Huskies Thinking Upset at No. 3 USC

Oct. 6, 2006

SEATTLE (AP) - Off to a surprising 4-1 start this season, theWashington Huskies are thinking big this week. Their goal is tobeat Pac-10 kingpin USC in Los Angeles.

'You've got to keep a certain mindset about going down there towin,' UW coach Tyrone Willingham said Thursday.

Despite Washington's fast start, with consecutive victories overFresno State and UCLA in Seattle and at Arizona last week, theHuskies were listed as 19-point underdogs against the third-rankedTrojans for Saturday's game.

Last October in Seattle, the high-powered Trojans rolled overthe Huskies 51-24 behind the passing of Matt Leinart and therunning of LenDale White and 2005 Heisman Trophy winner ReggieBush.

But the Huskies are feeling euphoric after winning more games intheir first five starts in Willingham's second season at Washingtonthan the three victories they managed in 2004 and 2005 combined.

They're knocking on the door of a ranking in the Top 25. Even intheir lone loss at Oklahoma, they were tied at halftime.

'I honestly think we've gotten a lot of attention,' Willinghamtold reporters at his final Seattle news conference before theHuskies fly to Los Angeles. 'It's good. Hopefully, we're makingprogress and moving forward.'

The confidence of the Huskies coaching staff has rubbed off onWashington's players. The Huskies haven't beaten the Trojans since2001, when they won 27-24 at Husky Stadium in Rick Neuheisel'snext-to-last season at Washington, but this year's players thinkthey have the talent to be winners.

'We still haven't put together a satisfying game, to us,' saidjunior defensive end Greyson Gunheim, who said the Huskies wouldlike to go from 1-7 in the Pac-10 to 8-0 in the conference thisseason. 'We're trying to chase perfection.'

Then Gunheim noted that Leinart and Bush are playing in the NFLthis season.

'I don't think (the Trojans) have as much talent as they didbefore,' he said.

Senior wideout Sonny Shackelford, favorite target of seniorquarterback Isaiah Stanback this season with 21 receptions for 315yards and five touchdowns, is even more confident than Gunheim.

'I feel like we've got this thing rolling,' said Shackelford,from Beverly Hills High School in the Los Angeles area. 'We knowwe can win. We know we can play with anybody, rather than justsaying it.'

Washington football is catching back on in Seattle, too. In theHuskies' opener on Sept. 2, only 52,256 fans turned out,Washington's smallest home crowd since 50,410 saw Arizona State onOct. 3, 1981.

Last Saturday night, almost 7,000 people nearly filled HecEdmundson Pavilion on the Washington campus to watch aclosed-circuit TV broadcast of the Arizona game.

The Huskies players have noticed.

'They're really behind us right now,' Gunheim said. 'It feelsgreat to be here right now.'

It won't be easy for the Huskies in the Los Angeles Coliseum.Washington ranks last in pass defense in the Pac-10 going into thegame, giving up 235.6 yards through the air, against a USC offensethat features new starting quarterback John David Booty, who isaveraging 241.5 yards passing.

But the Huskies will be helped if All-America wide receiverDwayne Jarrett is out again with a shoulder injury. Jarrett waslisted as questionable on Thursday.

Willingham enjoyed a 4-3 coaching record against USC when he wasthe coach at Stanford (1995-2001), but he went 0-3 when he coachedNotre Dame (2002-2004) and is 0-1 at Washington. He's confident,but he's also realistic.

As he wrapped up his news conference Thursday, a Seattlenewspaper columnist wished him good luck in Los Angeles.

'We need it,' he said as he hurried out of the room to get tothe Huskies' practice.Notes: Willingham said he expects to have starting tight endRobert Lewis available for the USC game. Lewis, a junior, broke abone in his foot in the San Jose State opener and hasn't playedsince.

Now on Pac-12 Network
12:00 AM PT

Airing on:

  • Pac-12 Network
Get Pac-12 Networks
Pac-12 Networks Channel Finder