UW Football | Tough beginning for Ronnie Fouch
Saturday's loss was so demoralizing it caused yet another statement by athletic director Scott Woodward that he doesn't plan to fire Tyrone...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Saturday's loss was so demoralizing it caused yet another statement by athletic director Scott Woodward that he doesn't plan to fire Tyrone Willingham anytime soon. But the statement overshadowed what normally would have been one of the biggest stories of the season — the first career start for quarterback Ronnie Fouch.
Fouch, a redshirt freshman, took every snap of UW's 48-14 loss at Arizona Saturday in place of an injured Jake Locker, who is out six to eight weeks with a broken thumb.
Fouch's numbers weren't overly impressive — 12 of 28 for 181 yards, one touchdown and one interception — but coaches felt that it was a serviceable enough first start.
"He's good enough to win with," offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said. "I thought he threw some nice balls [Saturday night] in some tough situations into the wind in the third quarter and the first quarter. That wasn't easy."
Willingham said he thought Fouch "played OK. A lot of times, we didn't do all the things we needed to do to give him the assistance we needed. But I thought he gave a good effort."
Fouch wasn't helped by throwing to a makeshift receiving corps that was without leading receiver D'Andre Goodwin. Goodwin played just one play due to rib injuries. The loss of Goodwin caused Willingham to play true freshman Cody Bruns in the second half, a decision that angered some fans who wondered what the point was of putting him in a game that was 38-7 at the time. Bruns, on the field for just a handful of snaps, became the 12th true freshman to play this season.
But Lappano said the blame for another mostly ineffective offensive performance should fall on a running game that was again unable to get much going.
Coaches hoped the Huskies would be able to use the size advantage of a veteran offensive line to run up the middle against an Arizona defense that two games ago allowed 221 rushing yards at New Mexico. The Huskies had been able to run well on the Wildcats in each of their last three meetings, including wins in Tucson in 2005 and 2006.
"We wanted to establish some type of run," Lappano said. "But we struggled with that in the first half. I thought we could knock them off the football — we had some size on them. But there wasn't a whole lot of room to run the football to give Ronnie the best chance to win."
Being unable to find a consistent running game, however, is just one of many disappointing elements of this season that again reared their heads at Arizona as UW fell to 0-5 for the first time in 39 years, a start that seems certain to spell the end for Willingham. Woodward reiterated afterward that he doesn't believe philosophically in midseason coaching changes and that he plans to wait until after the schedule is completed to assess the coaching situation.
But Woodward called a performance in which the Huskies couldn't stop Arizona's running or passing attack "not good." The Huskies trailed 48-7 at the end of three quarters, and again had sloppy special-teams play that included allowing a 48-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Washington fell behind 17-0 in the first quarter when Arizona decided to kick off and take an 18-mph wind at its back. Arizona used that wind to continually pin UW deep in its own territory and gain good field position on short punts to set up its first three scoring drives.
While patterns of poor play all over the field now seem well-established for a UW team that has lost seven in a row dating to last year — the longest active losing streak in the nation — Willingham said he continues to have faith the team can reach its preseason goals of a winning season and a bowl game.
"I still go along with that," Willingham said, adding that "we can do better. We can play better."
And for the second time in three weeks, the Huskies will have a bye to try to achieve the massive improvement that is necessary to win games the rest of the way. UW next plays at home Oct. 18 against Oregon State.
Fouch insisted that the Huskies will come ready to play in that game, both for themselves and for Willingham.
"A lot of us, the reason we came here is for coach Willingham," he said. "So we are not going to give up on our head coach. We all came here for him, and we are going to keep fighting and battling no matter what it takes. We are not going to give up this season."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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UPDATE - 10:18 PM
Washington State's Klay Thompson will play Thursday against Huskies