Washington Huskies preview

When the University of Washington Huskies face off against the University of Southern California Trojans this coming Saturday, it will be helpful to keep in mind a few sayings, which are prominent around the college football world. "They don't play the games on paper." "Any team can beat any team on any given Saturday." And, "I before E except after C."

When the University of Washington Huskies face off against the University of Southern California Trojans this coming Saturday, it will be helpful to keep in mind a few sayings, which are prominent around the college football world.  "They don't play the games on paper."  "Any team can beat any team on any given Saturday."  And, "I before E except after C."  Although, at the season's midpoint, the Huskies are not where they thought they would be when first glancing at the schedule in mid-August, they will look to test the Trojans and become the first team to hand USC a loss in 2004.


            Okay, that's enough.  I tried to make this sound like it could be a game.  Like the Trojans would need you at the Coliseum to help swing momentum and fire up the team to play a gritty team from Washington.  At a time when the teeming Trojan fans are slowly but surely making their way up the "home field advantage" top ten list, I tried to make this sound like a game.  I just couldn't keep a straight face while doing so. 


            The truth is that when the Huskies march… no, limp into the Coliseum on Saturday, it could present one of, if not the most, lopsided mismatch of a college football season that has already seen SEC West leader Auburn take on that football powerhouse of the University of Louisiana-Monroe.  Washington has already lost this year to Oregon State by 15 points, which lost to Cal by 42, which came up 6 points shy of these Trojans.  Now, I know it doesn't work this way and I'm not truthfully expecting a 63-point margin of victory.  However, if the Huskies really want a chance in this game, they'd better make sure that the Trojan coaches as well as every first stringer are throwing out the first pitch in Boston, or somehow incorporated in the World Series Game One festivities.  This game could make the Trojans contest against Arizona State look like an overtime thriller.



Huskies on Offense:


Quarterback - #4 Isaiah Stanback


            Isaiah Stanback was the number three quarterback for the Huskies coming into the season.  He was firmly entrenched behind starter Casey Paus and backup Carl Bonnell until injuries forced Stanback into last weekend's game against Oregon State.  As an option quarterback with a relatively strong, accurate arm, he was probably the best of the three quarterbacks to face this Trojan defense anyway.  How many teams can say that their starting quarterback was their kick-off return specialist during the previous year?  The Trojan defense was tested by the option run of Virginia Tech in the season's opening game.  Stanback and the Huskies will test just how far the Trojans have come in their understanding of, and ability to stop this plan of attack.  Stanback has rushed 19 times on the season for 66 yards and a touchdown.  However, Stanback is valuable as a quarterback because he can also move the ball through the air.  While he won't be confused for Warren Moon, he passed for over 200 yards and 2 touchdowns against a good Oregon State secondary.  In all probability, he's not going to lead his Huskies to a victory in the Coliseum, but if he's allowed to get into the open, he could provide them with some big plays.  However, Stanback may have already made his first mistake of the game, saying that nobody will be intimidated by the number one ranking of this USC team.  Isaiah, I know you're somewhat new here, but quarterbacks who mouth off before stepping in to face the USC Trojans are usually singing a different tune by the game's third play.  Ask Casey's brother.


Running back - #8 Kenny James


            Kenny James has emerged as the number one running back for the Huskies in 2004.  He's really been their only consistent means of moving the football.  He leads the team in all-purpose yards with 504 rushing yards on 105 carries and 27 receiving yards on 6 catches.  His five touchdowns (all on the ground) also lead the team.  He's not a dominant back, but he is averaging almost five yards per carry and is difficult to bring down in the backfield.  He'll need to be quick to get outside on the option against this speedy Trojan defense.  His pass blocking skills will also be tested if USC decides to bring pressure against a relatively untested quarterback.


Wide Receivers – A booth will be set up at the Husky pre-game tailgate.  They will be asking for volunteers to fill the position for Saturday's game.  Those who give strong performances may be asked to stay on for the remainder of the year.


            The wide receiver position for the Huskies has been absolutely decimated by injuries.  They will face the Trojans without three of their top four pass catchers.  The only wide receiver that will pose a threat to the Trojan defensive backfield is sophomore wide-out Sonny Shackelford.  He's hauled in 12 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown on the year.  However, because of the loss of star receiver Charles Frederick, and impact guys like Quintin Daniels and Corey Williams, and also with the addition of an option quarterback, Shackelford could and should be bottled up by the Trojan pass defense.


Tight End - #83 Joe Toledo


            Along with the running back position, tight end is one of the two positions on offense where the Huskies have their number one option going for them on Saturday.  Toledo ranks fifth on the team with seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown.  However, he plays an important position on this team.  Opposing offenses have found ways to incorporate their tight ends into the passing game with regularity against this Trojan defense.  Shutting down Toledo will be a tough chore, but, with the state of the Husky passing game, it will go a long way towards keeping this Husky offense stalled.


Offensive Line –


            The offensive line is without outstanding senior tackle Khalif Barnes.  However, they've played admirably, opening holes for running backs and protecting their quarterbacks.  At this point in the season they've only given up 9 sacks.  But they've yet to face a defense as good as the one the Trojans will bring.  In all probability, the scrambling ability of Stanback will be the only thing keeping the Trojan defensive line in check and that sack total from ballooning up towards 20.



