Nov. 10, 2006
SEATTLE (AP) - Keeping positive isn't easy for either Washington or Stanford right now.
And yet both have tangible goals when they meet on Saturday, but for far different reasons.
Despite a five-game losing streak, the Huskies (4-6 overall, 2-5 Pac-10) can becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2003 with wins over the Cardinal and in next week's Apple Cup at Washington State.
Meanwhile, Stanford would just like any type of victory -- ugly or perfect. The Cardinal (0-9, 0-6) remain on track to complete the first 0-12 season in Pac-10 history. Only four Pac-10 teams have ever gone winless for a season.
With games remaining against surging Oregon State and at California, the Cardinal appear to have their best chance at victory on Saturday.
"It's been a rough season for us," Stanford defensive end Pannel Egboh said. "You can sit and pout about what's been going on, or you can stay positive and try to build on what you did the previous week and get better."
Stanford would love any improvement from its offense, which hasn't found the end zone since the fourth quarter of an Oct. 7 loss at Notre Dame.
In its three games since, Stanford has been outscored 100-10, its only touchdown via an interception return in a 20-7 loss to Arizona on Oct. 14. The Cardinal have scored more than 10 points only once, when they blew a 20-point lead in a 35-34 loss to San Jose State.
The numbers show just how badly the Cardinal have been dominated. Stanford ranks last in the Pac-10 in scoring offense, scoring defense, rush offense, rush defense, pass offense, total offense and total defense. The team ranks among the bottom 10 in the country in 12 major statistical categories.
"I don't think anyone can anticipate the number of injuries we've had. That magnified our challenge," Stanford coach Walt Harris said. "Hopefully in the future they'll even themselves out and we won't have to deal with some of the things we've had to deal with this year."
With the lackluster numbers, the Cardinal could easily be overlooked. But for the second straight week, Stanford plays a team looking for a bounce-back win.
Last week, it was USC rebounding from its first regular-season loss in 32 games, with a 42-0 shutout. This time, it's the Huskies, who looked overwhelmed for the first time this season in their 34-14 loss to Oregon last Saturday. It was Washington's fifth straight loss -- two of the defeats in overtime on consecutive weeks.
"We fell off the last five games and we have to put ourselves in position for a bowl bid," Washington receiver Sonny Shackelford said. "The last five games have just not been good."
It will be Washington coach Tyrone Willingham's first game against his former school since he returned to the Pac-10. The Huskies and Cardinal didn't play last season, Willingham's first at Washington. Willingham coached Stanford from 1995-2001.
"He did an outstanding job here. He did a lot of things a lot of coaches didn't have an opportunity to do here," Harris said.
Willingham tried to re-ignite his players this week, opening up competition for the starting quarterback, running back and some offensive line positions. Carl Bonnell and Johnny Durocher split QB snaps in practice.
After missing the last two games with a sprained ankle, running back Kenny James is expected to start ahead of Louis Rankin. James' return should help a running game that had a meager 13 yards on 21 carries against Oregon.
Willingham knows the consecutive losses are wearing on his players. After a 4-1 start, a bowl game seemed a certainty. Now, the Huskies need a final surge and some help to play in December.
"I hope there is an ill feeling about losing, whether it's one, two, three or seven. I hope that doesn't sit well with them," Willingham said. "But what I hope is it's not a burden we can't discharge and move forward and play the next game."