SEATTLE – All the talk sounded promising from Tyrone Willingham and his Washington players.
Finish games. Be strong in the second half. No more lulls or lapses letting winnable games slip away in the final two quarters. Sounded great, right?
Then the Huskies went out and got outscored 30-0 in the second half of their season-opening 44-10 thrashing by Oregon, only continuing a trend of second-half failures that have dotted Willingham’s tenure at Washington.
Granted, it is just one game into the 2008 season. But seeing a 14-10 halftime deficit rapidly morph into a 34-point rout only adds to a series of struggles after halftime that Washington has faced, all the way back to Willingham’s first game in 2005 when Air Forced rallied from 11 down in the fourth quarter for a 20-17 win.
“We’ve talked about: One, we as coaches making sure we put them in the right place. Two, making sure we have the physical conditioning and stamina to get it done and three, making sure our young men have the internal confidence so they can finish the ball games,” Willingham said. “You try to work at all of those to make sure you have it pinpointed, targeted and everybody can execute in those three areas.”
Obviously, some area is lacking. In Willingham’s 37 games at Washington, the Huskies have won once when trailing at halftime. That came in 2006 when Washington rallied from a 16-7 halftime deficit to beat UCLA 29-19. Only twice has Washington pulled away from a halftime tie for victories, and in Willingham’s other eight victories, the Huskies have held at least a touchdown lead at halftime.
What bothers Washington fans to no end is the list of close games at halftime that followed a similar path as last Saturday.
“It’s mental toughness. We’ve got to be finishers,” offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said. “We’ve got to be able to fight through those lulls in the third quarter.”