Pac-12: Keith Gilbertson

Tuiasosopo reuniting with Neuheisel

February, 24, 2011
2/24/11
11:11
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Marques Tuiasosopo and Rick Neuheisel made beautiful music together in 2000, when they both led Washington to a Rose Bowl victory and final No. 3 ranking. Now they are reuniting.

Tuiasosopo, one of the great Huskies quarterbacks, is leaving a post as an assistant strength coach at Washington for a similar job at UCLA, according to the Seattle Times.

While this is a minor staffing move, it's interesting to me.

I covered that 2000 team, which wasn't terribly talented -- the depth chart included few future NFL players -- but it just found ways to win. That's not what's interesting, though.

What's interesting is that Neuheisel's horrible parting at Washington transmogrified a certain segment of Husky fans, who decided to blame him for everything that befell the program afterward. And, of course, it forced these Neuheisel-haters to rationalize the 2000 season.

"It was all Tuiasosopo!" they would say.

"Bollocks!" I'd counter, ever the agitator "it was all Neuheisel." I'd then watch said Husky fan foam at the mouth. (A more savvy play for a Neuheisel-hater would be to cite offensive coordinator Keith Gilbertson, who was masterful in 2000).

What is notable is the loyalty that a vast majority of players on the 2000 team show Neuheisel. When I visited UCLA preseason practices in 2008, Derrell Daniels, a linebacker on the 2000 team, was working operations for the Bruins. He told me that Neuheisel had taken a contingent of former Huskies out to dinner at El Cholo in Santa Monica, including Hakim Akbar, Matt Rogers, Pat Reddick, Chris Massey, Ken Walker and others.

Tuiasosopo probably has plenty of personal reasons for taking a job at UCLA. He surely knows that Neuheisel is under a lot of pressure to win in 2011.

But it's also fair to say that former Huskies seem to have far different feelings for Neuheisel than Huskies fans, including one of the greatest to ever wear the purple jersey.

Pac-10 morning links: What will Sarkisian tell Huskies?

November, 27, 2009
11/27/09
9:36
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Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?
  • Juron Criner is coming into his own for Arizona.
  • Arizona State is playing a difficult game of quarterback roulette.
  • California's future looks bright at running back.
  • Kenny Wheaton's life has been about more than just the biggest play in Oregon football history. Oregon assistant -- and former Duck and NFL player -- Rashad Bauman knows love and tragedy.
  • Oregon State's Lyle Moevao is doing all he can to prepare Sean Canfield for Autzen Stadium. This link is all about the graphic on the left. That is funny.
  • Jim Harbaugh has some play-calling regrets from the Big Game.
  • UCLA DT Brian Price is thinking about his future. A lot is on the line -- in recruiting -- when USC and UCLA play.
  • USC RB Joe McKnight is leaning toward returning for his senior season.
  • A crack at what Steve Sarkisian might say to his Huskies as they get ready for the Apple Cup. Some Washington notes.
  • The Keith Gilbertson connection is deep with the Huskies, but it now extends to the Cougars. But the Cameron Elisara crossover might be more surprising.

2009 adds another chapter of UW-Arizona's history

October, 13, 2009
10/13/09
8:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

After the "Immaculate Deflection/Interception/Deception" decided the Arizona-Washington game, my first thought was "Wow."

Then I realized we shouldn't be surprised.

It might be one of the great secrets in college football that the Arizona-Washington series has produced as many wild, weird, meaningful and controversial finishes as any with which I'm familiar.

Consider.

1992: End of an Era

Top-ranked Washington, riding a 22-game winning streak and seeking its second consecutive national championship, is stunned -- first by quarterback Billy Joe Hobert's suspension after he admitted accepting a $50,000 loan from an Idaho businessman -- and then by Arizona, 16-3.

The extraordinary Don James Era would ingloriously and controversially end three games later -- after the Huskies lost the Rose Bowl to Michigan -- amid NCAA and Pac-10 investigations into the Hobert affair and recruiting violations.

The program went to six Rose Bowls and one Orange Bowl in 18 seasons under James.

It's been to one Rose Bowl since he "retired" 17 years ago.

1998: The Leap by the Lake.

Arizona quarterback Ortege Jenkins, in a desperation scramble with the clock ticking down its final seconds, met three Washington defenders at the 2-yard line.