Huskies on Defense


Defensive Line - #94 Jordan White-Frisbee, #7 Greyson Gunheim, #97 Mike            Mapuolesega, #56 Manase Hopoi


            As with every other position, the defensive line has been hit with injuries, leaving true freshmen Jordan White-Frisbee and Greyson Gunheim seeing significant action on the line.  The only positive news for the Huskies comes at this position where Mike Mapulosega is back from, you guessed it, a leg injury that kept him sidelined for four games early this year.  Manase Hopoi will be representing one-quarter of the starting seniors for the Huskies and has played well this year, totaling 5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.  However, as a whole, the defensive line for Washington has been tested this year and has not responded up to usual Husky standards.  The defense has allowed 1,121 rushing yards through six games on an average of 4.5 yards per rush.  Meanwhile, Maurice Drew just broke free for another 25-yard gain.


Linebackers - #53 Joe Lobendahn, #27 Evan Benjamin, #4 Scott White


            Joe Lobendahn, Evan Benjamin and Scott White rank one, two and three on the team in tackles and are all in the top ten in the Pac-10 in that category.  This is partly due to their athleticism and ability to be in the right place at the right time, but mostly due to the fact that they play about 4.5 yards behind the line of scrimmage and the defensive line has been getting knocked around like one of those bottom-heavy clown punching bags.  Lobendahn comes into the game with 69 tackles, Benjamin has chipped in with 62 and White has been a force on defense with 53 tackles including four sacks of the quarterback.  They've also combined for 22.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.   While these linebackers have put up impressive statistics through the first six games, they are the same group of guys that Reggie Bush toyed with last year in catching 5 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns.  It could be a long day for this group as they'll have to deal with Bush again as a receiver as well as take a pounding from LenDale White on the ground.


Safeties - #8 Dashon Goldson, #1 C.J. Wallace


            Dashon Goldson and C.J. Wallace have done a good job against the pass this year for the Husky defense.  They've helped limit the opposition to less than 180 passing yards per game, but are allowing a 7.0 yards per pass average.  Goldson is a hard hitter who can step up in the running game.  He's delivered 32 tackles on the year, picked off a pass and pounced on two fumbles.  Wallace has 27 tackles on the year.  Goldson and Wallace will be tested against this newfound Trojan passing attack.


Corner backs - #21 Derrick Johnson, #5 Sam Cunningham


            Derrick Johnson and Sam Cunningham are two of the four starting seniors for the Huskies.  Their experience will be valuable in trying to contain the talented but inexperienced Trojan receivers.  Johnson is fourth on the team with 33 tackles including a quarterback sack while Cunningham is responsible for two of the team's six interceptions.  Both corners stand at 6'0" so while the height mismatch against Dwayne Jarrett and Chris McFoy isn't huge, it's there.  Because of the success teams have been having utilizing the run against Washington, Johnson and Cunningham have yet to prove that they can shut down top-notch receivers.  And, with the emergence of Dominique Byrd, as well as the other Trojan tight ends and fullbacks in the passing game, Johnson and Cunningham will probably be left covering the wide receivers one-on-one for most of the game.  This match-up will be fun to follow as the experience of the Washington DBs will be up against the youth and exuberance of all of the Trojan receivers.


Huskies on Special Teams


Kicker - #14 Michael Braunstein


            Michael Braunstein relieved starting place kicker Evan Knudsen after Knudsen missed the opening two kicks of the season against Fresno State.  Braunstein made his first kick from 25 yards, but since then has only made two of four, converting from 29 and 26 yards and missing both from 47 yards out.  Kick off duties have been split this year between kicker Evan Knudsen and punter Sean Douglas.  Neither kicker has put a ball in the endzone yet and head coach Keith Gilbertson will either have to devise a way to keep the ball out of Reggie Bush's hands on kickoffs or practice holding his breath.


Kick Returner – Whoever the back judge is for Saturday's game.


            Who cares who is returning kick-offs for Washington when Trojan kicker Ryan Killeen is booming the ball 5 yards out of the end zone?  In all actuality, the real question this week is whether or not Killeen can start putting them through the uprights.


            The Washington Huskies have had a rough go of it this year with their only win coming against San Jose State.  The injuries have been a major reason for the Huskies' poor play heading into this weekend's game.  However, turnovers have been just as an important reason for their lack of success.  The Huskies have turned the ball over a ridiculous 20 times during their first six games, including an unthinkable seven times in their loss to Oregon State.  While Washington would be capable of putting together a complete game and providing a bit of a challenge to the number one ranked Trojans of Southern California, they would need a great game from their "A" team.  Unfortunately for the Husky faithful, almost the entire purple and gold clad "A" team will be watching this game from the bench.  The Trojans will help the Huskies continue to turn the ball over and will send them back to Washington having secured their first losing season in 27 years.

Erik McKinney is a senior majoring in creative writing.  He can be reached at mckinno22@yahoo.com


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