|Huskies and Willingham face challenges ahead|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 07 September 2008 12:37|
Saturday's 28-27 loss to No. 18 BYU was as ulcer-inducing as they come for the Huskies, and only continues to add fuel to the raging fan dissent directed at Willingham for his inability to resurrect the downtrodden Washington program.
The controversy from Saturday's loss was the 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Washington quarterback Jake Locker after he scored on a 3-yard run with 2 seconds left in regulation. Locker flipped the ball over his head into the air and began celebrating with his teammates. The fling drew a flag for excessive celebration.
rkins kick was low and blocked by BYU's Jan Jorgensen, leaving Washington 0-2, and with No. 3 Oklahoma coming to town next Saturday.
Willingham could have fumed and criticized afterward about the call, as some of his coaches and players did coming off the field. The furthest Willingam would go - ``it really should be a no call'' - keeping to his stoic demeanor.
``We had talked to them about coming out and playing like Huskies play,'' said Willingham, who drew plenty of ire from fans after a lackluster 44-10 loss to rival Oregon in Washington's opener. ``The kind of fight, the kind of effort, the kind of energy, and I thought very much they did that.''
Effort and fight have rarely been questioned in Willingham's 38 games as Washington's coach. He inherited a program among the worst in college football, and brought stability and effort to a tumultuous situation.
Yet stability isn't satisfactory for fans and boosters when 11-27 is Willingham's overall record. The Huskies have been close on numerous occasions to notable wins, yet have fallen short in the second half or fourth quarter.
Saturday's loss to BYU only added to a list that includes near upsets of USC, California, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Oregon in the last few years, along with some other fourth-quarter meltdowns Willingham would soon forget. Washington's only win over a ranked team in Willingham's tenure was a 24-10 win over Boise State - then ranked No. 22 - a year ago.
When Willingham was retained for a fourth season last December, no ultimatum was issued by university president Mark Emmert. But the unspoken expectation was that Willingham get the Huskies to a bowl game in 2008, or likely not be returning for his fifth year.
Thanks to the stunning conclusion on Saturday, the Huskies are winless and with a difficult road ahead. After hosting the Sooners, Washington still must face road trips to USC, Arizona and California, and host Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame. Finding the six wins necessary to become bowl eligible is a difficult hunt.
It's just another hurdle for Willingham and his players to try and overcome, one they must accomplish to ensure Willingham will be their coach come 2009.
``We've fought through a lot of adversity here at (Washington) and this is just another thing that we have to fight through,'' cornerback Mesphin Forrester said.