Jenkins leaped toward them, flipped over them and landed on his feet in the endzone, which gave Arizona a 31-28 victory.

It became one of the great all-time highlight-reel plays.

The Wildcats would lose the next weekend at home against UCLA, 52-28, which would be their only defeat in the greatest season in school history.

Arizona beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl and finished 12-1 and ranked No. 4 in the country.

Washington fired Jim Lambright at the end of the season.

1999: The Drive

Washington produced one of the best drives in team history, going 80 yards in 17 plays -- knocking 9:13 off the clock in the process -- on its way to a 33-25 victory over the homestanding Wildcats, who began the season ranked No. 4 but ended up a disappointing 6-6.

A wild, post-game celebration breaks on the field out among Huskies players, coaches and fans. Roses are handed out. A fan produces a sign, "Rose Bowl Bound."

All the Huskies had to do to win their first Pac-10 championship since 1992 was beat a horrible, injury-ravaged UCLA squad and a horrible Washington State team.

Washington lost 23-20 in overtime at UCLA, inspiring more than a few snide comments about the premature post-game celebration.

Stanford went to the Rose Bowl.

2000: 22 points for Curtis Williams

A week after Washington safety Curtis Williams suffered a spinal cord injury at Stanford that would render him a quadriplegic -- and eventually kill him -- the then-seventh-ranked Huskies overcame a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit with a 22-point scoring barrage.

Running back Willie Hurst, a forgotten man much of the season, posted a pair of highlight-reel TD runs, and quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo scored the winning points from two yards out with 1:10 left.

Washington went on to win the Rose Bowl and finished ranked third in the country.

(Read full post)

Willingham was never a good fit

October, 27, 2008
10/27/08
5:26
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

In 2005, Tyrone Willingham took over a Washington program that was headed downhill. He resigned Monday because he did little to reverse the course.

 
 Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
 The Huskies have lost 13 of their last 15 home games under Tyrone Willingham.

The 2004 Huskies that got Keith Gilbertson fired after just two seasons went 1-11. That is an optimistic projection of where the currently winless team will end up this season.

How did a program that won the 1991 national championship and finished No. 3 in the nation as recently as 2000 win only 12 games over the past five seasons?

The easy answer is the program failed to recruit and then develop players who could compete in the Pac-10.

But Willingham, beyond his failure on the field and on the recruiting trail, was never a good fit.

His hiring split the fan base from the beginning and set up a nasty schism between fans focused on football and others who believed Willingham restored class and integrity to a program that had appeared out of control during the previous administrations.

Willingham was supposed to be a stabilizing presence after the tumultuous Rick Neuheisel tenure and the failed stop-gap that was Gilbertson's brief term.

When Gilbertson and then-athletic director Todd Turner agreed on a separation, Turner immediately fired up Huskies fans by announcing he wanted his new coach to have "pizazz."

Turner later would regret the word choice.

When he hired Willingham over then-Boston College coach Tom O'Brien -- after being spurned by California's Jeff Tedford -- the fan base was decidedly under whelmed.

Many Husky fans didn't believe a discard from Notre Dame was worthy of the UW post. They also didn't think Willingham was a very good coach. And they weren't shy about saying so on the high-traffic message boards.

"Anybody with half a brain can get on the Internet and say whatever they want -- pay no attention to that," Turner said at the time when asked about the vocal critics.

Of course, that comment immediately spawned a movement and a group of anti-Willingham UW fans that gained momentum and unofficial members with each dispiriting defeat.

While it might seem like 20-20 hindsight, Willingham immediately created consternation even among the more reasonable fans. He filled out his coaching staff with an inexplicable deliberateness, which crushed his initial recruiting effort.

His big name failed to generate any recruiting momentum. Elite in-state players like running back Jonathan Stewart and offensive lineman Stephen Schilling bolted for Oregon and Michigan, and Willingham's 13-member class finished ranked 10th in the Pac-10, according to most recruiting services.

He then imposed some of the nation's most restrictive policies on media and fan contact with the team. All practices were closed to reporters, which is unusual in the mostly open Pac-10. Big-time boosters didn't fare much better. The team hotel, long the social headquarters for fans who followed the Huskies the on road, was made off-limits.

