University of Washington football fans found themselves with the short end of the stick on Saturday (10-13-07) when the Arizona State Sun Devils came to Seattle and extended their winning streak to 7 with a 44-20 second half victory. The Sun Devils outscored Washington in the third quarter 21-0 and in the second half 31-3, and it’s a good thing because if the game had ended at the half, Washington would have won 17-13.

Therein lies the challenge for the young and inexperienced Washington Huskies: they played a lousy 3rd quarter and still haven’t learned how to win games.

This stat wouldn’t mean much unless you know that:

Washington led Ohio State, then No. 10 ranked, 7-3 at the half and lost 33-14 in its third game. It was tied with UCLA, then ranked No. 27, 10-10 at the half and lost 44-31 in its fourth game.

Washington led then #1 ranked Southern Cal 17-14 at the half and lost 27-24 in their fifth game. They led then-No. 12 ranked Arizona State 17-13 at the half and lost 44-20 in their sixth game.

You better believe Sun Devil coach Dennis Erickson was beyond sweaty after watching redshirt rookie quarterback Jake Locker run for a 32-yard touchdown run with 4:11 to go in the first half, giving Washington a 17-13 lead.

Do Husky fans realize that if each of these games ended in the half, Washington’s record would be 5-0-1 instead of 2-4? Washington would go on to an undefeated record after beating Syracuse 42-12 in a road game and defeating then-22nd-ranked Boise State 24-10 in their first two games.

Please don’t be a sophomore (as I sometimes idiot) and remind me that a game lasts 60 minutes and only the final score counts. To do so would ignore the point I’m making. It might fairly point out that the Huskies have been stumbling out of the locker room to start the second half of their last 4 games.

Why this has been happening leaves trainer Ty Willingham at a loss. He is quoted in the Tacoma News Tribune (14-10-07 edition) saying: “Obviously it’s a difficult thing to talk about because I don’t have a solution.”

A man of hitherto impeccable standards and integrity, Willingham is also honest. Less than 1% of all college football coaches would not publicly repeat Willingham’s admission.

One thing is for sure: whatever Willingham and members of his coaching staff say or don’t say to the Husky players at halftime, it’s not worth it and should be changed.

Don’t tell me the same Husky players who could play over their head with grit and enthusiasm in the first half lose their brains and become callous during the second half. I’d love to be a bee on Washington’s locker room wall at halftime and see if any stinging comments are made. As a certified Monday morning quarterback and coach, these would be the first words out of my mouth at halftime during the Arizona State game:

“Let me be the first to congratulate you on a phenomenal first half. Arizona State made some mistakes in the first half and so did we, but you’re leading the unbeaten and No. 12-ranked team at halftime, 17-13.

“Some people would say the Sun Devils have more talent on their team than we do, but we lead at the half, 17-13.

“Others would say the Sun Devils have an unbeaten record and our record is 2-3, but we lead at the half, 17-13.

“Still others would say the Sun Devils are ranked #12 in the country and since we’re not ranked in the Top 25, they will win this game, but we lead at the half, 17-13.

“Now, we’re going to quickly give everyone a piece of paper and a pen, and by secret ballot I want you to quickly write down which player you think is the leader of this team.”

After the ballots are collected immediately and Jake Locker’s name is on every or almost every ballot, I would say this:

“Jake, you may be a redshirt freshman, but your teammates think you’re the leader of the Washington Husky football team.

“I want you, Jake, to get up right now and tell the coaching staff and your teammates why we can win the second half of this game, how we’re going to do it, and what it takes to get there.”

So, as the head coach, I would sit down, shut up, and listen. After Jake is done with what he says, he would ask any other player who received a vote as THE team leader to stand up and do the same.

Let the players convince themselves and believe that they can do in the second half what they did in the first half: outplay the opponent. Do that and Washington upsets his opponent.

Now why is Washington the most statistically incredible team in the nation?

1) The Huskies are ranked No. 41 in the Sagarin Ratings.

2) Their current record is 2-4.

3) They are ranked No. 1 for having played, for the fourth week in a row, the toughest schedule among the 242 teams in Division IA and 1-AA.

4) There is no other team in Sagarin’s top 40 ranked with fewer than 4 wins.

5) The next highest ranked Sagarin team with just 2 wins is No. 60 North Carolina at 2-5.

6) The Huskies, as Sagarin’s 41st-ranked team in the nation, lead No. 42 Alabama (5-2), No. 44 Wisconsin (5-2 and No. 5 in the AP poll just two weeks ago), No. 46 Louisville (4-3), No. 48 Texas A&M (5-2), No. 51 Air Force (5-2) and No. 52 India na (5-2). Not bad, as the former Opera Man (Adam Sandler) would say on Saturday Night Live.

7) The highest ranked team with the same 2-4 record as Washington is Stanford at No. 68. Stanford has played the fourth toughest schedule in the country.

8) North Carolina, which has a 2-5 record, is ranked 60th. The Tar Heels have played the third toughest schedule during Week 7 of college football.

I know, now you wonder who has played the 2nd hardest schedule. It’s 1-6 Notre Dame. I expect the Huskies to lose to Oregon (hopefully not 53-7 like interstate rival Washington State) and California. I predicted this two weeks ago, on October 3rd.

I also predicted on Oct. 3 that Washington would beat (in order) Arizona, Stanford, Oregon State, Washington State and Hawaii, finishing the year 7-6. Hold on Husky fans, the best is yet to come.

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

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