Steady improvement is what you want to have throughout the pre-Pac-10 season schedule. The Dawgs definitely improved the second half against Ohio State and likewise did the same thing against Indiana. There was evidence of tremendous halftime adjustments in both games.
You can choose to be negative about the way the season opened, it's much easier to look in that direction. But from a coach's perspective, this team appears to be getting better as games go on. That is great trait to be showing for a young team trying to become better.
After struggling in the first half against Indiana, the Huskies really got it going in the second half by scoring 28 points in the 3rd quarter. From then on, it was merely playing good defense and showing great sportsmanship by not running up the score on a team that was simply overmatched. I found it rather amusing that the Indiana coach would chose to complain about the officiating when his team simply quit competing after the Huskies put the pedal to the metal.
DiNardo should worry less about getting screwed by officials and more about building his team back in scholarship numbers. Indiana has only 64 kids on scholarship when you can have 85. Go figure… They have not been on probation or been docked. They have ran off their own players while others decided to transfer. Perhaps their focus should be on recruiting and not officiating.
Regardless, the Huskies got some excellent efforts out of their young kids but are really taking a hit at linebacker. The season-ending injury to Joseph Lobendahn plus the broken hand on Tyler Krambrink has really thinned the backer corps. Freshman Tahj Bomar has been pretty good on special teams to this point. However, he is still only 18 and a true frosh at that. Scott White has likewise been hobbled by a tight hamstring but must really step up with Lobendahn going down. Tim Galloway is the middle linebacker for now but has admittedly struggled in the first two games. Galloway has the experience factor so the Dawgs would like to be able to count on him these next two weeks to prepare not only for Idaho, but particularly for league play.
I could also see a position switch between Greg Carothers and Marquis Cooper. The coaches used Marquis on the outside for a speed pass rusher but he locked up with the offensive tackle instead of just using his speed to run around him. He still looks to be better suited on the outside and Greg could move inside where he can pursue both ways, and is actually about 20 lbs. heavier than Coop. Another true frosh, Rob Lewis, could also enter the picture on the outside but the real crisis is on the inside where the loss of Joe will be most felt. About the only good thing is that Joe has a redshirt year coming so he can get this season back.
The injury bug is also lurking around both corners who have had a fragile past as it is. Roc Alexander played sparingly and Derrick Johnson also got dinged against the Hoosiers. Chris Massey made some nice plays on the ball and actually deflected a couple of passes. Chris has been much maligned for his play. He always seems to be in good position but has had a problem making plays on the ball. He was better and Sam Cunningham also got some solid snaps. Redshirt frosh, Matt Fountaine, is waiting for his chance, which could come soon if there are any more injuries.
What really impressed me was how Cody Pickett and Reggie Williams decided to take over the game in the second half. Of course, rushing for almost 200 yards was encouraging but the additions of Zach Tuiasosopo and Isaiah Stanback to the arsenal really helped to improve the offensive production. Still it was Reggie's reception where he turned a 7-yard pass into a 70-yard touchdown that really ignited the team. He is simply the best we will ever see and we should all enjoy it while it lasts.
The running of the two redshirt freshmen backs, Shelton Sampson and Kenny James, was really a welcome sight and it appears that both could push, or at least complement, Rich Alexis. Did you notice how good Rich looked after they had gotten to play? The backfield is improving, the tight ends were all better and the offensive line was really improved by going to the older and more experienced guys. They tried a little too hard at first, but once they settled into the flow of the game, they began to dominate the line of scrimmage. No sacks and very few hits on Cody were an additional indicator that the Huskies are improving up front.
The whole team is improving and the kicking game continues to be solid. These are the things you hope to get done during your non-conference contests. Keep improving and no more injuries, please. Because when the Stanford game comes around followed by the first road game to UCLA, you want to really be hitting your stride. Win those two games and you're right in the hunt.
| Dawgman.com columnist and KJR 950 Sports Radio personality, Dick Baird.|
Dick Baird was an Assistant Coach (Linebackers) and Recruiting Coordinator at the UW from 1985-1998. He has joined the Dawgman.com staff as a featured columnist for both the web site and Sports Washington magazine. In addition to his regular editorial columns, Coach Baird will try to provide some of his unique perspective by answering a few of your selected questions online. If you would like to send in your questions, please CLICK HERE.
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