By Kyle Kensing
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 10, 2005
Wins have not come easily for Washington football head coach Tyrone Willingham in his first season at the helm of the Husky program.
In fact, Washington, Arizona's opponent Saturday at Arizona Stadium, has just one of them, a 34-6 decision against Idaho Sept. 17, in a season plagued by an NCAA-imposed probation and on-field mistakes.
Never mind the Huskies' record, though, said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops, who called Washington a "dangerous" team with Willingham's leadership.
"Their kids play hard, and they're well-coached," Stoops said. "Tyrone has proven that everywhere he's been."
A seasoned coaching veteran of 28 years, Willingham took his first head position at Stanford in 1995 and immediately turned around a program that in the two seasons prior to his arrival went 7-14-1.
He amassed a 44-36-1 record with the Cardinal, including a 9-3 2001 campaign that included a defeat of Oregon, the Ducks' lone blemish that season.
In 2002, Willingham took over at Notre Dame and won national coach of the year honors his first season in leading the Fighting Irish to a 10-3 record.
Willingham returned to his Pac-10 roots this spring after he was released at Notre Dame amid controversy, taking over a once-proud program.
Under new guidance, the Huskies are hungry to win, said Arizona sophomore linebacker Spencer Larsen.
"They want it just as bad as we do," he said. "They've got a great coach, and they're disciplined."
Washington has been within single digits in points in three of its losses and held a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in a 21-17 loss at UCLA on Oct. 1.
In a phone interview Monday, Willingham said the psychology of winning plays a big role in a team's success.
"You learn how to (win) by actually producing it," he said. "You keep coaching the right way. You stay positive in your program. But you keep pressing your team forward with that one thought, that one goal."
Winning has not always been tough for Washington.
Just five years ago, the Huskies won a Pac-10 championship en route to a Rose Bowl win over Purdue and a No. 3 national ranking at season's end. The next year they played in the prestigious Holiday Bowl.
But NCAA infractions for recruiting improprieties between 2000 and 2003 and a gambling charge that led to a messy court battle between the university and former head coach Rick Neuhiesel will limit the program's recruiting efforts until February 2007.
In the meantime, Willingham has other headaches to deal with.
The Huskies' quarterback situation for this weekend came into question Tuesday, when sophomore Johnny Durocher was announced inactive for the next four weeks, courtesy of a wrist fracture suffered in an 18-10 loss to Oregon State last week.
Junior Isaiah Stanback, the Huskies' starter in seven games this season, and senior Casey Paus, last season's starter, will share repetitions behind center.
Joining the two quarterbacks in the backfield is 6-foot-1, 210-pound running back James Sims, a versatile performer who lines up at both halfback and fullback.
"James has been a young man that has been active in the process of trying to make this a good football team," Willingham said. "He's doing the things that winners do."
Sims racked up 140 yards on 24 carries two weeks ago at Arizona State in a 44-20 loss.