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Willingham Era Set To Get Underway Saturday
Release: 08/29/2005
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Aug. 29, 2005

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The Game: The Washington football team opens the 2005 season, its first under new head coach Tyrone Willingham, this Saturday, September 3, against Air Force at Qwest Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks. Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. and it will air live on ABC-TV to a regional audience. After the Air Force game, the Huskies remain at home for the rest of the month of September, playing host to California, Idaho and Notre Dame. The UW's first road trip comes Oct. 1 when the Huskies face UCLA at the Rose Bowl.

Huskies vs. Falcons History: Air Force has a 6-2 record in eight games all time against Washington, a record that includes two Air Force victories over top-10-ranked Husky teams. The bulk of the Air Force-Washington series came in the 1960s, when the two teams played four times in a five-year stretch. The Falcons upset 10th-ranked UW 10-7 in the first meeting in 1963, a season-opening game in Colorado Springs. Washington took a 7-3 lead on a 90-yard kickoff return from Steve Bramwell in the first quarter. However, with 1:34 left in the game, Terry Isaacson scored from six yards out to give the Falcons the win. The following season in Seattle, No. 7 UW lost, 3-2, in another season opener. The Falcons made a first-quarter field goal hold up as the Huskies' only points came on a fourth-quarter safety which Air Force took on purpose to kill the clock. Junior Coffey gained 140 yards for the UW, but couldn't get into the endzone. After a year off, the Falcons returned to Montlake in 1966, beating the UW, 10-0 as the Huskies managed only 124 yards of offense and turned the ball over five times. Washington finally got its first win in the series in 1967, a 30-7 victory at Air Force. In that `67 win, Husky QB Tom Manke threw for 202 yards and one touchdown and ran for 91 yards and another score. In 1980, the Falcons and Dawgs once again squared off in a season opener as 19th-ranked Washington won easily, 50-7, rushing for 257 yards and six touchdowns while passing for 335 yards and one score. On the game's third play, fullback Willie Rosborough took a pass from Tom Flick and went 84 yards for a score, the longest pass play in Husky history at the time. Toussaint Tyler rushed for 89 yards and three TDs and Flick threw for 316 yards. The last two meetings came in a span of only three games. In the 1998 Oahu Bowl in Honolulu, the Falcons handled the Huskies, 45-25, in the final game of Coach Jim Lambright's tenure. The Falcons rushed for 232 yards and threw for 267 behind QB Blane Morgan. Then, in the second game of the 1999 season, Air Force dropped the Huskies to 0-2 on the season with a 31-21 win at Husky Stadium. Scotty McKay rushed for 106 yards and quarterback Cale Bonds scored three times on the ground to lead the visitors. Braxton Cleman rushed for 100 yards for the UW and Marques Tuiasosopo was held to 195 yards, three interceptions and no touchdowns on 20-for-44 passing.

Willingham Era Set To Begin At Home on the Road: Washington opens the 2005 season with its first game under new head coach Tyrone Willingham in a "road game" that will be played only a few miles from Husky Stadium. The Dawgs' opener against Air Force will be played Sept. 3 at Qwest Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks, after the Falcons' home game was moved from Colorado Springs. The Huskies will play as the road team despite the fact that the distance between Husky Stadium and Qwest Field is about six miles while Falcon Stadium is about 1,400 miles away. Willingham, who previously served as head coach at Stanford (1995-2001) and Notre Dame (2002-2004), is the third Husky coach in the last four seasons and the fifth UW head man in the last 13 years. In his 10 total seasons as a head coach, Willingham has compiled a 65-51-1 overall record.

Television: The Washington-Air Force game will air live on ABC-TV to a regional audience with Dave Lamont, Tom Ramsey and Mark Morgan calling the action. The game will also re-air Sunday, Sept. 4 at 4:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Northwest, with Brian Davis and Sonny Sixkiller on the call. During the season, Husky games will air on FSN on tape delay Sundays at 3:00 p.m., except for the first two, which will be shown at 4:30 p.m. Additionally, "Husky Football All-Access" airs each Thursday at 7:00 p.m. during the season on Fox Sports. The program is an up-close look at each Husky game, with one-on-one interviews and sideline video.

Radio: The Husky Sports Network, with its flagship station KJR 950-AM, will carry the live broadcast of every football game to five different states and British Columbia, Canada, on 26 different radio stations. Longtime play-by-play man Bob Rondeau and color analyst Chuck Nelson are joined by sideline reporter Elise Woodward. Most broadcasts will also be carried on XM Satellite Radio on channel 194, 195 or 196.

