The players slowly emerged from the visitor’s locker room last weekend at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and the few that bothered to talk about the 56-0 whipping USC had just administered all had the same message.
We didn’t quit, one Washington football player would say.
We were fighting hard for our coaches, another assured reporters.
Plenty of Husky fans no doubt have a hard time believing those statements after USC handed the Huskies such an embarrassing loss. Especially when that loss came less than a week after the announcement that Tyrone Willingham is out as the Huskies coach following the season.
But really, they said, that was the team giving full effort.
“It inspired us to go out and play for him,” quarterback Ronnie Fouch said last Saturday when asked how the news of Willingham affected the team. “Any kind of coach that’s in this situation could give up. But he still fights and he cares about us a lot, so we play for him.”
That was a team playing for its coach? It sure didn’t look like it.
Which brings us to Saturday’s game against Arizona State. While it looked to the casual observer that the Huskies weren’t giving full effort against USC, it is at least possible that most of the team was trying despite being badly overmatched. Now, with Arizona State coming to town on a six-game losing streak, we’ll know for sure.
While USC is good enough to blow the Huskies out even against a strong effort, the Sun Devils are not. This is it for the Huskies. Their last chance to back up those words that were so tough to believe last weekend. This team may not be good enough to beat Arizona State, even at home — which is a pretty sad indictment of the program, by the way — but they should at least be able to avoid a similarly humiliating result.
It’s clear not everyone is on board at this point, even Willingham admits as much. The fact is that, even in good times, it’s hard to have 100 or more athletes all on the same page.
“I think so,” Willingham said earlier this week when asked if players were still responding to the coaching staff. “You always have some guys that don’t. That happens on a team when things are going well. You always have a guy that doesn’t agree with this or with that, but I think the majority of our guys are still listening and doing the things we ask them to do.”
It sure didn’t look like that last weekend, which is why those players who still care, those who are still on board, they need to show as much this weekend. Willingham made it clear again this week that he still plans to finish out the season, and another ugly loss this weekend will make it look even more like his players don’t want him around.
If the Huskies are going to salvage any pride the rest of the way, they’ll need more individual efforts like those put forth by Johnie Kirton and Alvin Logan last weekend. In the third quarter, with the game already well out of hand, Kirton, a 296-pound defensive tackle, surprised everyone by chasing down USC’s starting tailback, C.J. Gable, 50 yards down field to save a touchdown.
Logan, a receiver, made another touchdown-saving tackle when he put a hard hit on USC linebacker Chris Galippo, who had intercepted a Fouch pass and thought he was heading for a score.
“I thought I was gone until around the 40-yard line when a freight train hit me,” Galippo told the Pasadena Star-News.
And while that’s nice praise for Logan to be called a freight train, you have to wonder if any opposing offensive players have said something similar this season.
The simple fact that Kirton and Logan didn’t give up on those plays in an already decided game was one of the only bright spots for the Huskies, but it certainly didn’t seem like enough players had that same passion.
“At that point, yeah sure, we were down by 40 or something like that, but to me it’s never over, so I’m never going to let anybody score that easily,” Kirton said.
Kirton had his moment last week, as did Logan, and now Saturday is the last chance for the rest of the Huskies to back up last weekend’s postgame statements. So show your fans something this weekend, Huskies. Show them that you haven’t quit, because it certainly didn’t look that way last week.
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com. For more on UW sports, check out the Huskies blog at heraldnet.com /huskiesblog.