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Tree fells Dawgs
Willingham's hot seat in Tree fall
Rich Linde, 28 September 2008

In a must-win game for both teams, the Stanford Cardinal behind the passing of Tavita Pritchard and the running of Anthony Kimble beat the Washington Huskies, 35-28, in a game played at Husky Stadium in Seattle.

The Cardinal (3-2, 2-1) is half way to its goal of playing in a bowl game.

The Dawgs (0-4, 0-2) must win 6 of their remaining 8 games to become bowl eligible, which is widely thought to be the goal necessary to save coach Tyrone Willingham's job. Willingham (11-29) is 0-4 into his fourth season at UW and has been under constant booster assault since last season's 4-9 debacle, which apparently forced former athletics director Todd Turner to resign his job.

Continuing with the pun in the subhead, Jim Harbaugh's star wars machine has knocked Ty Willingham's hot seat out of orbit, sending it into "Tree" fall. NCAA scientists are mum as to where and when it will crash and burn.

QB Jake Locker was lost to the game midway through the second quarter when he broke his right thumb throwing a block on a 27-yard end around for Jordan Polk. His hand seemed to twist awkwardly on the right leg of safety Sean Wiser, whom he was blocking. Jake left two plays later and immediately went to the locker room, returning to sidelines early in the third quarter wearing sweats with his right hand in a soft cast.

Locker appeared to be in a jovial mood on the sidelines, chatting animatedly with coaches and players alike while chewing on a cheek-bulging -- a wad of -- something. Maybe he didn't feel his injury was that serious, or, perhaps, he was glad to leave the embarrassing episode taking place on the field.           

Redshirt freshman Ronnie Fouch, out of Redlands, replaced Locker in workmanlike fashion, completing 13 of 27 passes for 186 yards. He tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse midway through the third quarter to pull Washington within a touchdown, 28-21. He directed a 95-yard scoring drive in the closing minutes, but the ensuing onside kick was recovered by the Tree. Fouch's passing-efficiency rating was 118.24 on the game.

Washington's defense cost the Huskies the game, in a game lost not so much because of UW's offense and the loss of Locker. At times, Cardinal running backs had enormous holes to run through, without one defender filling a gargantuan gap spread across the whole defensive front four. UW's defense gave up several long plays, one on a 61-yard pass play from Pritchard to Doug Baldwin and another, an 83-yard run to Kimble, both for touchdowns.

Giving up 466 yards in total offense to the Cardinal, Washington's defense is yielding 507 yards per game, currently eclipsing its school record of 446.4 yards set last season, this under former defensive coordinator Kent Baer. See the article "Now Willingham has a real problem to Baer."

The Huskies' defense has failed to record a sack this season and is the only team in the nation not to have one. UW's offense has given up 13 sacks on the season, with 2 in this game. Washington's offense has yet to give up an interception this season. However, in turnover margin last week, UW ranked 80th in the nation. UW fumbled 3 times in the game, losing one, as did Stanford. Neither team was picked.

The Huskies yielded 244 yards rushing to Stanford and are giving up 227 yards per game. Last season, UW averaged  184.5 yards per game. 

The jury is still out on the firing of Kent Baer, which I opined was a mistake at the time. Losing coaching continuity was an issue with me and has nothing to do with the current defensive coordinator, Ed Donatell.

Will Locker be missed if he's out for an extended period of time? Of course he will; he's a key cog to the offensive machine, its main gear. However, Washington has won just one of its last 14 games with Locker as its starting quarterback and that was against Stanford last season, 27-7. The point of this stat is that Willingham will have a hard time blaming a losing season on Locker's absence should that be the unfortunate case.

However, Locker is half of the equation that makes UW's running game so synergistic, greater than the sum of its parts. It dropped off dramatically in the second half, with David Freeman's injury contributing to diminishing numbers (*). Locker and the much maligned Louis Rankin were a synergistic pair last season, their synergism making a suspect OL look better than it was.

The Huskies have lost six games in a row, dating back to last season.

According to an article written by Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, and I quote: "Willingham admitted later the team's main goal now may be to keep the players from splintering amid the rumors swirling about his future. 'They are frustrated, the coaches are frustrated, everyone is frustrated,' he said. 'We want to get this thing right.'"

With Willingham's future as Washington's coach hanging by a thread, recruiting could take a resounding blow due to uncertainty.

Scout.com ranks Washington's 2009 recruiting class 71st in the nation, listing just 6 recruits.

But recruiting will most likely suffer whether Willingham is fired now, resigns now or is let go at the end of the season. Making a decision on him at this time just to salvage recruiting doesn't seem necessary. I think AD Scott Woodward would go along with that and probably, along with the school president, will make his decision on Tyís future at the end of the season -- unless there are some blowouts between now and then, with evidence of the team quitting on the coaching staff.

In that regard, Locker's nonchalance on the sidelines was not a good sign. Some defensive lapses in the last two games are troubling.  Not even Gil Dobie (58-0-3) could survive a player mutiny, nor could a former Lt. Gov.

