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Husky Football Stumbles Turn Up the Pressure on Lake

The young coach's program is a mess right now across the board.
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Fans never cut you any slack. Lose a game, and they reactively want you fired. They can't help themselves. They're emotionally invested. 

Media members and former players, who typically get a closer look at the inner workings of each University of Washington football team, scoff at this while viewing themselves as honest critics but more restrained voices of reason. 

After a pair of disturbing Husky outcomes, those lines might be blurring. 

Hey, even the chronic whiners might be spot on.

Jimmy Lake's football program is a mess right now. Everyone is in agreement about that.

Dare we say this, the coach is in trouble.

On a day in which the direction of bitter rival Oregon took a huge step forward — with possibly the biggest victory in school history — the Huskies perilously went in the other direction.

These Northwest neighbors were separated by 190 miles of Midwest interstate, but they looked worlds apart.

Even shorthanded, the Ducks went into Ohio State, took every punch that was landed like the heroic Cinderella Man and walked away with an impressive 35-28 victory in Columbus, looking every bit like Russell Crowe in the gladiator pit as well as in the boxing ring.

The Huskies have been knocked out twice now. Left prone on the canvas, with people carefully stepping over them, in search of smelling salts. 

And not only has Lake's team lost, it looks and sounds lost.

In a postgame radio interview, junior wide receiver Terrell Bynum talked about the Huskies lacking emotion, this coming a week after senior edge rusher Ryan Bowman made a similar claim. 

This absence of juice would rest squarely on the head coach. 

Yet he has other problems.

The John Donovan-designed offense fools absolutely no one, from the FBS to the FCS. Tailback Richard Newton runs hard but way too high. Offensive linemen stand there, looking for someone to block. The guys holding the football behind them are getting splattered.

The other side of the ball is similarly unimpressive.

The defensive front has zero sacks, zero turnovers, zero to brag about. 

It's hard to say which is worse: an offensive line that opens holes for 50 net yards rushing or a defensive line that leaves holes open for 343 yards rushing.

That stuff is on the rest of the coaches.

The UW offense has been so incredibly bad, it would surprise no one if Donovan pulled a Randy Edsell, who suffered a couple of bad losses (with other Huskies, UConn's), and said to hell with it.

Scott Huff's offensive line has been so surprisingly ineffectual, one has to wonder if he's grown stale in his approach. This sudden falloff in line  play is new to him and his track record.

The Huskies don't have a Vita Vea up front. They look like the guys who Vita Vea eats for lunch.

Here's wondering if defensive-line coach Rip Rowan was promoted too soon or just unlucky when he got his big break. He's rotating defensive tackles nonstop, hurriedly looking for the next Levi Onwuzurike, Greg Gaines or Vea. He's still looking for him.  

Did you not notice that redshirt freshman Jacob Bandes made his first career start against Michigan?

You can't fix talent, but you can build strength and teach technique. In order to do the latter, you need disciplined players. 

Strong safety Dominique Hampton and offensive guard Julius Buelow showed the opposite against Michigan while haphazardly trying to establish themselves. They taunted or shoved Wolverines players in the heat of the battle and each drew a 15-yard penalty that led to opposing points and killed a UW drive, respectively.

This lack of composure is on the coach. It's up to him to instill that. Don James wouldn't permit anything else. 

Some people will say it's only two games for the UW and to be patient.

We say one bad outing is a symptom and two is a positive test or a trend that needs to be treated. That's not to say you can't fix things, but it gets a lot harder after the second misstep.

A week ago, Lake said everybody needs to work harder and come up with results. He sounded a little less convincing when he repeated it on Saturday night in Ann Arbor. Soon it could become meaningless words.

Twenty-one months ago, Lake was the prized assistant coach chosen and promoted to replace Chris Petersen. He was a first-time head coach with a lot of promise, someone who memorably said he would rely on Petersen's winning recipe.

Well, he's burned a couple of dishes now, spoiling a pair of dinner parties, one big gathering and one small one. He's no longer the golden guy. He's someone getting squeezed by an unforgiving game.  

If the aforementioned work ethic doesn't fix things, then the problem is clearly talent. And, if the talent's not there, the coaches won't be around long.

If the wins dry up in a big way, Lake will be asked to move on. Not this season, but fairly soon thereafter. By the way, four of the past six UW coaches left involuntarily.

Nobody wishes any of this on him, but sometimes the game punishes rather than rewards you, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Lake experienced this sort of unpleasantness in 2004 when he was part of Keith Gilbertson's ill-fated Husky staff that lost 10 of 11 games, when the bulk of the players proved to be not nearly as talented as they were when recruited, and everyone paid the price.

If the Huskies struggle against Arkansas State, look for a lot of rapid-fire personnel changes as things become even more tense. Don't be surprised to see talented young players such as freshmen quarterback Sam Huard and defensive tackle Kuao Peihpoa thrust into primary roles if the lack of success continues.

Fan backlash is one thing and difficult to ignore, especially if it shows up in the form of empty seats. Football carries a lot of fiscal responsibility and a downturn can be very expensive.

Concerned UW athletic department officials were seen huddling and talking in hushed tones following the Montana embarrassment. The conversation probably got a little louder over the weekend.

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