Keith Gilbertson Press Conference - 10/20

Don't mention the year 1994 and the USC Trojans to Washington Head Coach Keith Gilbertson in the same sentence. You're liable to get an unkind glance thrown your way with the velocity of a Randy Johnson fastball. That was the year USC took out the Gilbertson-led California Golden Bears 61-0. Talk to him about 1990, instead.

Gilbertson recalled the 1990 USC-Washington game Monday afternoon. The Huskies struggled mightily in their first two games against San Jose State and Purdue, then erupted with a 31-0 shutout over the then-number 5-ranked Trojans. "The crowd really lifted our team," he said. "The place was like I had never seen it before."

He knows everyone involved with the Husky program, even down to the fans, are going to have to bring their A-plus game Saturday when number 5-ranked USC comes calling again. "It's still Husky Stadium and we still have great fans, and when they want to get into a game, especially on defense, they can make it a tough place to play," Gilbertson said.

Is it more than a coincidence the Trojans are ranked exactly where they were thirteen years ago? Ironically enough, USC brings with them another brash left-hander to test the best the Huskies have to offer. Back then it was Todd Marinovich. Now it's Matt Leinart.

Leinart was in a cage match-like struggle with Matt Cassel, Brandon Hance and true frosh John David Booty to even be the number-one QB going into the 2003 season. But right now through seven games, the sophomore has better statistics than eventual Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer did in 2002. His QB rating is nearly 25 points higher, as is his completion percentage.

"He's done a fantastic job taking over," Trojan Head Coach Pete Carroll said Monday. "We've never seen him play this sharp with his throws and his decision-making. He just barely won the job in the fall, but went to the Auburn game and dealt with that environment extremely well. He's been playing his best football the past three weeks and we couldn't be happier."

Last week on the road against Notre Dame, Leinart's numbers were eye-popping: 26-34 for 351 yards and 4 touchdowns. Look for another sophomore, Mike Williams, to be a big part of Leinart's arsenal.

"I know there are going to be a lot of pro scouts there," Gilbertson said, referencing the expected battle-royale between Mike Williams and UW receiver Reggie Williams. "Mike's a great player. And they have a lot of weapons, like Keary Colbert, their tight ends and their 4 running backs. Mike is going to get his catches. Last year he had a really big game against us."

For Carroll, a lot of it starts up front with experience and leadership on the offensive line. "They sure are playing well," he said of his OL. "It's the best we've run the ball in the three years I've been here. Our young backs are giving us a boost, but our three seniors on the line are giving us leadership. And we always want to be more physical, but they are playing good, solid football right now and I hope we can keep that going."

Gilbertson and the Husky coaches threw a little wrinkle at Oregon State Saturday night that appeared to take the Beavers off-stride. DL Terry Johnson moved outside, giving the Huskies more heft at the corners. By putting their most experienced player in a position where double-teams were limited, Johnson was able to create some mis-matches outside. That, along with the explosive debut of redshirt frosh Donny Mateaki on the inside, gave Oregon State's offensive line fits.

"He's a big, talented guy," Gilbertson said of the 'wrecking machine' from Honolulu. "He gives great hustle and plays hard.

"We talked about it on Sunday and now we've got two good-sized guys on the edge. The tight end will have a tough time with us. And when we were watching film it showed that the pocket was just getting too wide. So now with Terry helping to collapse the pocket, at least the quarterback will feel it from at least one side. Terry still has to be able to play inside and outside.

"But it wasn't magic or anything. It was hard work. We worked all week at it and kept grinding on it. They have to buy into it early in the week and hope it's the right plan. If it doesn't work, you're asking me how I screwed it up."

Gilbertson said they won't switch back for this Saturday's contest.

The other noticeable change was moving offensive coordinator John Pettas down to the sideline to be closer to UW quarterback Cody Pickett, something Steve Axman did during his tenure as QB coach for the Huskies. Pettas' influence on the sidelines appeared to have the desired effect.

"We wanted to throw deep more because of their press," Gilbertson said. "And that throw to Charles was awesome. He ran a great route, but that ball was perfect. And the other thing was that he didn't try and force things. Even when he was sacked, he took it and got down because he knew it wasn't going to take us out of field-goal position."

In short, everything that went wrong for the Dawgs during the second half of the UCLA game and the entire Nevada game, seemed to right itself during the hour of play in Corvallis. "We won the turnover battle, which we hadn't done in a while," Gilbertson said. "And we did well in the red zone. So a lot of the things we've been talking about we solved."

