Neuheisel's 9/24 Press Conference

In a perfect world, if the Huskies could have foreseen a 50-point victory against the Idaho Vandals last Saturday, they would have gladly taken it. Had they known it would have cost them three of their most experienced players on the team, they probably would have settled for a 10-point win and an injury free game.

But it's not a perfect world - as we know all too well these days.

After losing both Jerramy Stevens and Braxton Cleman for eight weeks, and Willie Hurst for an unspecified amount of time with a who-knows-how-long type of hamstring injury, the Huskies must move on. As they head into conference play this weekend against California, they'll look to some of the younger and less experienced players to step up and become contributors.

No more is a position more depleted than at tailback, where the injuries to Cleman and Hurst have sent the coaching staff back into a trial-and-error type of phase. With the two seniors out against Idaho, freshman Chris Singleton came into the game for some snaps late in the game, ending all hopes of redshirting the first-year player from Etiwanda, California. He'll likely be the first option off the bench to replace new starter, Rich Alexis.

Today, head coach Rick Neuheisel said that the team also may look at moving receiver Paul Arnold back to tailback, the position he played at in his first two years with the team. Arnold hasn't made much of an impact in his first two games as a pass-catcher, but did pull down a touchdown from Taylor Barton in the third quarter last Saturday.

"Paul (Arnold) just wants to do what he can to help the team," the head coach said.

Along with that option, there are some others as well. Ty Eriks, the high-heralded tailback from O'Dea High School in Seattle may get a chance in his first season, according to Neuheisel. And the coach said redshirt junior, Mathias Wilson, who's found his niche at fullback, could always be shifted back to tailback if needed.

"The young players will be called to play in place of the veterans," Neuheisel said. "Hopefully they will rise to the challenge."

Replacing Stevens at tight end will be a tall task, literally. In his place, the Huskies will plant 6-7 265 pound Joe Collier in the starting rotation, a senior who has played two other positions in his Husky career. He played on the offensive line for his first two years with the team, then moved to the defensive line, but simply couldn't put on the weight necessary to be an impact player on the line. In the spring of 1999, the coaching staff decided to move him to tight end. Since that time he's improved his hands, become a tall target in the redzone on two tight end sets, and become more comfortable with his role at the skill position. Along with that, Neuheisel calls him a capable blocker.

"We're missing a weapon, there's no question," Neuheisel said referring to the loss of Stevens. "I thought Joe Collier did very well (against Idaho), but there's no way to fully ‘replace' Stevens."

Senior John Westra and junior Kevin Ware, who've combined for just three receptions in their career, will play behind Collier and will each see significant playing time.

On the positive side, the head coach liked what he saw from some of the youth of his team last week, notably from players like Roc Alexander and Charles Frederick. For Frederick, it was really the first time he was able to showcase his ability in a game, and that is something that excites Neuheisel.

"It was neat to have him enjoy that success," Neuheisel said. "I think he's immensely talented."

The less-than-healthy Huskies head into this week's game against a California team that has hit rock bottom. (See: Seattle Seahawks). Through three games, the Golden Bears have been outscored 139-53 with their defensive secondary getting abused in all three games. In addition, their offense has sputtered. Last week against Washington State it got so bad that Cal head coach Tom Holmoe benched one-time can't miss quarterback prospect, Kyle Boller, replacing him with senior transfer Eric Holtfreter. This week, Holmoe says the team will go back to Boller as the starter.

Junior tailback Joe Igber, the team's most explosive option on offense, sat out last week's game recovering from injury, but figures to be back to 100 percent this week against the Huskies. In his last two games against Washington, he's been a one-man wrecking crew. As a freshman, he ran for a career-high 182 yards on 35 carries, and last year he had a 116-yard performance on 17 rushing attempts. Cal will definitely welcome his return.

Even with the Golden Bears' recent woes, Neuheisel knows that his team can't take them lightly, especially since this will be the Huskies first road game of the season (since the Miami game was postponed). In the past two seasons, the underdog Bears have given the Huskies all they could handle, with the purple and gold needing improbable comebacks to win each game.

"We know all too well that this is a very capable football team and that they'll be ready to play us," Neuheisel said.
Husky Notes:

C-Dub Reunion in Works: It appears right now that Curtis Williams will be able to attend the game this weekend in Berkeley, California against the Golden Bears. His brother, David, has secured a Winnebago to transport C-Dub to the game, but final arrangements are still being worked out. "Our hope is that he'll come to the game," Neuheisel said.

A Special Roc: Sophomore Roc Alexander was named Pacific-10 Special Teams Player of the Week after his standout performance against Idaho that included a 95-yard kickoff return.

Another Televised Game: Fox Sports has picked up the television rights to the game against USC on October 6 at Husky Stadium. It is scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m.

Injury Update: Tight end Jerramy Stevens (foot) and tailback Braxton Cleman (collarbone) both figure to be out eight weeks. Tailback Willie Hurst pulled his hamstring on a punt return against Idaho, and will miss this week's game against California. Coach Neuheisel said that the team will take it slow with Hurst and give him the appropriate time to recover from the nagging type of injury. Receiver Justin Robbins and tight end Kevin Ware will return this week after each sitting out the Idaho game.

Career Day for Former Dawg: Jerome Pathon had his best day in the NFL yesterday for the Indianapolis Colts. The receiver pulled down nine passes on the day for 168 yards, including a 60-yard strike from quarterback Peyton Manning for a touchdown. He and Marvin Harrison make one of the most potent receiving duos in the league.

The Whammy Anniversary: The date, September 24, 1994. Most college football fans remember it for the day Colorado quarterback Kordell Stewart threw the bomb to Michael Westbrook, who caught the game-winning touchdown over Michigan safety Ty Law. Husky fans remember it for the day Jim Lambright's men ended the streak at the Orange Bowl, sending the stunned Hurricane fans home empty-hearted. It all happened seven years ago today.

Dawgman.com Top Stories