SEATTLE There's a storm brewing around Husky Stadium, and it has nothing to do with the Emerald City's reputation for wet weather.
Rain is not in the forecast Saturday when No. 15 BYU (1-0) visits Washington (0-1). But the winds of discontent are swirling here after coach Tyrone Willingham's team was trounced at Oregon in its season-opener last Saturday, 44-10.
Willingham has been under intense pressure for a while. The program is in turmoil, and critics there are many here are howling in the wake of the Huskies' 10th loss in their last 12 games.
In his fourth season at the helm, having compiled an 11-26 record during that span, Willingham is sitting squarely on the hot seat, and it's expected that he will be fired if he doesn't lead the Huskies to a bowl game this season.
Trouble is, Washington plays one of the toughest schedules in the country besides BYU, the Huskies host Oklahoma, Oregon State, Notre Dame, Arizona State and UCLA, plus it has road games at USC and California. What's more, it fields a relatively young team eight true freshmen saw action last week against the Ducks.
The Huskies know they need to turn things around in a hurry after that debacle in Eugene. They get that chance against a nationally ranked Cougar team that owns the country's longest winning streak.
"Sometimes things don't turn out how you want them to, but you've just got to rebound," Washington sophomore linebacker Mason Foster told the Snohomish County Herald. "Coming home, a big home-opener against a highly ranked team, it would be great to show the fans that we're a better team than that. A big win at home would really start our season off right. It can't get any better than that."
A victory over BYU alone might not save Willingham's job, but it certainly would be a step in the right direction for a program that is steeped in tradition. And it would, at least for a time, quiet the rampant criticism.
BYU defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen said he "was very surprised" that the Huskies were routed by the Ducks. "I expected a closer game," he said. "That's not going to be the team we see on Saturday."
Willingham called his squad's performance last Saturday "disappointing all across the board. The most disappointing thing was that we didn't win."
Wins have been few and far between for Willingham, who was hired at Washington less than two weeks after being fired at Notre Dame in 2004.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall knows something about coaching at a high-profile program and something about what Willingham may be going through right now.
"I don't think I'm ever surprised at the amount of criticism or scrutiny a head coach has. It's part of the job," he said. "If you're not meeting expectations at a program that expects to win championships and Rose Bowls, in a visible market and a storied program, I think it comes with the territory.
"That doesn't mean it's an accurate depiction of what kind of coach he is, at least from a professional standpoint. As I watch the team, I think they're well-coached."
Fortunately for Willingham, he has quarterback Jake Locker. The 6- foot-3, 222-pound sophomore broke the Pac-10 record for rushing yards (986) by a quarterback last season as a redshirt freshman. He is one of only 19 players in NCAA history to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 in the same game.
"Locker is one of the best players in college football," Mendenhall said. "I haven't seen a team yet that's been able to run him down. He's physical with the football, he makes great decisions. He's difficult to tackle. He might be the fastest player on their team. That combination presents all kinds of problems."
Said Jorgensen: "Jake Locker is a great athlete. Our No. 1 priority is stopping him."
Washington offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said his offense will show more against BYU than it did against Oregon.
"We're going to be able to open it up a little bit more," he said. "We will be a little bit more wide-open in this plan. So yeah, you'll see some things that you haven't seen in a while."The Huskies hope one of those things is a victory.
No. 15 BYU (1-0) at Washington (0-1)
Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Net
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