Was it redemption for two weeks of self-doubt, trying to find a solution? "Redemption?" Gilbertson reiterated quizzically. "I don't know.

"We just need to take it one day at a time and see where we are when it's all over. It's week-to-week, day-to-day. I'm just happy for our players and our coaches. They put in a great week of work and it was a great reward for their preparation."

Carroll wasn't surprised at the outcome. "We know their players and what they are capable of," he said. "Oregon State has been playing some great football this year. At the beginning of the year I thought that Washington, Washington State and Arizona State would all be right there. They can beat anybody. You have to deal with them like they are a championship team because capable of it and played like it last week."

Gilbertson echoed those sentiments, albeit in his own, colorful style. "You have to feel like you have something to prove, be respectful of your opponents and work hard during the week to get better," he said. "Now, you may not win, but you should at least be pleased with the effort. If you don't do those things, you'll get your brains beat out."

But most of all, it has to be fun. And against UCLA and Nevada, Husky football was about as much fun as a root canal. "We never try and take the fun out of it," Gilbertson said. "And for a couple of weeks it didn't look like we were having fun. When you're having fun you're flying around and doing the extra effort things. That's when it's fun, and you've gotta have fun playing.

"Defense is fun when you're flying around, making tackles for loss, sacks and hitting guys. That's when it's fun. For the offense, it's about making the effort, staying poised and not turning the ball over."

The question is, how much 'fun' will the Dawgs have entertaining the Trojans?


Notes:
Player of the week: Charles Frederick was named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week for his 371 all-purpose yards gained in a 38-17 win over Oregon State in Corvallis Saturday night. Frederick, a junior receiver from Lake Worth, Florida, set a new career high with nine receptions for 216 yards, two of them for touchdowns. One of those two scores went for 87 yards, the second-longest receiving play in Husky history. Frederick also had an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter. His 371 all-purpose yards broke a 53-year old school record held by 'The King', Hugh McElhenny. McElhenny compiled 362 all-purpose yards vs. Washington State in 1950. Frederick's yardage was only eight short of the Pac-10 school record of 379, set by Stanford's Glyn Milburn in 1990.

Walking wounded: There are a few Huskies suffering from leg and ankle injuries after playing on the Reser Stadium astroturf. Rich Alexis was the one that came away hurting the most, suffering a thigh bruise and possible quad tear on a running play. He will not play today. "They've ruled out a fracture of his leg," Gilbertson said. "I saw the play and his leg just gave." OL Tusi Sa'au was supposed to only get around 20 plays Saturday night but played 31. They will hold him out and treat him just like they did last week. He is expected to play. Zach Tuiasosopo will not go until Tueday after suffering an ankle injury. His foot was in a protective boot Monday but he is also expected to be available. Reggie Williams suffered an ankle injury during the game, but had it taped up and returned to action. "When we had astroturf, we would always water it to keep it from grabbing," Gilbertson added. "The turf on Saturday was dry and sticky."

Toledo feeling better: Tight end Joe Toledo will not practice Monday, but there may be some light at the end of the tunnel regarding his lower back problems. "We will not know until tomorrow," Gilbertson said about his prognosis for playing Saturday. "He came in today and said he felt a lot better, but that's happened before too. Until we see him play we won't know."

60 for 60 All the Husky players were wearing '60 for 60' T-shirts for the trip to Corvallis. "I guess for the younger guys it's good to have visual reminders, but really the game is as mental as it is physical," Gilbertson said.

Kudos: Gilbertson singled out Khalif Barnes and Nick Newton, Charles Frederick and Cody Pickett offensively. He also took time out to compliment running backs Kenny James and Shelton Sampson. "They did a nice job sorting protections," Gilbertson said. "And knock on wood, they hung onto the football." On defense, the front 7, Derrick Johnson and Sam Cunningham all received ample praise. "Sam came in in a relief role and did a nice job for us," Gilbertson said of the cornerback from Los Angeles. And on special teams, Owen Biddle continues to be an invaluable contributor. "You look and see that he has 4 to 5 tackles every game. He gives great effort and plays hard," Gilbertson said.

TV times: Announced for the week of November 1st, Fox has picked up the UCLA-Stanford game for a 12:30 start, while ABC will broadcast the Washington State-USC game at 4 PM. That game will be a west coast-only broadcast. The Oregon-Washington has already been picked up for a 7PM broadcast on TBS.

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