At Washington, itís the bottom line that is hurting Ty the most: a 0-4 season and 11-29 overall.

Before Willingham, Gilbertsonís two-year non-winning record is hurting him, too, and, unconsciously, with many fans, is being added to Tyís record. No bowl since 2002 is all certain fans see.

Sound off, hut, two, three, four:

(*) I hate to see these true freshmen being thrown into an early baptism of fire, with an injury Ė sooner or later Ė being an almost certain outcome.

The coaches know it; the players know it.

Case in point: Repeatedly pounding young Chris Polk up the gut was sickening to watch. Now Polk is rehabbing shoulder surgery.

I blame the coaching staff for not recruiting the JC ranks any better than they have during the last two or three years. I will not accept any excuses, regardless of what Dick Baird says.

Iíd rather see an incoming JC having to lose some weight rather than watching a "skinny" true freshman getting beat up because he hasnít had time to bulk up.

And why wasn't Ryan Perkins wearing a yellow jersey? I know that's 20-20 hindsight, but just thinking of his injury makes me nauseous too. Geez, we all wear seatbelts.

Team 1 2 3 4 Total
SU 7 14 7 7 35
UW 7 7 7 7 28

Time Team How Player (s) Score
1st qtr        
7:35 UW TD Brandon Johnson 1-yard run; Ryan Perkins kick. UW, 0-7
4:16 SU TD Anthony Kimble 13-yard run; Aaron Zagory kick. Tie, 7-7
2nd qtr
8:34 SU TD Tavita Pritchard 11-yard pass to Jim Dray; Zagory kick. SU, 14-7
3:11 UW TD Brandon Johnson 1-yard run; Perkins kick. Tie, 14-14
1:36 SU TD Pritchard 61-yard pass to Doug Baldwin; Zagory kick. SU, 21-14
3rd qtr
9:35 SU TD Anthony Kimble 83-yard run; Zagory kick. SU, 28-14
6:14 UW TD Ronnie Fouch 5-yard pass to Jermaine Kearse; Perkins kick. SU, 28-21
4th qtr
10:22 SU TD Pritchard 18-yard pass to Ryan Whalen; Zagory kick. SU, 35-21
1:25 UW TD Fouch 1-yard run; Perkins kick. SU, 35-28

Statistic SU UW
Total First Downs 21 27
  Rushing 10 7
  Passing 11 15
  Penalty 0 5
Total Net Yards 466 377
Net Yards Passing 222 237
Net Yards Rushing 244 140
Completions-att-int 16-24-0 18-36-0
Punts, yards, average 3-100, 33.3 4-158, 39.5
Sacks by (number, yards) 2-17 0-0
Kickoff Returns: number, yds, tds 5-107-0 6-89-0
Punt returns: number, yds, tds 1-4-0 0-0-0
Kickoff Yards 6-350 5-288
Touchbacks 0 0
Interception returns: no., yds, tds 0-0-0 0-0-0
Penalties Yards 12-115 5-45
Fumbles: number/lost 3-1 3-1
Time of Possession  28:50 31:10

Passing cmp att yds tds int
Tavita Pritchard 16 24 222 3 0
Jake Locker 5 9 51 0 0
Ronnie Fouch 13 27 186 1 0
Tree Rushing No. Yds TDs Long  
Anthony Kimble 15 157 2 83  
Jeremy Stewart 11 67 0 16  
Toby Gerhart 2 14 0 11  
Tavita Pritchard 4 12 0 8  
Michael Thomas 1 6 0 6  
Team 2 -4 0 0  
Doug Baldwin 1 -8 0 0  
Washington Rushing No. yds tds long
Jake Locker 10 17 0 7  
Ronnie Fouch 4 3 1 5  
Willie Griffin 3 7 0 5  
David Freeman 7 64 0 24  
Jordan Polk 2 30 0 27  
Luke Kravitz 1 0 0 0  
Brandon Johnson 10 21 2 6  
Team 1 -2 0 0  
SU Pass Receiving No. yds tds long
Ryan Whalen 7 76 1 18
Toby Gerhart 2 24 0 21  
Anthony Kimble 2 17 0 9  
Doug Baldwin 1 61 1 61  
Austin Gundar 1 16 0 16  
Jim Dray 1 11 1 11  
Warren Reuland 1 10 0 10  
Owen Marecic 1 7 0 7  
Washington Pass Rec. No. yds tds long
D'Andre Goodwin 5 83 0 33  
Michael Gotlieb 4 65 0 29  
Jermaine Kearse 6 52 1 17  
Tony Chidiac 1 14 0 14  
David Freeman 1 12 0 12  
Devin Aguilar 1 11 0 11  
Punting punts yds long Avg
David Green 3 100 38 33.3
Jared Ballman 4 158 48 39.5  
Attendance: 61,968          

Richard Linde, aka Malamute can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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