Willingham clarifies some of his comments

SEATTLE — It’s been all about accountability at Washington since Saturday’s disappointing loss, the Huskies’ sixth straight.

The players say they it’s not the coaching, and the head coach said some of the blame falls on the coaching staff, and some on the players.

After being criticized for some comments he made last week, Tyrone Willingham tried to clarify things on Monday. After losing to Oregon, Willingham said the Huskies needed to get “more bullets” in their gun to compete. Some people saw that as a criticism of his current players.

“Please make sure we don’t distort that for more than what it is,” he said Monday. “If you were the New York Yankees, they try to get the best players they possibly can. So isn’t that what we always do? It’s that simple.”

Another Willingham quote that has gotten attention had Willingham asking a Seattle newspaper reporter “How many of our starters, when we lined up against USC that night, would start for them?”

Again, he tried to clarify that statement Monday.

“The truth of the matter is, if SC or anybody else is at the top of our conference, wouldn’t you want to have better players than they have?” he said. “And that’s what the whole recruiting process and trying to build our football team is all about. I love the players that we have, we’ve got some good players that are making some plays and doing some things. Do we need to finish the deal? Absolutely. But you’re always trying to get better players. That’s not an indictment of the guys that we have… We’ve got some players that are making some great plays and doing some great things, but not enough of them. And that’s not players, it’s team. It’s coaches and everybody involved.”

That was a common theme to Willingham’s press conference, that responsibility for the losing should be shared.

“It’s always both,” he said. “We need to put them in the best possible position, that’s the job of a coach. And at the same time, your players have to make the plays. It’s always a combination, it’s never just one.”

The players, meanwhile, say they are the ones who need to change. Linebacker Trenton Tuiasosopo said that the play calling was good, and that the problem was in the execution. On Saturday, Jordan Reffett said the same thing after the loss.

“It’s totally on the players,” the senior defensive tackle said. “It’s not the schemes, it’s not the coaches, it’s us. We’ve got to make plays. That’s the bottom line and I’ll stick to that all year long. People talk about Coach Baer or Coach Willingham, it’s not their fault. Honestly, it’s our fault. We’ve got to make plays. We’re in the right spot. We’ve got to make plays, that’s the bottom line.”

Really, Jim?: Apparently Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh has only been watching game film on Washington’s wins over Syracuse and Boise State in which the Huskies gave up a combined 22 points, because he had nothing but good things to say about the Huskies’ D Monday.

“I’m very impressed,” Harbaugh said of Washington’s defense, which has given up 147 points in its past three games. “They really do such a good job coordinating that defense. I’m very impressed with how they play hard, how they play on both sides of the ball. So we know we’re in the fight of our lives again, and that’s every Saturday for us.”

For clarification sake, Harbaugh was asked if he was talking about the 1984 Huskies defense which intercepted him three times in a win over Michigan.

“I was referring to this one,” he answered.

Injury update: Willingham said that he does not anticipate having linebacker Donald Butler or receiver Quintin Daniels (both have knee injuries) available for Saturday’s game. Louis Rankin suffered a minor hand injury against Arizona, but is not expected to miss any time.

Davenport to start: Despite being benched for most of Washington’s loss last weekend, Byron Davenport is expected to return to his starting cornerback role.

Davenport was beat deep on back-to-back plays by Arizona’s Mike Thomas in the first quarter. Thomas dropped the first pass, but scored a 66-yard touchdown on the next. Davenport was replaced by freshman Vonzell McDowell Jr. and did not return to the game.

“The only thing that happened was, we had two plays that just didn’t look like Byron,” Willingham said. “I wasn’t comfortable with where he was, so I made a switch. But Byron will be back, Byron will be fine.”

Willingham noted that part of the problem could have been a sore shoulder, which slowed Davenport in practice since injuring it against Oregon.

Players of the week: Jake Locker, who passed for 336 yards and rushed for 157, was named Washington’s offensive player of the week. Defensive tackle Jordan Reffett earned defensive honors, while Chris Stevens, who returned a fumbled punt attempt for a touchdown, earned special teams honors.

Tight end Romeo Savant, defensive end Darrion Jones and linebacker Linus Chou earned scout team honors.

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

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