The Coach: Tyrone Willingham was named Washington's 22nd head football coach on December 13, 2004. A former head coach at Notre Dame and Stanford, Willingham became the first African-American to serve as the Huskies head coach. While he brings an impressive resume with him to resurrect the Husky program, Willingham has acquitted himself well among his peers for much more than just fielding winning teams. Over the past 28 years Willingham has developed a coaching style that emphasizes toughness, enthusiasm, intelligence, discipline, commitment and unselfish play. The result has provided his players with more than just the opportunity to enjoy victories on the field. His guiding principles have prepared his players to be successful in life. Willingham, who turned 51 on Dec. 30, served as the head coach at Stanford (1995-2001) and Notre Dame (2002-2004) over the past decade. His Stanford teams enjoyed a 44-36-1 record while he was 21-15 with the Fighting Irish, including a 38-3 victory against Washington last season at Notre Dame Stadium. In his inaugural season with the Irish in 2002, he wasted no time reversing the tide of the Irish program, leading Notre Dame to a 10-2 regular-season record and a trip to the 2003 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. He was named Sportsman of the Year by The Sporting News after the 2002 season, while also picking up several national coach of the year awards. Prior to his tenure at Notre Dame, Willingham directed the Stanford program for seven seasons. In 1999, the Cardinal won the Pac-10 and earned a trip to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1972, earning Willingham Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors. He also led the Cardinal to the 1995 Liberty Bowl, the 1996 Sun Bowl and the 2001 Seattle Bowl. Willingham, who grew up in Jacksonville, N.C., played both football and baseball at Michigan State, earning three letters in both sports and was awarded the Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor as the outstanding scholar-athlete in the league. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater in 1977 and, aside from his two previous head coaching stints, has served as a full-time assistant at Central Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Rice and Stanford, as well as with the Minnesota Vikings

Pac-10 Double Dip: Having spent seven seasons as head coach at Stanford, Tyrone Willingham becomes the second head coach in UW history (following his predecessor Keith Gilbertson, who also was the head man at Cal) to come to Washington after having been head coach at another Pac-10 school. In fact, it's relatively rare for a coach to have served in that capacity at more than one Pac-10 institution. In recent years, Bruce Snyder (California and Arizona State), Dennis Erickson (Washington State at Oregon State) and Larry Smith (Arizona and USC) have done it. Earlier examples include Tommy Prothro (Oregon State at UCLA) and Washington's own Leonard "Stub" Allison, who coached one season at the UW (1920) before eventually spending 10 seasons as Cal head coach (1935-44).

Both Sides Of The Field: Tyrone Willingham will get the opportunity to pull off the somewhat rare feat of coaching a matchup from both sides in consecutive years this season when the Huskies take on Notre Dame Sept. 24 at Husky Stadium. Last year, Washington traveled to South Bend, where Willingham's Irish squad handled the Dawgs in a 38-3 win. The situation, however, is somewhat familiar to Husky fans, however. In 1999, in the UW's third game under coach Rick Neuheisel, Washington beat Colorado (Neuheisel's former team), 31-24. However, the Huskies hadn't previously played the Buffs since the 1996 Holiday Bowl. Facing his former school will not be a new experience for Willingham. While at Notre Dame he coached against Stanford, his first stop as a head coach, and Michigan State, his alma mater.

Willingham vs. The Pac-10: Thanks mostly to his time at Stanford, but also via frequent games vs. western teams while at Notre Dame, Tyrone Willingham has amassed a lengthy record against Pac-10 teams. Overall, Willingham is 47-28 against Pac-10 teams. Interestingly, his teams have struggled the most against Washington, as he's gone 1-6 against his new charges. Here's Willingham's record against each Pac-10 team: Arizona (2-3), Arizona State (4-3), California (7-0), Oregon (4-1), Oregon State (3-4), Stanford (3-0), UCLA (3-4), USC (4-6), Washington (1-5), Washington State (6-2).

