BERKELEY, Calif. – Greg Carothers has seen the good times.
That’s why this 5-5 season for the Washington Huskies hurts. As starter on Washington’s 2001 Rose Bowl-champion squad, Carothers knows what it takes to be a title-holder.
On the other hand, he’s not at all certain some of his teammates know.
“We’ve got to have people who are really competitive and really have respect for playing at this university,” said Carothers, senior outside linebacker for Washington. “I’m not sure we do right now.”
Carothers says the players are solely to blame for a season that has the Huskies staring at their first losing season since 1976, one that perhaps won’t go to a bowl game for the first time since 1988.
Much of the reason: Deflating performances against teams Washington should have beaten, Arizona and Nevada. Asked whether the Huskies took either one seriously, UW head coach Keith Gilbertson was as short as he was honest.
“No,” he said.
Carothers knows sacrifice, as evidenced by his agreement to move from strong safety to outside linebacker in his senior year. At risk was a possible trial with the NFL.
The sacrifice was taking one for the team: Carothers knew no other position than safety since he started playing the game.
That’s why he looks now and notices resistance, attitudinal destruction and a lack of toughness.
“I think the coaches are doing everything right,” Carothers said. “Coach Gilbertson’s doing everything right. I think he’s a great coach. Our coaching staff is doing all the right things.
“But we’re not doing what they’re telling us to do and we’ve got people who aren’t getting excited about playing.”
The shock of losing a home game to Nevada seemed to rouse the team into its best game of the season the next week, a 38-17 blowout at Oregon State.
The Huskies also played hard, if not well, the next week at home against powerful USC, which may well go to the Sugar Bowl to play for the BCS title.
Then came the Oregon game, a 42-10 drowning of the Ducks that revealed signs that Washington was growing up, despite playing young guys who replaced a bevy of injured veterans.
The came the next shock, a lifeless, 27-22 drubbing against Arizona, which had lost eights straight games, dropped its last 13 Pacific-10 Conference home games and had fired coach John Mackovic five weeks earlier.
“You can’t waltz through the Pac-10 like that,” Carothers said. “You can’t think that, just because you have talent and that you’ve played a lot that you can beat everybody, because you can’t.”
Whether the defeat at Arizona last week will serve as another shock against Cal remains to be seen. The Golden Bears have issues of their own. At 5-6, they need to win both their remaining games if they want to go to a bowl.
But they might have to do so without the Pac-10’s second-leading rusher, Adimchinobe Echemandu, who sprained an ankle against Oregon last week and will not start today against the Huskies.
Not that it matters to Washington. The Huskies have enough to worry about without concentrating on the Bears’ woes.
“When things are gong right, we’ve got guys who play amazingly well,” Carothers said. “When things are going bad, we’re not doing the things we need to do.”