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Originally published October 27, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 27, 2008 at 10:32 AM

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Business as usual in UW football offices

It was apparently just another day at the office for Washington coach Tyrone Willingham Sunday. He was scheduled to conduct all his usual...

Seattle Times staff reporter

It was apparently just another day at the office for Washington coach Tyrone Willingham Sunday.

He was scheduled to conduct all his usual day-after-game activities, such as meeting with the players and filming a few segments of a weekly cable TV show. Indications were that it all went as planned.

If, as many speculated, there was a lot going on behind the scenes, it was being kept well hidden.

What is out in the open now, however, is that Willingham will soon be gone as UW's coach, the Huskies falling to 0-7 with Saturday's 33-7 loss to Notre Dame, dropping his Washington record to 11-32.

Saturday's loss meant that even the last remaining vestige of hope this season — running the table in the last six games to get to the postseason — is no more as the defeat mathematically eliminated UW from bowl contention.

There has been much speculation that once that bridge was crossed, a change could happen at any point, and even before halftime of Saturday's game the rumor mill began churning wildly.

UW athletic director Scott Woodward has said he doesn't foresee making an in-season change. But he hasn't ruled it out, and there is also the possibility of a negotiated resignation in which Willingham could end up coaching the team for the rest of the season.

If a change were to be made — whether it's this week or later in the season — it would likely happen on a Monday, before Willingham's weekly news conference and before the staff begins to put together a game plan for that Saturday's contest.

A UW spokesman said Sunday afternoon there was nothing out of the ordinary going on.

Whatever the coaching situation, the Huskies have a most untenable task ahead this week as they take on the No. 7-ranked Trojans.

USC was listed as a 43-point favorite, the largest spread against the Huskies since 1974. The widest since then came in 2004 when UW was a 35-point underdog at USC, a weekend before Keith Gilbertson was fired as coach.

Before that game, the largest spread against UW came in 1974 when the Huskies were a 34-point underdog at UCLA, a game the Huskies lost 62-13. UW was never more than a 27-point underdog during the Don James era, that coming in a game at Alabama in his first season in 1975, a contest UW lost 52-0.

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Saturday's loss to Notre Dame again exposed UW's ineptness in just about every area.

The offense gained just 124 yards, the lowest since that 2004 game at USC, which UW lost 38-0 gaining just 113 yards in the process. The defense earned some praise from coaches for hanging in after a tough start. But ultimately, UW allowed 459 yards, including 252 on the ground, a season-high for a Notre Dame team that entered the game ranked 108th in the nation in rushing at 101.1 per game.

And the special teams were no better, the Huskies being beaten for a fake punt on a fourth-and-13 play and averaging just 31.4 net yards per punt.

"It was a very difficult night," said an unusually subdued Willingham, whose postgame news conference lasted just a little over six minutes, the coach having little to say and reporters mostly having only one question — when does a change come? — that couldn't yet be answered.

Players again said they stood by their coach and that they hadn't given up on the season, continuing to hold a stronger front in public than on the field.

"With all the pressure that is on coaches right now, all the turmoil they are going through, they are staying steadfast, staying strong, staying strong for us," said fifth-year senior tight end Michael Gottlieb. "That means a lot to us. It's inspiring to me and I hope people can recognize that, how strong of character they have shown to us."

And Gottlieb promised the Huskies will show up in L.A.

"We've got nothing to lose," he said. "We still believe. We've still got a lot of talent. It's an opportunity to let our hair down and have some fun."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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