Washington finally played like Washington for the first time in five years with a dominant win over California in Husky Stadium yesterday. The Huskies marched up and down the field the entire game on the ground putting together one of the better days in Washington history running the ball. This wasn't one of those days when the QB scrambles for 150 yards trying to save his life. This was a day when Washington dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
This was a true Dawg Day Afternoon. This was a throwback to the days of old when the Huskies used to physically beat up their opponents on Saturdays. This was the Husky football we all know and love.
This will also be marked as the day the program finally turned the corner.
UW had every reason to pack it in after letting a couple slip away against Arizona, and Oregon State. The coaches and players had their backs against the wall. The teams star Jake Locker was going to have to sit the game out, and nobody was giving this Husky team much of a chance to win against explosive California. you have to hand it to the coaches for keeping these kids together under a lot of pressure, scrutiny, and adversity.
This actually reminds me of 1989 when the Huskies lost to Arizona State in Husky Stadium to ASU 34-32. The Huskies were 5-4 at that low point. That team responded by blowing Oregon State out the next week. They followed with an Apple Cup win over WSU. Finally the season was capped off by beating Florida and Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith in the Freedom bowl to cap the season. The rest of the story is the young nucleus of that team went on one of the greatest runs in Husky history culminating with a national championship.
The Huskies are getting better, and they beat one of the better teams in the Pac Ten with a power running game that lacked perhaps the best player who will ever button up a chin strap in the purple and gold. Beat California without Jake Locker? Beat California with Jake Locker? It was as an impressive victory as we have seen this decade.
So what now?
Even though these Huskies won't go bowling they have a very good chance of winning the next two games against WSU, and Hawaii. Finish the season by winning three in a row and the team will build a lot of momentum towards bringing in a great class during the crucial December recruiting period.
Only last week it looked like UW was going to lose some of that coveted in state class, but one week means a lot when you are talking about 17 year olds. Win three in a row, and they can visualize themselves playing behind a rapidly improving offensive line with Jake Locker calling the signals for perhaps the next three years. They can visualize coming in as freshmen in 2008 and making a difference.
Only last week Oregon was on track to win the national championship and have the Northwest's second Heisman Trophy winner. This week it is doubtful they will win their two last remaining games. Kearse, Ta'amu, Bruns, and Middleton are going to get a good look at Oregon's future without Dennis Dixon, and Jonathan Stewart. It won't be pretty.
California, and Oregon are Washington's main competition in recruiting on the West Coast. With a decisive win over California yesterday, and a rapid fall for Oregon, Washington is in a position to make up some serious ground over the next few weeks.
For Willingham it wasn't the signature victory the program has been lacking. Lets face it, California was beat up coming into this game. Their heads were certainly not in the right place from the moment they hit the field and bungled the coin flip. Still it was a powerful win over an opponent that is better than us on paper.
Ty needs to beat WSU next week to come back next season, and I am pretty sure he and his team are going to do it. Knock Hawaii out of a BCS Bowl the following week, and he just might have the opportunity to retire at Washington.
This team is getting better, and next year if they can fill some holes on the defensive line they are going to be pretty damn good.
What a difference a week makes.