Dawgman.com Diary 10/20

What a difference a week makes. Last week, the Washington Huskies were shaking their heads after a shocking loss to Nevada. After turning things around in a big way with a stellar 38-17 win over the favored Oregon State Beavers, the Huskies look to capitalize on their new found confidence. They are looking for more of the same against highly ranked USC in a showdown this Saturday at Husky Stadium in what appears to be the make-or-break game of the season.

"That win was very important," Jerome Stevens told Dawgman.com regarding the victory over the Beavers. "Our backs were against the wall and for us to stay in the hunt for the Pac-10 championship, that was a must-win for us."

Going back to last season, the Huskies found themselves in a similar situation after a big win against Oregon State. Using that momentum, the Dawgs earned back-to-back road wins over Oregon and Washington State, the latter ranked 3rd in the country at the time. Stevens sees a lot of similarities between last year and this year and believes that Washington can take the win over the Beavers as a stepping-stone to turn the season around. "It's just that they're our northwest rivals and we tend to play harder and it's that time of the season to do that," he said. "We're getting to November and that's when you really have to play. We already have one (conference) loss so it was a must-win situation for all of us."

Even though it was just one win and there are many more games to be played, the senior defensive tackle from Oxnard, California felt the win showed critics just what they are capable of achieving when all cylinders are firing. "We had it in us all along," he said of the team's talent level. "Last Saturday was the perfect time for us to break it out. Now we have to keep that going for the rest of the season."

A lot has been said of the shakeup of the defensive line. With Terry Johnson moving to the end and the insertion of redshirt-freshmen Donny Mateaki opposite of Stevens at defensive tackle, it was one of the reasons Washington had so much success in defending Oregon State's Steven Jackson.

"I think it's going to work great for the rest of the way," said Stevens. "The man who lines up next to me has to know his job the same way that I know mine and we understand that. As long as everybody understands that, it doesn't matter who lines up where."

I saw Khalif Barnes sitting at the table by himself so I thought I'd make my way to him before the cameras and the crowd got there. I also wanted to make sure I got him before he took a bite of his sandwich.

I was too late.

"Personally, I thought I played one of my better games," said Barnes after he took a bit of his ham and cheese. I had the sense Barnes was anxious to get his lunch started so I tried to make it quick.

"I tried to bounce back from the last two weeks," Barnes continued. "I just wanted to put the past behind me and come out and play a complete game. As a team, I think everybody played well for a full 60 minutes."

And just how did the line improve so dramatically Khalif? You guys did make Nevada's Jorge Cordova look like Warren Sapp out there (Of course I didn't say it in those words). "We had to start somewhere," he said. "It just happened to be Oregon State. I think we all played well as a unit against a good front seven and set the tone to go against another good front seven in USC. We're about halfway through the season and we've played against a lot of good front sevens so this should be nothing new to us. There shouldn't be any surprises. We just have to come out and defend our home field just like we did two years ago (against USC)."

And even though the comparisons to last season are inevitable, Barnes believes that the win against Oregon State does not mean an automatic revival of the success behind the ‘Northwest Championship'. "I think it's too early to look far ahead," said Barnes. "There is still a lot of football to be played. There's no time for us to be looking at Washington State or Oregon. We shouldn't be focusing on nobody but USC for this Saturday so we're just going to take things one game at a time, one practice at a time, and one day at a time."

Barnes knows that playing at home this Saturday will be a huge advantage for the Huskies and hopes Husky Stadium is packed once again and roaring with enthusiasm from the stands. From experience however, he does know that they have to perform well enough to be worthy of support. "I hope the crowd is there," said Barnes. "The last couple of weeks they have been off our sides a bit but if they are there, they're there. If not, then we're still going to go out and there and play for ourselves for a full 60 minutes."

Greg Carothers was another player who was still very pumped up about the win. And why shouldn't he be? Carothers played a big part in the win over Oregon State and had one of the more unbelievable interceptions to put the nail in the Beavers' coffin.. I asked him if it was just a veteran move on his part where he had the sense to try and strip the ball away from the receiver.

"It was a lucky interception," he replied with a huge grin. "I don't know how I got it. I kind of cupped it like Dr. J style and it just seemed that things were going our way."

Carothers was just as shocked as everyone else when he emerged at the end of the play with the pigskin.

"At first I was thinking ‘what the hell?' because I didn't think I had it. It was just weird how I caught it. And then I looked at the ref and realized what just happened."

Looking ahead to USC, the Helena, Montana native knows that time is running out and the Huskies can not afford to make the slightest of mistakes the rest of the way if they want to find themselves where they need to be when the season is over.

"It's going to be huge," said Carothers of the upcoming game. "Every game from here on out is going to be huge for us. We dropped games we should have won so everything is going to be big from here on out."

USC brings in a potent offense with many different threats to challenge Carothers and the Husky defense. Carothers, however, does not see them as an impossible team to defend. "If we just learn what they are going to do and how they do the things they do, we are going to be in very good shape this Saturday."

And then, the big boys got out of class and came to talk.

I do have to say that Reggie Williams is a very polite young man – he never speaks with his mouth full. Either that, or he is not able to multi-task in the form of handling an interview and eating his lunch at the same time. Williams kept approximately seven reporters (including myself) at bay while he took his sweet time eating his sandwich. (Henry's note: Reggie loves to make sure his sandwich is perfect in every way before he takes his first bite.)

Then he turned to Craig Hill of the Tacoma News Tribune.

"You're that guy from the Tribune right?" asked Williams. "You wrote that story last Friday about how me and Cody (Pickett) aren't together right?"

Last Friday's edition of the TNT featured an article headlined, ‘They aren't together' which featured a picture of Pickett and Williams supposedly arguing with each other.

Williams maintained that there was no rift between him and Pickett. So I decided to ask Cody for myself.

But before I got the chance to get Pickett one-on-one, Williams came over to our table and tapped Pickett on the shoulder. "(Pointing to the reporters) They said we're feuding," Williams said to Pickett.

"Who? What? No way," Pickett replied and turned away with a big grin.

Last week, Pickett made headlines for going out of character during his weekly interviews and speaking his mind. This week, it was more of the Pickett that the media has known for the past four years.

When asked about the condition of his knee and if he was feeling much pain from Saturday, Pickett just repeatedly nodded his head and replied, "A little bit. Just a little bit. (awkward pause) But I feel good."

After two poor outings, Pickett played one of his better games of the season and in the process made himself look like a prophet after proclaiming the Huskies would return to their winning ways. While it was just one game, and with many tougher games ahead, the renewed confidence will be useful this week nevertheless.

"There's nothing else that needs to be said," said Pickett. "We have to win these games. All the talking should be done with our play and I'm confident that our team will rise to the challenge that lies ahead."

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