to jittery nerves when stepping on the field as a Husky for the first time. "Really nervous, especially against a team like Notre Dame," he said. "I think my play showed that I had a little nerves. But the guys did a good job battling with me, and the drive ended up in a touchdown.

"Cal was a top-20 team, but it got out of hand at the end," he said. "Now these guys (Notre Dame) were a top-20 team too, and it all comes down to little things and making little mistakes at crucial times. But when we nip that stuff in the bud, we're going to be right there. We weren't really surprised we could move the ball today. We knew by watching some tape of them that there were some things we could take advantage of. The line gave Isaiah plenty of time to throw. Our guys made plays for him. We're happy with what we did on offense, we put a lot of yards up, but we didn't score any touchdowns, and something that we've got to do.

DuRocher was asked why the team falls apart when entering the red zone. "I don't think it's falling apart," he said. "I think we're just not making the plays we need to make. Once we get to the point where we're hanging onto the football in the red zone, and making smart decisions in the red zone, these things will take care of themselves.

CJ Wallace was making plays and hitting people in a physical manner not seen at Washington since the Tony Parrish days. He gave his perspective of the game. "The (Notre Dame) wide receivers were very physical, and I think we matched it," he said. "But we've got to get better. I want to be the best player I can be to help this team win. Whatever I got to do, be it make 50 tackles or whatever, I'm going to do it. It's football. It's blood and sweat and hitting hard… We wanted to win this really bad for coach Willingham, but we shot ourselves in the foot. Coach downplayed it, but we knew that it had to mean a lot to him… I didn't feel we wore down, I feel like we made too many mistakes. We keep singing this same song about not making mistakes, but we've got to eliminate them, and do what we're doing better. We hit them and played physical, but we gave them too much today.

Tim Lappano provided some interesting perspective on Marlon Wood's long reception. "We saw something on film that (Notre Dasme) was going to either put a linebacker or safety on him," said Lappano. "We felt we had a mismatch as Marlon has great speed. But we didn't care which they used. And they put a safety over the top, and Marlon ran right by him like we thought he would, and it would have been nice if he wouldn't have had to break stride, because he might have scored. We just wanted to hide him, in the backfield, as we were in normal people. We didn't Notre Dame to substitute and nickel for him, but it worked because they didn't see him until it was too late."

Scott White was adamant when asked if Notre Dame was superior to Washington. "ABSOLUTELY NOT," he said. "They are NOT better than us. It's missed opportunities on our part. They made some plays, yes, I will give them that. But, any time we got opportunities against a team like Notre Dame in our own backyard, early on in the ball game, we've got to capitalize, and I think that was the difference in the game.

"We are a much better football team than people think," he said. "We are eons ahead of where we were last year. The offense is moving the ball and making plays. The defense is coming along… We've got the heart of our schedule coming up and it's going to test the mettle of this football team. We are not the same football team than we were a year ago. If we capitalized on the opportunities we left out there today, then we're in here right now celebrating a win."

White was asked if Tryone Willingham showed any change of approach in the hours prior to kickoff against Notre Dame.

"Not at all, man," said White. "Coach Willingham has done a fantastic job motivating us and game-planning. The coaching staff has been great this year. Every time we go out there to practice, we see the exact same thing in the game, to a T. Coach Willingham treated this week just like any other week of football. He's been the exact same since Air Force (week one)."

So what is happening to Husky football?

"I think it's the football gods," he said with distressed sarcasm in his tone of voice. "I don't want to start talking about next year, but the pieces are in place, and this team is getting better and better. We're going to get Husky football back to where it needs to be."

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