Two big losses Saturday could end up in a lost season for the Washington Huskies. The Huskies first lost their quarterback when Jake Locker suffered a broken right thumb. Then lost the game to Stanford 35-28 to fall to 0-4.
Two big losses Saturday night could end up in a lost season for the Washington Huskies. And who knows what else might be lost as a result?
The Huskies first lost their quarterback when Jake Locker suffered a broken right thumb that could keep him out as long as six weeks while making a block on Stanford safety Sean Wiser on a running play in the second quarter.
They then lost the game to the Stanford Cardinal, 35-28, to fall to 0-4 in a make-or-break season for coach Tyrone Willingham.
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Willingham, now 11-29 as UW’s coach, admitted later this is as tough a situation as he has faced as a head coach.
Willingham opened his postgame news conference by saying it was “very difficult for me to stand before you … I felt like we could win the football game.”
Later, he acknowledged he’s running out of answers to turn the program around.
“I keep asking myself every day and every night, what is it that hasn’t allowed us to turn that thing over to click it to get it going right?” he said. “Because I believe we have the team that can get it done. But for some reason we are not.”
The Huskies were already trailing 14-7 when Locker was hurt, and while replacement Ronnie Fouch injected some enthusiasm with some accurate passing, UW ultimately couldn’t overcome another porous performance from its defense.
It is only UW’s second 0-4 start since 1969. The other came in 2004 when the Huskies ultimately fired coach Keith Gilbertson, leading to the hiring of Willingham.
The Cardinal came in ranked near the bottom of the Pac-10 in most statistical categories but moved at will all night against UW, finishing with a season-high 466 yards, 244 on the ground and 222 in the air.
“They just played harder than us,” said UW cornerback Quinton Richardson. “They beat us fair and square.”
Locker was injured with about seven minutes remaining in the second quarter.
He was hurt while throwing a block on Wiser near the sideline to spring receiver Jordan Polk on a 27-yard reverse.
“It’s a freak thing,” said UW offensive coordinator Tim Lappano. “That’s unbelievable.”
There was no official prognosis, but Lappano said he’s unsure of the degree of the injury but that Locker could be out six weeks. Lappano said there’s a possibility Locker could wear a cast and play another position.
It was a costly game for UW as middle linebacker Donald Butler was lost to a concussion, running back David Freeman to an ankle injury and WR D’Andre Goodwin to an apparent rib injury. Lappano indicated the injury to Goodwin, the team’s leading receiver, could be long-term.
“Those are some good bullets for us,” Lappano said. “That’s unbelievable.”
Locker stayed in for two plays after he was injured. But he took himself out after rolling out and overthrowing an open Goodwin.
He returned in the third quarter in sweats and with his right (throwing) hand wrapped.
Fouch came in and finished the drive, executing an option to convert one third down, and then hitting Jermaine Kearse for a 9-yard gain to convert another. The drive ended in a 1-yard plunge by Brandon Johnson to tie the score with 3:11 left in the second quarter.
The deadlock was short-lived, however, as the Cardinal scored quickly. On a third-and-nine play from the 39, the Huskies blitzed and Stanford QB Tavita Pritchard hit Doug Baldwin on a crossing pattern over the middle that Baldwin turned into a 61-yard touchdown, giving the Cardinal a 21-14 lead with 1:36 remaining in the first half.
Just about the time Locker emerged from the locker room in the third quarter, Stanford’s Anthony Kimble ran 83 yards for a touchdown with 9:35 left in the third quarter to put Stanford ahead 28-14, and all hope seemed to be gone.
But Fouch, who was 13 of 27 for 186 yards and one touchdown, put some life back into the team, and the stadium, leading a drive that cut the gap to 28-21 with 6:14 left in the third quarter.
But the Huskies couldn’t move the next time they had the ball, and the Cardinal then drove 63 yards to take a 35-21 lead with 10:22 remaining in the game on an 18-yard pass from Pritchard to Ryan Whalen.
That was the third TD pass of the game for Pritchard, a graduate of Clover Park High in Tacoma.
Willingham admitted later the team’s main goal now may be to keep the players from splintering amid the rumors swirling about his future.
“They are frustrated, the coaches are frustrated, everyone is frustrated,” he said. “We want to get this thing right.”
Asked whether the team can turn the season around, Richardson sounded an ominous note.
“It’s very hard,” he said. “It’s not easy to bounce back from 0-4. Everyone has their heads down. Everyone is mad. Human nature, you know?”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org