By JOHN SLEEPER
SEATTLE – It looked bad.
The Washington Huskies were down 16-10 to Arizona at the half, and that was the brightest stat in a game in which the Huskies looked at deficits of 19-4 in first downs and nearly 22 minutes to eight in time of possession.
The defense was getting overrun. It was tentative. Slow. Lifeless.
Had to be an ugly scene in the UW locker room, right?
Coach Rick Neuheisel took into account that the defense was thinking of Curtis Williams, its senior strong safety who injured his spinal cord just a week before, who was in his first week of what appears to be a long sting at Stanford Medical Center.
Given that, Neuheisel knew the last thing the team needed was a keister-chewing.
“I saw some kids who were being a little tentative,” Neuheisel said. “And I didn’t blame them. As I said to the defensive coaches and team, I didn’t want to get angry at them. I didn’t want to challenge their manhood. These kids have given everything we have asked from them for an entire year. It’s a tough, tough set of circumstances that they went through, given what they went through in the last nine days. For us to get angry with them would have been the wrong approach. What we wanted them to do was relax.”
So, the emphasis wasn’t on motivation, but on schemes. Maybe a slight adjustment an the angles of attack. Play freely, without fear of mistakes.
“We never lost our focus,” quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo said. “We knew we didn’t play well, but we knew what we had to do.”
So, with an 11-1 season, a possible BCS bowl, maybe even a Rose Bowl at stake, can the Huskies return to normalcy in this week’s practices in preparation for UCLA?
“Yes, to the extent possible,” Neuheisel said. “There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t think about Curtis and hope for improvement. But Curtis often told me how much he wanted to win a championship. That’s the way it is for everybody involved.”
Kenyon Coleman, their All-America stud, is likely out for the year with a knee injury. Also injured is defensive tackle Ken Kocher (knee), who might or might not be back against the Huskies.
In addition, tackle Anthony Fletcher has back, ankle and knee injuries and looks to be out. Tackle Rusty Williams has a shoulder injury (questionable) and tackle Sean Phillips (ankle) is doubtful.
Against Arizona two weeks ago, the Bruins had 15 injuries listed. Of those, 11 were on the defense and seven were on the defensive line. Most, coach Bob Toledo said, came during game conditions and didn’t happen during practice.
“We’re not the same team that beat Alabama and Michigan,” Toledo said.
“I would not like to go out having never beaten UCLA,” Tuiasosopo said.
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