Coach's Corner

UW Crowd in Pullman (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)

Last week in Pullman, one-third of Martin Stadium had to be wearing purple. The east end zone was packed with Washington fans and there had to be about 8-9,000 of them. All were there to root for a bad team; so bad that they hadn't even won a single game. Yet there they were, the true fans, wishing and hoping that it would happen; that they would get to see their Huskies finally win a game.

It didn't happen. It hasn't happened much over the past five years.

The Washington Huskies have gone 1-10, 2-9, 5-7, 4-9, and now 0-11 the last half-decade, finishing along the way tenth, ninth, ninth, tenth and tenth. That is quite a stretch of football futility, without a doubt the worst five-year stretch in the history of Husky football.

It has certainly not been the fault of the fans quitting on the team because the faithful were still there. This time they had driven the five hours to get there, and as usual at this time of year it was cold and ugly. The game wasn't much better as it was obvious from the start that neither team was any good. Still, the Huskies' Quinton Richardson returned the opening kickoff 58 yards and it looked like a great start. Not so fast! A holding call on the Huskies brought it all back.

Then the Dawgs started out with two solid runs for a first down, only to throw into double coverage for their first and only interception of the game. Two steps forward, three steps back. Here we go again...but wait! They settled down and dominated the line of scrimmage and marched downfield to score a couple of times for a 10-0 lead. The Husky fans came alive and were actually louder than the home crowd for a time. Washington was clearly the better team and their faithful felt about as confident as they had all year long.

No way could the Huskies lose to this team: Those who came cross-state were positive they would finally see a winning performance. Even two blown scoring opportunities couldn't dampen their spirits. This was their day.

Not so fast again! The Huskies still had to go into the locker room at half time but maybe this one time would come out and put together a whole game. It didn't happen.

In the end they still lost just like they have done every game this season. That is the reality of it all. The team just isn't any good and the prospects of beating California don't look good either.

The loyal fans of Washington will have to wait another year to see if their team can ever get it going again. Everyone is obviously anxious about who will be the next head coach but regardless these have been the worst of times for Husky fans, many of whom build their whole seasons around Husky football. They go to every game, including places like Pullman and often times hurt as much as the team - especially after losses like this one.

Their only hope right now is in the coaching change. Hopefully a new start with the right teacher will breathe life back into this fading program.

My hope is the players will stay competitive with the Golden Bears and maybe be overlooked by their opponent this coming weekend. How can Cal possibly take the Huskies seriously? Despite the proclamations from their head coach that they will be wary due to their loss to UW in 2007, they are watching the same horror films the Husky fans have seen each week this fall. The Bears are a confident team and know they are going to a bowl game; it just depends on which one. California loves to play smash-mouth football, so this game may be quick. Besides, they have something to play for.

The Huskies' last win was against this same Cal team over a year ago. It would be hard to imagine that it will not be a rallying point for the Cal players. The game could get ugly, but then it again it could be the one game the Huskies win. Let's put it this way; it's the only game left. They probably won't win, but I'll bet there will still be a number of Husky followers, parents, and friends of the players at Memorial Coliseum Saturday afternoon, as well as those die-hard few that still believe in miracles after all they've witnessed. It will take a healthy dose of divine inspiration for the Huskies to win this one.

The players coming back next year need to know this game will be watched by the incoming coaching staff and their performances will be evaluated. For that matter, they might look at all the tapes. Maybe that is the incentive you use but whatever the outcome, anything but a blowout is acceptable at this point: Finish playing as hard as you can and see what happens - sometimes even miracles.

Besides the team - and especially the players - a win would be a fitting way to finish the year for all those loyal fans: The ones who stayed to the end of games and through the end of the season; the ones who drove to Pullman; the ones who still proudly wear their purple and gold; the ones who remain loyal to the program no matter how bad the team is; the ones who tailgated for every home game, before and after; the ones who will always be Huskies.

You know who you are.

A win over California would be the perfect reward for those fans. That, and of course a new coach who will take them back to the Rose Bowl.

The worst loss I have ever seen by a Husky team took place in Berkeley in 2003, when the Bears blew out the Dismal Doggies 54-7, running up 729 yards of total offense along the way. Keith Gilbertson was the coach back then and it was almost as though his team had quit. Please, nothing similar this year.

The best thing for most of the fans is that this game will bring to an end the Tyrone Willingham era at Washington. With a new coach will come the promise of a brighter future.

Hope is returning.

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