Now we know where this team is going
Now what? What happens to Washington's football program now, after this bummer of a summer, after playing the most difficult early-season...
Seattle Times staff columnist
What happens to Washington's football program now, after this bummer of a summer, after playing the most difficult early-season schedule this side of the Cleveland Browns?
Where do the Huskies go after Saturday's 55-14 humbling loss to Oklahoma?
What team will show up for Stanford after this week's bye week? How will this team respond to the punishment — physical and emotional — inflicted by the elite trifecta of Oregon, Brigham Young and Oklahoma?
With coach Tyrone Willingham's future hanging by a loose thread, will his players respond? Can they play well enough to save his job?
I think we know the answer.
This used to be the kind of day Washington coaches used as recruiting tools. These were the sun-splashed September Saturdays — sellout crowds and a nationally ranked opponent in town — that sold the program.
USC, Miami, Nebraska — Washington used to win these games.
Now a Saturday this golden delicious just illustrates how far Washington football has fallen. It shows how wide the gap is between the Huskies and the best in college football.
On this spectacular Saturday at Husky Stadium, the home team was awful, and a loss as lopsided as this will be Exhibit A for those who believe Willingham hasn't done enough to close the competition gap in his three-plus years at Washington.
In the second half of this game, Washington looked defeated. Oklahoma cut out what little heart was left in the Huskies. Quarterback Sam Bradford connected with Ryan Broyles on a 77-yard touchdown pass in the opening minutes of the second half.
The calls for Willingham's firing will come as loud as the boos. With seven games left after this week's bye, many will think that the timing is right to bring defensive coordinator Ed Donatell down from the press box to become interim coach for the rest of the season.
But that won't happen.
This season will be Willingham's mess to clean up. The search for his replacement almost certainly won't begin until mid-December, after the new athletic director has been named and has settled into the office.
But if you were wondering how Willingham would rally his team after its heart-wrenching loss to BYU, Oklahoma answered that question quickly.
Oklahoma punched Washington in the face over and over again.
The Sooners made it look so easy, it was as if they knew they had more important dates planned, like USC in January at the BCS championship game in South Florida.
Oklahoma's offense was surgical. It looked as if patient and experienced tailback DeMarco Murray could get at least 6 or 7 yards every time he touched the ball.
And on defense, the Sooners were so quick Washington's backs couldn't get outside. They were so strong Washington couldn't run inside.
Just to stay in this game against the third-ranked team in the country the Huskies had to play mistake-free football.
They didn't. Late in the first quarter, quarterback Jake Locker broke a 17-yard run, but was stripped by Brian Jackson at the end of the run, and Oklahoma recovered on the Huskies' 47.
The Sooners scored two plays later.
And after Locker tossed to Devin Aguilar for 21 yards to the Oklahoma 28, a sack and a missed 47-yard field-goal attempt by Jared Ballman started another Sooners drive.
A little more than 20 minutes into the game, the Sooners had a 20-0 lead.
The Huskies had to pitch a perfect game; instead they got lit up like so many Carlos Silvas.
And Oklahoma punished every Washington mistake. By the end of the first half, the Sooners' third-string tailback, Mossis Madu, was scoring touchdowns.
Last season, the Huskies at least played evenly for a half at home before losing 33-14 to another national power, Ohio State. And two years ago in Norman, Okla., they kept pace with the Sooners for a half.
But they never had a chance this time against Oklahoma, which finished with 591 yards of offense.
Sure, the schedule gets easier. Washington can beat Stanford, Oregon State and UCLA at home. Even a team as deflated as this can win the Apple Cup at Washington State. But 4-8 won't be enough to save Willingham's job. Even 6-6 won't work.
The Huskies didn't have to start 3-0 this year, but they had to show signs of progress.
Instead, this team is going backward as another long losing season marches on.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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UPDATE - 9:02 PM
Steve Kelley: What happened to the once-scary Huskies?
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.