Dawgman.com Diary

If there is one thing about these Washington Huskies, they sure are in a good mood after a well-played game the previous week. Players were scrambling to get their lunches out of the way before they were surrounded with cameras and microphones for interviews. I managed to grab a couple players to talk some football. They were mostly all smiles and some even threw out the occasional one liner.

Head coach Keith Gilbertson delivered the quote of the day from Monday's press conference. As Nick Newton waltzed into the Don James Center fashionably late and heading straight for the lunch table, Gilbertson said, "You know it's a free lunch when Newton shows up."

However, the obvious star of the day was Justin Robbins. The media darling was practically engulfed by reporters and cameras from every media outlet that wanted to do a heart-warming piece on his comeback. I too got my chance to speak with Robbins and I will have more on that in a little bit.

Zach Tuiasosopo was the first player I managed the wrestle away from his lunch. Tuiasosopo was in good spirits after his strong showing against the Idaho Vandals, scoring his first career touchdown on a 12-yard run that found him running untouched for 6.

"It was exciting," said Tuiasosopo. "I got into the end zone and celebrated with my teammates. I have to give it up to the O-line and the receivers for the blocking."

It was almost as if Tuiasosopo's run caught the Vandal defense completely off guard. Idaho was perhaps expecting Rich Alexis to get the carry but instead, they were met with big Zach running down their throats.

"It was definitely a good play call by the coaches," said Tuiasosopo. "I don't know if it caught them by surprise or not. Their defense played a really good game the whole day. But once again, our offensive line was getting a good push up front."

Tuiasosopo's return to the fullback rotation has made a tremendous impact on the running game and the numbers show it. In his second year at the position, playing in the same backfield along with Rich Alexis and Cody Pickett, Zach seems to have found his comfort zone, improving on all aspects of his game including the running, blocking, and receiving. As conference play opens up, Tui knows that he must continue playing solid football in order to make sure that the Huskies do not lose a step.

"We have a big week ahead of against Stanford," said Tuiasosopo. "They're a great team and they've shown it in the first couple weeks of the year and we just have a huge week ahead of us and we have got to be ready to go."

Another player who had a big day Saturday was Tim Galloway. Much has been said about Galloway's need to step up while filling in for the injured Joe Lobendahn, and Galloway produced early.

On the very first defensive play from scrimmage, to be exact.

With Garth Erickson's punt being downed on their own 1-yard line, Idaho lined up looking for some breathing room. Idaho running back Malfred Shaw took the ball from Vandal QB Michael Harrington, but was met by Galloway in the end zone. The ball was knocked loose and Husky DT Terry Johnson pounced on it for the defensive tally.

"The hole opened right up," said Galloway as he described the scene. "The defensive line had an angle and we hit a spark and I was able to get through when (Shaw) lost the ball. It was great. Terry jumped on it and got the score for us."

Galloway has done well since stepping in for Lobendahn and he believes that he can only help the linebacking unit mature as they play the rest of the season.

"Obviously we took a big hit when we lost Joe," said Galloway. "It forced me to step in there and try to do what I can. I think with that bye week, we all came together. All we're trying to do is do what we're coached to do and go out there and just play and make things happen."

Galloway believes that the team is ready for the meat of their schedule. As the Huskies worked through the majority of their non-conference schedule, he feels it helped them prepare to do well against the tougher opponents, such as Stanford.

"I think we're ready," Galloway said of the conference schedule ahead. "Obviously we still have some improvements that we need to make and those will come. We're just excited to get Pac-10 play underway."

As I found Jimmy Newell, I asked him if he played any centerfield in baseball. Interestingly enough, that was the position he played when he did play baseball for the South Kitsap Wolves. It sure looked like it as he ran back and picked off Idaho quarterback Brian Lindgren for his first career theft.

"In the second half, we adjusted the defense a little where we had the free safety help on the post and Lindgren was trying to make a play and make things happen," said Newell.

The secondary had a relatively strong day against the Vandals. The Huskies defense held the Idaho passing game to just double digits. On paper, the Huskies ‘D' did their job, but Newell still saw some room for improvement.

"I think we had an OK day," said Newell. "I wouldn't say that we played as well as the stat sheets would say we did, but on the other side of the coin, I think there are days when we play better than what the stat sheets say so it all balances out. I think we played OK, but I have a feeling that after we get done watching the tape, we'll say, ‘Hey, we have a ton of things to improve on.'

"Until that scoreboard says 0.0 in the pass yardage allowed, there will always be room for improvement in the secondary."

Stanford will bring in a freshmen quarterback in Trent Edwards to start at Husky Stadium this Saturday.

"I haven't seen any film on Stanford yet," said Newell. "But I know that every year, Stanford has a great passing attack. (Stanford wide receiver) Luke Powell is a great player so I expect to have our work cut out for us."

Some may say that the passing game has taken a bit of a drop this season, but that does not faze Cody Pickett at all.

"As long as we win, I don't know," said Pickett regarding the question of whether or not the Huskies will throw more once conference play start. "If we keep running the ball the way we are running and our offensive line keeps opening the holes, we'll just keep handing off for touchdowns."

With Robbins' return, that gives Pickett another experienced receiver for him to throw to.

"He's been a big inspiration," Pickett said of Robbins. "We couldn't wait to get Justin back and as quarterback, he's a great weapon for me to have. He knows how to get open, he's got great hands, and he's a great receiver."

Robbins' presence will not only help Pickett, but it will help the younger guys develop into better players without having the pressure to produce so early on in their careers. Pickett sees that as a big difference down the road.

"The first couple games gave the young guys a chance to play and get their feet wet and now we have a pretty solid receiving core and we can just go fort," he said.

By this time, Robbins looked as if he had been worn out by all the attention that had been given to him by the media, but I was not about let him leave without talking to me. As it turned out, I was not the only one who was waiting for him. So instead of a one-on-one with the man of the moment, it was more of a ‘round-table' discussion.

Playing Stanford may have some sentimental value for Robbins. It was against the Cardinal three years ago where Justin produced the game-winning touchdown in the pouring rain in Palo Alto that sealed the miraculous comeback with 15 seconds left. It was also that very same game that saw the late Curtis Williams go down.

"17 seconds," said Robbins as he started out. "But it doesn't have any sort of extra value to me. It's a game like any other game. You can't put one game higher than another game. That's how teams get upset so we just have to approach the game as another game where we go out and play our best."

Robbins still has fond memories of that game, but he knows that it is history and what matters most is the game on hand this Saturday.

"It was a big moment, but you got to save those moments for talking to people when you're sitting down and chat," he said. "You can't carry that on into the next season or the next game. Every game is different and you got to go out and make plays every week."


Dawgman.com Top Stories