Willingham never made much effort to connect with boosters, which isn't good for a program desperately in need of a massive and expensive stadium renovation.

Of course, all would have been forgiven if Willingham had won and recruited well. He did neither, though his 2007 recruiting class pushed into the top half of the conference rankings.

Sure, there are some "what if" moments.

Surging to a 4-1 start in 2006 and sniffing the national rankings, the Huskies nearly won at No. 3 USC before falling 26-20, as an official indefensibly stood over the ball as the final seconds ticked away and wouldn't let them run a final play from the Trojans 15-yard line.
But then dual-threat quarterback Isaiah Stanback broke his foot the following weekend against Oregon State. The season imploded amid a six-game losing streak.

The promise of a 2-0 start and a halftime lead over Ohio State in 2007 evaporated with another six-game losing streak.

And this year's only moment of any hope -- a controversial 28-27 loss to BYU -- quickly yielded, as losses piled up, to desperation and frustration. And then resignation.

Willingham is 11-32 in Seattle and is 2-16 since the 2-0 start in 2007. The Huskies are terrible on both sides of the ball, ranking 117th in scoring offense (16.1 points-per-game) and 115th in scoring defense (39.6 ppg).

Sure, the Huskies have been wracked by injuries. Sure, they are relying on way too many freshmen and sophomores. Sure, the brutal schedule has been unforgiving.

But Willingham has failed to do the job he was hired to do by every measure. He even admitted that when the announcement was made today.

"We didn't win enough games -- that's it," he said.

That is it.

And he leaves the program not well-positioned to win much anytime soon.

Pac-10 Morning: USC investigations, chocolate milk and more

July, 14, 2008
7/14/08
10:33
AM ET

Posted By ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Sure everyone had a weekend for the ages... For your consideration:

  • The LA Times asks the NCAA to explain -- in a general sense, without case particulars of course -- why it's taking so long to get a resolution in the Reggie Bush/USC case ... and, of course, the story comes with some Mayo. Many who don't regularly bellow "Fight on!" would love to see USC go down in flames, or at least believe the athletic program deserves something more than a slap on the wrist. This paragraph touches on a simple but pertinent point:

The Bush and Mayo cases epitomize an increasingly common situation, the NCAA chasing after marketers, financial consultants and runners, the shadowy figures who represent sports agents. This isn't like a coach handing over cash. These people operate on the fringe of college sports, where NCAA investigators have no subpoena power and no legal recourse against those who might lie.

USC's defense could be: plausible deniability. It could lean on the idea that this was not a "pay for play" scheme, and that those providing the extra benefits didn't represent the university or its interests.

However, the Times pointed out that escape won't necessarily be that easy:

Even if no one at USC provided extra benefits, the school could face penalties if investigators find a "lack of institutional control." The definition of institutional control is not as cut-and-dried as it is with other violations. Price talks about needing to "weigh the circumstances."

The package also includes a story on agent runners and an overview of the Bush/Mayo cases.

  • This is sad. Oregon redshirt freshman Todd Doxey, a 19-year-old safety, drowned Sunday on the McKenzie River. Here's something from Rob Moseley's blog that includes a statement from the school.
  • It didn't get them to a bowl game last year but Washington is still drinking its chocolate milk.
  • But it's not all chocolate milk and cake for the Huskies. The Seattle P-I reports on the sweat part of the UW off-season. This stood out:

This offseason, for example, the theme is "fourth quarter" and Greener's work is geared toward making sure the players aren't fatigued late in games. The Huskies yielded 139 fourth-quarter points last season -- an average of 10.7 per game.

  • Arizona State beat out UCLA, Washington and Washington State for a tight end recruit.
  • A UCLA linebacker is hurting but Josh Edwards should be ready for preseason camp, according to the LA Daily News.
  • Heisman Pundit looks at the 10 games that will be most telling in the Heisman race.
  • This story is about Hawaii's mindblowing travel expenses, but my guess is more than a few programs are feeling the bite of high travel prices, particularly on the spacious West Coast. It's certainly a lot more pricey to travel in the Pac-10 than the SEC.
  • Some of you might be wondering what's going on with former California and Washington coach Keith Gilbertson... here's an update.
  • Dance, Trojans! Dance! And shout, too.... A USC recruiting ritual on YouTube.

I dance like that after 32 ounces of coffee....

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