UW coach likes spoiler role
By Brian McInnis and Dave Reardon
Tyrone Willingham didn't expect to play the spoiler role, but he'll take it.
The Washington coach said yesterday via teleconference that the visiting Huskies will embrace trying to end Hawaii's perfect season. If UH beats Washington on Saturday, the Warriors are 12-0 and probably on their way to a BCS bowl game.
"It's a great role to be in," Willingham said. "But I like every role; every role offers an opportunity. And the key is, can you embrace it, can you envision yourself being successful with it. And if you can, it's a lot of fun."
He believes that his team, led by multi-threat quarterback Jake Locker, has the discipline to remain sharp, despite the lack of any bowl incentive for themselves.
"I think the leadership of our team will kind of get to our guys," he said. "Obviously, it is a different environment. I don't have a head count for the number of guys who this will be their first time out of the continental United States. So, it will have some of those. But hopefully the way we'll do things will allow them to focus on winning the football game first, then see the beauty of Hawaii."
Washington's schedule was the polar opposite of Hawaii's in degree of difficulty, as the Pac-10 Huskies played six ranked opponents over the course of the season. The Warriors defeated their lone ranked foe, then-No. 17 Boise State, for the Western Athletic Conference championship last week.
The Huskies also beat the Broncos, 24-10, in September, but Willingham doesn't read too much into that or any perceived advantage over the WAC.
"Regardless of what league you come out of, you gotta play your best and if you execute, you have a chance to do that," Willingham said. "I think some years ago there might have been a distinct difference between the (conferences), but I think right now it's all football and everyone has talented players and good athletes."
He was especially impressed with Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan's quick release and the Warriors' starting receivers' ability to gain significant yards-after-catch.
"They're undefeated, playing very well, have one of the premier players in the country, so it would be the ultimate challenge for us, especially coming off a very tough loss last week and to an arch rival (42-35 to Washington State)," the coach said. "But I think our young men have the character and the courage and the leadership from within their peers to get it done."
ESPN's Sean McDonough ripped the condition of UH's athletic facilities near the end of Friday's broadcast of the Warriors-Broncos game.
"They were in our offices and made some comments and saw Cooke Field," coach June Jones said. "It's not anything that isn't known. I came here not for the facilities and our players don't come here for the facilities. They come here because it's a great place to live and a great place to play football."
Linebacker Solomon Elimimian said the facilities are among the worst he's seen.
"But facilities doesn't necessarily make the team. There's nothing we can do. We want great facilities, not for us, but for the guys coming behind us," Elimimian said. "We're not one of the worst teams in college football. We're up there. So we deserve better facilities."
The issue is unavoidable when recruits visit.
"We tell them the truth. You can't hide it and they're going to see it," Elimimian said. "Hawaii has other things to offer. The best thing on our team is the guys."
Quarterback Inoke Funaki and linebacker Brashton Satele and one other UH player had their helmets stolen when fans streamed on to the field after Friday's game.
Obviously, the Warriors would like them back.
"It's not the cost," UH spokesman Derek Inouchi said. "But it's the fact that the helmets are fitted to the guys' heads and it takes some time to break them in."