Jerry Brewer explains the thinking behind his columns and invites readers to express their views on the sports world.
October 26, 2008 12:39 PM
Posted by Jerry Brewer
Notre Dame 33, Huskies 7
Here's a link to today's column. In a nutshell, it's about why I think every Saturday this season has turned into what I refer to as GroundDawg Day: Willingham's failure to build a team around Jake Locker properly. Now that Locker has been out for a month, we're finding this team is even more feeble than originally thought -- and they were pitiful in the roughly three-and-a-half games that Locker played.
Instead of overanalyzing what you already know -- the Huskies are really, really bad -- I figured this would be a good time to show how my column changed from a first-edition rant trying to express the exasperation of watching this team to a more thoughtful, complete and even useful second-edition column.
When covering these games, I generally have two deadlines. On Saturday, the first was at 8:10, or roughly when the game ended. For that edition, I write what we call, in the newspaper, a running column. I'm writing my opinion as the game unfolds. For the final edition, my deadline was 10:10 p.m. on Saturday, so I got to do interviews and rethink and revise my viewpoint. So look at this first-edition column for evidence of how dramatically things can change in two hours:
I've got nothing.
I'm as empty as the student section as I type these words. It's the third quarter of another Washington shellacking, Notre Dame middle linebacker Brian Smith just engulfed Husky quarterback Ronnie Fouch, and the game's worthlessness has gagged the Husky Stadium crowd once again.
The heavy boos were used at the end of the first half, when the Huskies trailed 17-0, and now the atmosphere is indifferent, save for the cheers of visiting fans.
The storyline hasn't changed all season. Before the game, a friend suggested I try an experiment: Pre-write the column and then see if it held up during the game. It was a nice idea considering every Saturday is now GroundDawg Day, but I considered it an insult to the spirit of competition.
Well, spirit of competition be damned. This game went precisely as anticipated. It was another indigestible showing, with some extra heartburn on top.
Here's the fresh distress: The misguided notion some had that Fouch was a better quarterback than Jake Locker should've been pitched into the trash can after his historically bad outing.
And, oh, in case you're still tracking it, coach Tyrone Willingham clinched his fourth straight losing season as the Washington coach. It means you can remove the "probably" and "likely" from statements about his job status. Without question, he will be fired. The drama started leaking out of that balloon weeks ago, but it's officially unofficial now.
After a 33-7 loss to Notre Dame, the Huskies fell to 0-7 this season. Dating back to last year, they're on a nine-game losing streak. It's over, so over, and we've got five more of these things left.
I've got nothing.
I'm spent. There's not a single compelling aspect of this football team. There's little you can learn about the Huskies, besides their ability to keep getting up after poundings. They're a team about nothing, sadly.
They're young men with seemingly good character. They don't appear to have quit on Willingham, either. But they've shown meager progress since the first game, and they play like they know they can't win, which is the worst funk in sports.
In their latest effort to sedate us, the Huskies didn't cross the 50-yard line until 6:03 remained in the game. Fouch finished the first half with this line: 1 of 9 for five yards.
At halftime, he had more sacks than completions. Jared Ballman had more punts than the Huskies had passing yards. Washington ran 26 plays in the first half and produced only 38 yards.
If Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen hadn't been uncharacteristically inaccurate, the Irish could've led 31-0 at the half. They toyed with the Huskies all game, same as many other opponents have. The Huskies have been relegated to trying to make the best of a foe's disinterest.
Washington scored late in the game on a Fouch touchdown pass to D'Andre Goodwin, but it felt like a shutout nonetheless. For anyone who criticized Locker heavily before his injury, please review this game if you can stand another bite.
It proves that Locker, though still lacking the accuracy of an elite quarterback, wasn't a problem for this offense. It proves that he was the only thing the offense had going for it. Without the threat of his scrambling and playmaking, opposing defenses don't have to respect the Huskies at all.
They can blitz Fouch like crazy. They know they can stop the run. With the Washington defense incapable of controlling a game, the Huskies are a blowout waiting to happen.
It's hard to believe that it can be that simple for a major-college program, for a school in a Bowl Championship Series that boasts a proud tradition. The Huskies are so easy to figure out – and so hard to watch.
I've got nothing.
I'm like Willingham on fourth-and-two with my team behind 24 points in the third quarter. He elected to punt in that situation, which elicited more boos. At the end of his run, his unbending approach is proving to be his downfall.
The Irish fans remember that approach well and were happy to contribute to the coach's misery. Willingham clinched his ouster against the team that fired him four years ago.
It was another sad, sad performance for a school that has witnessed too many lately, and the real disappointment is that we've only begun the second half of this disastrous season.
As a fan exited Husky Stadium, she uttered words that would've been reason for banishment just a few years ago.
"At least it wasn't a shutout," she said.
Technically, it wasn't. But get real: Washington showed us nothing once again.
So there's no use being too fancy with the analysis. The Huskies are awful, nothing else. We're watching them lumber toward a sad conclusion, nothing more.
So, if you compare the two columns, you can see that I became less frustrated over the two hours between editions. For me, that first-edition column was way too emotional, but given the time constraints, I just had to go with it. I prefer a thoughtful, analytical approach with some punch to it.
When I was rewriting, I wanted to emphasize two points much better: that Loss No. 7, that a fourth-straight losing season, means the Willingham era is over, even though athletic director Scott Woodward is letting this train wreck continue until the end of the season. And that Locker's absence and Willingham's inability to build a complete team are making the team sink even lower.
Yes, with a more inexperienced squad, with receivers that didn't drop passes, Ronnie Fouch would be a solid backup quarterback. But he's not better than Locker, never will be. Fouch is a game manager, not a game changer. No disrespect to Fouch, who's a terrific kid, but that's the truth.
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