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Originally published Sunday, October 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Jerry Brewer

Every Saturday is now Grounddawg Day

In a brave fourth-quarter act, D'Andre Goodwin looked up at the scoreboard to assess the horror. And there was the statistic beaming back...

Seattle Times staff columnist

Huskies by the numbers

1

First-half pass completions

5

First-half passing yards

9

First downs

26

Rushing yards

98

Passing yards

124

Total offense,

a season low

In a brave fourth-quarter act, D'Andre Goodwin looked up at the scoreboard to assess the horror. And there was the statistic beaming back at him.

Fifty-five yards.

Washington could only muster that much offense in the first three quarters of its latest blunder.

"I was sick to my stomach," Goodwin said.

Pass the communal bottle of Pepto-Bismol over to the wide receiver. He's the newest victim of the nauseating Huskies. They're no longer just a bad football team. They're an epidemic.

They're also assured to be coach hunting soon. Tyrone Willingham clinched his fourth straight losing season and his ouster in a 33-7 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday. You can remove the "probably" and "likely" from statements about his job status. Without question, he will be fired. The drama started seeping from the balloon weeks ago, but it's officially unofficial now.

What a coup de grace this turned out to be. Willingham received the fatal dagger from the school that fired him four years ago. Just as disappointing, he watched his offense become a sedative, which fully exposed the shortcoming that doomed his final season.

He failed to build around Jake Locker properly.

Strange enough, that fact burdened this game, even though the Huskies have been without the injured Locker for a month. In essence, Willingham put his future on the shoulder pads of the redshirt sophomore quarterback, but he did so while supplying a team that could neither enhance his talent nor exist without his skills.

In the first two games without Locker, the Huskies'offense was bad, but it wasn't disastrous. There was still hope it could salvage something. Notre Dame uncovered every blemish, however. Now that future Washington opponents have tape of the Irish defense's obliteration, the Huskies could be in for a long last five games.

Then again, how much worse can it get? Every Saturday is GroundDawg Day. The story line hasn't changed much all season. Before the game, a friend suggested I try an experiment: Pre-write my column and then see if it held up. It was a nice idea, 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.

Remember the misguided notion that Ronnie Fouch was a better quarterback than Locker? Pitch that thought in the trash bin. If you saw Fouch labor through this game, if you saw the Irish capitalize on not having to respect Locker's multiple-threat playmaking abilities, then you know never to talk that nonsense again.

In the first half, Fouch finished with this line: 1 of 9 for 5 yards. At halftime, he had more sacks than completions. Jared Ballman had more punts than Fouch had passing yards.

The Irish figured out the formula. Blitz Fouch, who was sacked four times, like crazy because he doesn't have great mobility. Stuff a run game that is barely effective without Locker. Relish the simplicity of beating a once proud program.

The Huskies were stuck on 55 yards until they gained 69 in a meaningless late-game touchdown drive. They didn't cross the 50-yard line until 6:03 remained in the game. It was a terrifying tenure capper for Willingham.

"It was almost unbelievable that we would be in that position," the coach said.

Washington expected to have a good offense this season despite playing with so many inexperienced guys at the skilled positions. The Huskies finished last season on an offensive upswing, and the coaches figured they could be productive this season based on the raw skills of the youngsters, the experience of a gigantic offensive line and the brilliance of Locker.

In reality, the youngsters are more raw than projected, the offensive line regressed, and Locker broke his thumb. If Willingham had planned correctly, he would've put a more experienced group around Locker, one that could've prevented him from trying to do too much, one that could've won games when he was injured.

Instead, there's misery, unending misery. The Huskies are 0-7 now. Dating back to last season, they're on a nine-game losing streak. It's over, so over, and we've got five more of these things left.

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.

From national championships to mercy points, they've fallen so far.

So you continue lumbering toward a sad conclusion, watching variations of an overwhelmed team again and again. It's GroundDawg Day, always.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports. Also check out Jerry's Extra Points blog, where he talks with readers about his columns.
jbrewer@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2277

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