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Irish bury hapless Huskies

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Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd completes a touchdown as Husky sophomore Nate Williams watches after a failed tackle. Washington lost its seventh game this season 33-7 to Notre Dame Saturday.

Some in the college football world thought that Washington coach Tyrone Willingham’s history with Notre Dame might inspire the Huskies to turn in a better effort against the Irish Saturday.

They couldn’t have played worse.

Horribly inept in every phase of the game, Washington was held to 55 yards of total offense until late in the fourth quarter and offered no help to its less-than-spectacular defense in a 33-7 loss to Notre Dame in front of 70,437 people at Husky Stadium.

The loss eliminates the Huskies — now 0-7 for the year — from bowl contention, an embarrassment for Willingham. The embattled UW coach can no longer fulfill what amounted to an unofficial, winning-season-or-else preseason ultimatum, as he watched his team lose to the same program that fired him four seasons ago.

And the win may feel like poetic justice for Irish fans, some of whom still hold a grudge against Willingham for his lack of success while he was the head man at Notre Dame.

“It was a game that we seemed to be able to do very few things right,” Willingham said.

In front of a sold-out crowd and national television audience, the UW did nothing to prove it belonged on the same field as Notre Dame. The Irish scored on its first two possessions with ease, sucking the life out of a crowd that spent more time booing the Huskies than it did applauding them.

But they had an excuse on this night. The Irish (5-2) didn’t allow the Huskies to cross midfield until the fourth quarter, carried a 17-0 lead into halftime and put the game out of reach with a quick touchdown drive just over two minutes into the second half.

Washington achieved only nine first downs — just three in the first half — and finished with 124 yards of total offense, a number that was only as high as it was because of a 69-yard scoring drive late in the game.

“It’s almost unbelievable,” Willingham said of his team’s offensive futility.

On the rare occasion that UW quarterback Ronnie Fouch’s passes were on target, they were dropped. Fouch finished 11-25 passing for a woeful 98 yards. He was sacked four times and hurried all night by Notre Dame’s multiple blitzes.

“These guys make a lot of great catches, so I can’t get on them,” Fouch said. “It’s part of the game. They can’t catch every pass, and I can’t make every throw. I’m not the kind of guy that gets on my receivers when they drop balls because I miss just as many throws as they drop.”

The running game was just as bad. Terrance Dailey and David Freeman were equally ineffective, neither tallying a gain longer than eight yards. The UW finished with 26 yards rushing.

Even the punting was forgettable. Jared Ballman, who punted after each of the UW’s first nine possessions, averaged just 33 yards per punt, allowing Notre Dame to play with a short field all evening.

Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen and company took full advantage. Clausen didn’t have his best night passing ­— he finished 14-26 for 201 yards and a touchdown — but he did enough to allow the Irish to relax for the entire second half.

And even when the UW forced a turnover, it was bad news. On 4th-and-19 from the UW 32 yard line, Clausen had his pass tipped near the goal line. Washington safety Nate Williams came down with it and was then knocked down by teammate Mesphin Forrester at the one yard line — 31 yards deeper than if the pass would have simply fallen incomplete.

The Huskies’ only score came in garbage time, a six-yard toss from Fouch to D’Andre Goodwin late in the fourth quarter to avoid a shutout.

No. 5 USC awaits next weekend.

“I really don’t know,” linebacker Mason Foster said, when asked where any spark could come from. “Just keep playing hard ... something will change for us sooner or later, so you have to keep playing hard and keep having faith in our program and something will turn around.”

Reach reporter Christian Caple at sports@dailyuw.com.

Game in Review

Game in Review

Notre Dame: 33

Washington: 7

It was over when: James Aldridge scored on a four-yard touchdown run on Notre Dame’s first possession of the second half, opening the Irish’s lead to 24-0.

Player of the game: Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd had four catches for 107 yards, including a 51-yard TD catch on the Irish’s first possession.

Statistic of the game: 0 — the number of times the Huskies crossed midfield in the game’s first 54 minutes.

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