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October 28, 2008

Willingham's resignation could push Huskies

Two days ago, USC's upcoming game with Washington didn't have much flair.

There are the Trojans, winners of four-straight games by a combined margin of victory of 138 points. Then, there's Washington, one of two Football Bowl Subdivision teams still searching for its first win and minus its best player.

But Monday, word came that Tyrone Willingham wouldn't be head coach at Washington after the season.

"I think it definitely adds some spice to the game," USC offensive guard Jeff Byers said. "Their guys are going to be out and ready to play. They'll play good football. There's no question they have good athletes.

"We're expecting them to come out and play really well."

Carroll met with the media Tuesday at his weekly luncheon, and he said the Huskies could react to the news one of two ways.

Either the team could have any life sucked out of it, or as the Trojans expect, the Huskies could rally around the coach they've played for over the past four seasons.

"I think with the leadership they have and the strength of Tyrone, the way he's always handled his teams and all, they're going to be tough," Carroll said. "They're going to bring their best…

"I know I'm sure they have a really strong feeling about representing and doing a great job for him."

Willingham's hoping the same thing, that his resignation will be a rallying point for a team that's struggled epically in six-of-seven games.

"Their reactions will always be varied, but hopefully what we'll be able to do is really galvanize one reaction and come together as a football team and be prepared and give great effort, great energy and great focus to our next opponent," Willingham said.

Willingham's situation quite possibly would've been different had quarterback Jake Locker hadn't broken his right thumb in Huskies' loss to Stanford on Sept. 27.

"He hasn't been able to stay clear of injury issues. If he did, he would make a big difference on that football team. He'd make a big difference in the conference," Carroll said. "They'd beat people because he was out there, I think.

"I don't mean to put that much pressure on the kid, I just think he's that good."

If Locker's injury hadn't stacked the odds against Washington enough, Willingham's resignation has the team all the way backed into a corner.

Byers said he thinks the Huskies are ready to fight their way out.

"I think it'll motivate them. Ty Willingham's a great guy. He recruited me when he was at Notre Dame. He's very charismatic and definitely a players' coach," Byers said. "I'm sure the players up there love him, and I think they're just going to come out and play for him this week.

"That's tough. It's a tough situation to be in."

Wide receiver Patrick Turner said he expects the Huskies to play like a team with nothing to lose because now, it appears, everything has been taken away.

"I don't understand why it would happen during the season. I don't know why you couldn't just wait," Turner said. "I can't even imagine Coach Carroll telling us he was going to resign in the middle of the season. I'm glad we're not in that situation."


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