Huskies ready, eager to take on the Beavers

  • By Mike Allende / Herald Writer
  • Friday, October 13, 2006 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – Tyrone Willingham said he’s been hearing the question over and over: Coming off of maybe the best performance in Willingham’s two years as the Washington football coach, is his team in danger of a letdown.

Frankly, Willingham is tired of hearing it. He said he’s seen no sign of any impending drop-off from his team.

“I think somebody’s looking for one, but I can’t give you one,” Willingham said. “I’ve been asked that question at least 15 different occasions, ‘Is this team ready to let down?’ I think this football team is ready to win a football game.”

Willingham will find out for sure when the Huskies (2-1 Pacific-10 Conference, 4-2 overall) host Oregon State (0-2, 2-3) at 3:30 p.m. today in Husky Stadium.

The Huskies insist they’ve put the disappointment of last week’s 26-20 loss to USC behind them and are ready to move forward. They have much to play for, they say.

“We still believe there’s an opportunity to go out and win the Pac-10,” Washington receiver Sonny Shackelford said. “That’s what we want to do.”

Whether the Huskies can still win the conference is debatable, but there’s no question that a bowl game is still a distinct possibility. Washington needs two wins to become bowl eligible, and with three games at home against teams the Huskies could be favored against – Oregon State, Stanford and Arizona State – a seven or eight win season isn’t out of the question.

But in order to reach those heights, the Huskies have to win the games they are supposed to win, and that includes today’s matchup. It’s been a rare instance that Washington has been favored in a game recently, but today qualifies. The Huskies are a nine-point favorite over the Beavers, the biggest spread in a conference game since the UW was a 15-point favorite over Arizona in 2003. The Huskies were a favorite twice last year and only once this season – against San Jose State.

And though the Huskies are a significant favorite over OSU, Willingham said he is having a hard time figuring out why the Beavers are struggling so much.

“This is a difficult team to assess because you look at them and you see them play and you see things that are very productive,” Willingham said. “They’re doing some good things. … But then you look at the record and it’s 2-3. You struggle to find an explanation for it.”

Oregon State coach Mike Riley said his team is hurting itself with turnovers, but he likes the attitude that he’s seen.

“The spirit is good and the young guys that are working into this program are good players and pretty resilient,” Riley said. “That’s a nice sign. Every game is a crossroads for us.”

Riley said he’s been impressed with Washington’s disruptive defense and the way its offense has been geared around Isaiah Stanback’s abilities. He said the Huskies look more confident than they have in the past.

For Washington’s part, the players say their confidence and expectations haven’t changed despite last week’s loss and they still expect to go into every game and walk away with a victory, whether it’s against a team they are expected to beat or not.

“There’s no week off,” Stanback said. “It’s the best team that day (that wins). A team is going to bring their ‘A’ game or they’re not. We expect every team to bring an ‘A’ game.”

“This is a big game for us,” linebacker Scott White said. “We’re trying to control our own destiny this year. We’re not trying to have any help, any outside influences on our success and our postseason opportunities. We want to win every game. We want to treat every game the same.”

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