Washington Winning With Willingham

By Adam Caparell - September 29, 2006


It doesn’t get much worse than 2-9 finish in Year 1 for a coach taking over a former Pac-10 perennial power. But Tyrone Willingham has gotten his Huskies off to a surprising start in Year 2 with Washington staked out to a 3-1 record. With wins already over San Diego State, Fresno State and UCLA, it didn’t take long for Willingham to surpass 2005’s win total.

“Our biggest improvement is our willingness to continue to grow and learn and take the steps necessary to become a good football team,” Willingham said. “We’re not there yet, but the young men are buying into the process and trying to become better each day.”

Much of it can attributed to quarterback Isaiah Stanback’s improved play, especially last week against UCLA when the dual threat QB accounted for 248 of Washington's 249 yards, “an unusual amount,” Willingham said. In doing so, the Huskies earned their first victory over the Bruins in six years.

“When Isaiah is on his game, he’s throwing the ball well,” Willngham said, who is highly encouraging Stanback to utilize his legs as much as his arm. Stanback was 18-of-29 against UCLA, throwing for 200 yards and three TDs with only one interception.

Washington now visits Arizona this weekend, looking to start Pac-10 play 2-0 for the first time in four years.

But there’s no sense of redemption or satisfaction out of Willingham who has surprised many rejuvenating the Huskies quicker than most expected following his dumping at the hands of Notre Dame two years ago. He’s much too engrossed with his own team to pay attention to the Irish and too much of a gentleman to take shots at his former employer.

“I’ve been at this game long enough to know that it can be awful sweet today and awful sour tomorrow,” Willingham said. “You just keep doing what’s right and that’s what I’ve tried to do and I wish them the best, but I’m more concerned and more focused with what has to happen at our program.”

- Wins will do wonders for your recruiting. Just ask Louisville offensive coordinator Paul Petrino.

With a No. 8 national ranking, a 4-0 record and the afterglow of the Miami win still shining, Louisville coaches took out to the road during the Cardinals bye-week riding high and ready to make even more inroads with recruits.

“I know in my area in Florida I’ve had real good response from all those kids after the Miami game,” Petrino said.

Twenty-one players on the Louisville roster hail from the talent-rich Sunshine State. If Louisville earns a BCS berth, expect to see that number contiue to rise.

Predictions

Rutgers (-4) over South Florida
The number of players on Rutgers roster that hails from Florida is numerous and there should be plenty of fan support for the Scarlet Knights on the road. South Florida has a pretty good defense and a great set of linebackers, but the Scarlet Knights squeak one out as long as Mike Teel doesn’t make mistakes. Rutgers by a field goal.

Boise State (+5.5) over Utah
Seems to be no one thinks Boise State can get it done on the road after some less than stellar performances so far, most notably last week against Hawai’i. But the Broncos offense has put up numbers, regardless, and the Utah defense, despite some lofty rankings so far, isn’t that good. Boise State by a touchdown.

Virginia Tech (-10) over Georgia Tech
Despite having Calvin Johnson, Tech is held back by Reggie Ball who is not a gifted passer. Lane Stadium is a tough place to play and the Hokies special teams is wreaking havoc as of late. Starters Chris Ellis and Josh Morgan are out for this one for a violation of team rules, but Tech should be able to muster more than enough offense with workhorse Brandon Ore and the best defense in the ACC. 10 sounds about right.

Oregon (+1.5) Arizona State
A pretty good offense against a defense they can exploit. The Ducks have the offensive tools and Dennis Dixon is doing a great job with the spread attack and he’s outplayed the Sun Devils Rudy Carpenter so far. The Sun Devils need to get to Dixon if they want to win. They sacked Nate Longshore just once last week and more blitzing should be in order. But Mike Bellotti is an underrated coach and the Sun Devils haven’t exactly impressed against their early subpar competition. Oregon by two scores.

Ohio State (-6) over Iowa
I underestimated them against Texas, a better defense than Iowa’s, so let’s see if I learned my lesson. That's not to say OSU burned the Longhorns, but they were able to move the ball. Priority No. 1 for Iowa has to be Drew Tate taking care of the ball for the Hawkeyes to have a real shot at the upset. Kinnick Stadium will be raring to go like we haven’t seen in years. But Troy Smith is a different breed of QB than Iowa has faced so far and Antonio Pittman has played very well these past few games. To me, this game is all on Tate. Buckeyes by a hair.

Last Week: 4-1
Season: 15-6

Posted by Adam Caparell at 04:59 PM on September 29, 2006
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