SEATTLE – It’s become a familiar scene on Saturdays in Montlake.
Dejected players walk through the tunnel, exiting a half-empty Husky Stadium, then Tyrone Willingham jogs in behind them wearing the same stern look he has had on his face for most of his tenure at Washington.
On this particular afternoon, Oregon State was the visiting team enjoying a victory over the Huskies, a 34-13 win that gave the Beavers five straight in the series and drops the Huskies to 0-6 for the first time they opened the 1969 season with nine straight losses.
The homecoming loss was played in front of a crowd announced as 63,996, though far fewer fans than that were on hand to witness Washington’s eighth straight loss.
As Yogi Berra famously said, it’s like déjÀ vu all over again.
“It gets old every Saturday night,” defensive tackle Johnie Kirton said. “The feeling, it gets old and something needs to change.”
Though Kirton was talking about turning things around when he mentioned change, it’s getting harder as the season goes on to imagine a situation in which a coaching change doesn’t happen at some point. The loss drops Willingham to 11-31 at Washington, and barring a six-game winning streak to end the season, a coaching change seems inevitable.
But even though Willingham’s job status has become the biggest story surrounding the team, players say it’s not a distraction.
“Not at all,” sophomore safety Nate Williams said when asked how much they are distracted by the talk. “We hear it and we know it’s happening and everything, but we know that we have a job to do on Saturday whether he’s here or not. … We have a job no matter what, and that’s to go out here on Saturday and compete and play. We just have to elevate our game a little bit and try to take it to the next level and try to turn this thing around as soon as possible.”
This loss had ugly bookends for Washington – a delay of game penalty on the first play from scrimmage, and an inability to score late in the fourth quarter with four cracks from the 1-yard line – and things weren’t much better in the moments in between.
Asked how the offense failed to get a play off on the first play of the game, offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said, “I don’t have any idea what happened on that. I have no clue.”
The Huskies’ final scoring chance, which consisted of four straight runs for no gain, probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome – the Huskies were down 34-13 with less than 2 minutes to play – but it was still a frustrating way to end the game.
OSU’s James Rodgers finished with 110 rushing yards on three carries and had three catches for 55 yards. He also had 53 yards on two kick returns. Though he finished with less than his conference-leading average, younger brother Jacquizz Rodgers still gained 94 yards and scored one touchdown, though the Huskies held him to just 25 yards in the first half.