The local and national media are focusing today on the penalty for unsportmanlike conduct on Jake Locker. It was a questionable call but let's set that aside and focus on the reality. You need to be able to hit a 34 yard field goal at the end of the game. The PTA never even got up in the air as the try was muffed then snuffed at the line of scrimmage after BYU sent all eleven players after it.
It is year four in the tenure of Tyrone Willingham and this team still is a day late and a dollar short at crunch time. The terrible call doesn't disguise that this team was once again outplayed in the fourth quarter and was deficient on special teams.
The Husky defense once again was gassed in the fourth quarter as BYU marched down the field at will. Only a BYU fumble at the goal line kept this game from getting put away earlier. BYU converted yesterday on 12 of 14 third downs opportunities. You can't win football games playing like that.
Washington simply lacks the talent on defense to compete against top twenty type opponents and most Pac Ten teams. Name one difference maker on defense that has emerged since Willingham has been here? Where are the all Pac Ten type of players that used to populate the Washington defense?
A very telling sign about the state of the defense is that two walk ons have become starters in 2008. I have nothing against walk on football players but you don't win when you end up relying on them to start football games.
Lets take safety for example where the 26 year old Tripper Johnson has emerged as a starter when UW goes with three safeties. Johnson is a serviceable player in his first year that would be a welcome addition to special teams. Since Darin Harris is likely out with a concussion for next week Tripper is going to start next to Nate Williams against Oklahoma.
In a perfect world Jason Wells and Nate Williams are your starters backed up by Darin Harris and Victor Aiyewa. Johri Fogerson, Greg Walker and Vince Taylor are behind them learning the position while redshirting this year. Tripper would be contributing on special teams.
In Willingham's world Fogerson starts the season over at the crowded TB position with little chance of immediate playing time. Taylor shows up late to camp and is shuffled to wide receiver.
What is wrong with this picture is that it became evident very early in camp that Jason Wells was probably not going to be able to play this year. The situation got worse when Victor Aiyewa suffered a nasty groin pull that has sidelined him the first two games. The situation became critical when Darin Harris was taken off the field on a stretcher yesterday.
So now you have Tripper Johnson as your starting safety against Oklahoma with Johri Jogerson backing him up after two weeks of practice at the position.
I hate to use hindsight but if they had started Johri Fogerson and Vince Taylor over on defense at the start of camp they would both be playing ahead of Tripper Johnson and the losses at the position wouldn't be as critical as they now are headed in to the Oklahoma game.
Don James won games with defense and special teams first and offense second. He truly believed that special teams made up 1/3 of the contest and if you could win that area every week it would give you a shot to beat teams that had more talent on the roster.
In year four of Ty Willingham the defense is still giving up nearly 500 yards per game and even worse the Huskies seem to have been outperformed every single week on special teams since he arrived on campus. You can't lose 2/3 of every game and expect Jake Locker to make up for it each week.