10/3 Practice Report

Head Coach Rick Neuheisel liked what he saw from his team today, saying that it was the first time all year his team has had good focus on both Tuesday and Wednesday practices. In the process, he also spiced things up with a familiar Trojan tune.

Toward the end of practice, the head coach decided to play "Fanfare" - USC's famous fight song - to make his young team realize the importance of the game.

"We're going to hear it 1000 times on Saturday, and I just want everybody to understand that this is a big-time football game," Neuheisel said. "You hear that song, and you get the feeling that you're in for a battle."

For Neuheisel, a former UCLA quarterback, it doesn't get much bigger than playing USC.

"This was the game when I was player and when I was coach at UCLA," he said. "In talking to Keith Gilbertson and Randy Hart, this has been a huge game for the Huskies and Husky fans as well."

This year's game will be no different. After three games, it appears that the Trojans match up well against the Huskies. USC has given up a lot of yards on the ground this season but has an excellent secondary that may force the Huskies to go to a ground game early. So far this season, that has been one area where the team has struggled as they wait for the offensive line to gel.

The Trojans will be just as tough to figure out on offense. Even though it's a unit that has struggled mightily so far this season, offensive coordinator Norm Chow is a mastermind who'll throw a lot of interesting formations at the Husky defense. They'll spread the field and often use five receivers.

Running the no-huddle offense is something else they've been known to try in the past. If they do it this weekend, it won't take the Huskies off guard.

"We are preparing for it," Neuheisel said.

It's been four years since Southern Cal has come to town, 1997 to be exact. Willie Hurst was a running back at Dominguez Hills High School in Compton, Calif. back then. Saturday, he'll be playing his hometown team for only the second time in his career. The first came as a baby-faced freshman in a Trojan blowout down in Los Angeles.

Already recovered from his hamstring injury, he's lucky to have the opportunity to play at all this week. Today he looked great and continued to show no signs of injury.

"Willie's looked fine, I think he's full go 100 percent and we're excited to watch him play," Neuheisel said. "I know he's anxious to play against one of his home town schools."

Hurst also took some snaps at punt returner today. Neuheisel said yesterday that the tailback won't be back at that position immediately upon returning, so today's work was probably just practice incase Charles Frederick, the starter, goes down.

On offense, the team looked sharp. Blocking is one area that has been problematic in the first three weeks, so today the fullbacks spent quite a while in that facet of the game. Against USC, they will need Ken Walker and Mathias Wilson have big games and pave the way for Hurst and Rich Alexis.

Walker gets the starting nod this week.

Quarterback Cody Pickett also shined today, but that's nothing new. He's been comfortable with the offense all season long, and now it's just a matter of improving. Today he was on the money with his passes. One beauty came on a short pass to Reggie Williams, who caught the ball in front of Roc Alexander and pranced into the end zone. Given time, Pickett's arm and Williams' hands will make for an unstoppable combination.

The scout team has done great work all week. They've been fired up and given the starters all they could handle. Linebacker Will Conwell has been getting in the backfield and putting pressure on the quarterback, and fellow Kentwood star John Gardenhire is the type of guy that gives it his all every time out.

Today, he tried to throw a halfback option and got it intercepted by Rod Green. That didn't sit well with the walk-on freshman, who yelled out a scream afterwards that was directed at himself. These guys don't show up in the box score, but are big parts of the team.

This effort and focus from the scout team is exactly what the coaching staff is looking for to build a sense of urgency on the team.
Husky Notes:

Another Anniversary: Everyone remembers it as the "Leap by the Lake," one of the best individual plays in the 1998 season by anyone in college football. It happened October 3, 1998, three years ago today, that Arizona quarterback Ortege Jenkins led the Wildcats down the field and flipped over three Husky defenders into the end zone for the win as time expired.

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