UW players try to shift focus to Cal game

SEATTLE — While it seems most fans long ago gave up on Washington’s 2008 football season, the fact remains that there is still one final game to play.

For a few hours on Saturday, everyone will be asked to take a break from rumors about the coaching search to pay attention to an actual game, the Huskies’ season finale at California.

For a few hours, the focus will go from Jim Mora and Pat Hill to the 0-11 team trying to avoid 0-12. While the Washington players have tried to focus on the task at hand ever since Tyrone Willingham’s firing was announced, they can’t avoid hearing the same rumors and speculation that has everyone guessing.

Fresno State’s Hill confirmed to media in Fresno that he came to Seattle and interviewed for the job. Notre Dame offensive coordinator Michael Haywood is the only other person known to have interviewed for the job, but several other names continue to be talked about as possibilities for the Washington job, including Mora, the Seattle Seahawks secondary coach and head coach in waiting.

“It’s killing us,” cornerback Quinton Richardson said. “We do follow the rumors. ‘Oh, we’re going to have him, we’re going to have him.’ Some of us joke around: ‘Oh I found out this is our new coach.’ So we joke around with it. We’re just waiting but at the same time we have to be focused on the game ahead. We try not to focus too much on it. We try to focus on this game, get it out the way. In time we’ll know. Patience is a virtue.”

And even Saturday’s game itself will provide a reminder of Washington’s coaching search, as the opposing coach, Cal’s Jeff Tedford, seems to be a potential candidate wherever a head job is vacant.

“I don’t pay much attention to it to tell you the truth,” Tedford said of the rumors. “I don’t really look at the papers or get caught up in the Internet stuff or what have you. I kind of hear about through the grapevine a little bit, but it’s not anything I really take too seriously.”

During a conference call with Washington media Monday, Tedford was asked if Washington had contacted him regarding the opening.

“They have not,” he said.

But while plenty of distractions threaten to overshadow this weekend’s on-field action, both teams have reason to take the game seriously. For the Huskies, this is a final chance to avoid a winless season and become the first team to go 0-12 in Pac-10 history.

“We want to end on a good note. Some of the older guys have been talking,” Richardson said. “This game has got to be our stepping block for next year. We haven’t won a game since last year, so I feel like now if we can just audition, try to show the new coach that we’re not going to take this no more. We’ve got to step up for next year and just start with a win here. Better now than never.”

Washington has now lost 13 straight going back to last year, but Cal will still take the Huskies seriously, because that last Washington win just happened to be against the Bears. In that game, Washington won 37-23 despite the absence of Jake Locker, and rushed for 334 yards.

“There’s no question that — we’d been here six years at that time — in our six years, we’ve never been pounded like that,” Tedford said. “So we do remember that they pretty much did what they wanted that day. They played more physical than we did that day, and that’s something that our kids remember and are looking forward to hopefully getting out of their system and regaining their pride.”

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more on UW sports, check out the Huskies blog at heraldnet.com /huskiesblog

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