Coaching Staff: Washington's new coaching staff, under first-year head coach Tyrone Willingham, includes a number of names that might be familiar to more savvy Pac-10 football fans. Willingham, of course, spent seven seasons in charge of Stanford, where he'd previously served as an assistant (1989-91) for three seasons. And, two members of the Husky staff from last season were held over as well, lending more than a little familiarity. Defensive line coach Randy Hart is now working for his fifth different head coach as a member of the Husky staff while linebackers coach Chris Tormey, is beginning his 15th season at the UW, spread over three different stints. Aside from those three, several other UW coaches have experience in or around the Northwest. Defensive coordinator Kent Baer has coached in the Pac-10 at California, Arizona State and Stanford, as well as at Idaho. Spokane native Tim Lappano previously worked at Idaho, Washington State, California, Oregon State and with the Seattle Seahawks. Receivers coach Eric Yarber, an Idaho grad, has spent time at his alma mater, with the Seahawks and at Oregon State while Mike Denbrock (offensive line) and Trent Miles (running backs) both worked one season each at Stanford. Only tight ends/special teams coach Bob Simmons, the former Oklahoma State head coach, and defensive backs coach Steven Wilks can't trace their coaching roots through the Pac-10.

The GAs: Washington's two graduate assistant coaches this season are Kyle Benn (offense) and Joey Hildbold (defense). Benn earned four letters as a center and was a captain on the 2001 team. That season, he was one of only two players named to the All-Pac-10 and Academic All-Pac-10 first teams. He is in his second season as a G.A. at his alma mater. Hildbold, a 2003 graduate of Notre Dame, was a punter for the Irish from 1999 to 2002. He was a two-time finalist for the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation's top collegiate punter.

Washington-Air Force Ties: Not unexpectedly, there has been little crossover between members of the Washington and Air Force coaching staffs, largely due to the fact that much of the Air Force staff have worked at the Academy for a long time while no Husky assistants have ever worked there. However, Air Force's halfbacks coach, Tim Horton, was an assistant coach at Appalachian State from 1990 to 1998, meaning that he was part of a staff that coached UW defensive backs coach Steven Wilks, who was a DB at Appalachian State from 1987-91. On the players' side, according to its media guide roster, there are three Air Force players from Washington: sophomore defensive end Noah Garguile (Bremerton), senior wide receiver Greg Kirkwood (Othello) and sophomore center Blaine Guenther, who was a teammate of UW quarterback Johnny Durocher at Bethel High. There are, however, no Husky players from the state of Colorado. Husky head coach Tyrone Willingham has coached in one game against Air Force, leading Notre Dame to a 21-14 win in 2002.

Season Openers: Washington is 79-30-6 all-time in season openers, good for a mark of .713. Since 1989, Washington has posted a 9-6 record in season openers - 5-1 at home and 4-5 on the road. In that 15-season span, the Huskies have opened vs. a ranked team eight times: vs. No. 15 Stanford in 1993 (W, 31-14), at No. 17 USC in 1994 (L, 24-17), at No. 20 Arizona State in 1996 (L, 45-42), vs. No. 19 BYU in 1997 (W, 42-20) at No. 8 Arizona State in 1998 (W, 42-38), vs. No. 11 Michigan in 2001 (W, 23-18), at No. 12 Michigan in 2002 (L, 31-29) and at No. 2 Ohio State in 2003 (L, 28-9).

Experience Abounds: Washington's 2005 roster includes an unusually large number of experienced players and starters. Officially speaking, the Huskies return eight starters on offense, nine on defense and both their starting punter and kicker. That total of 19 (out of 24) starters returning is already high, but doesn't even take into account the even larger number of players that have started a few times and even more that have seen significant playing time. A total of 18 players on this season's roster started at least one game on offense last season and 15 current Huskies started at least once on defense in 2004. Along with the two specialists, that's a total of 35 players that started at least one game last year. The two lines are especially experienced. Washington returns nine lettermen on the offensive line (that group has totaled 18 letters combined) and a stunning 11 lettermen on the defensive line (17 letters total). Clearly, the Huskies' least experienced unit is the cornerbacks. Only one current player (Matt Fountaine) has ever made a start at corner as a Husky, and he's made only two, including one as a nickleback.

Breaking Down the Numbers: Washington's running backs (tailbacks and fullbacks) accounted for 1,203 net rushing yards last season. A total of six of the seven ballcarriers return from last year's team who had a rushing attempt. Combined, that group accounted for 1,141 rushing yards, or 95 percent of last year's total ground gain. The only non-returner among the running backs is fullback Zach Tuiasosopo, who signed a free agent contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The receiving corps features seven wide receivers and tight ends who had at least one reception in 2004. Husky wide receivers and tight ends caught 135 passes for 1,863 yards. UW's seven returners at those positions accounted for 75 of those catches (55 percent) and 1,131 (61 percent) of the receiving yards. The top loss among the receivers was TE Joe Toledo, who moved to offensive tackle last spring.

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