Keith Gilbertson Press Conference - 11/03

It was as if a sleeping giant awoke last Saturday night. In a long-overdue display of sheer will, the Washington Huskies rocked the Oregon Ducks with members of the second team running and scoring at will. Washington head coach Keith Gilbertson met with the media on Monday to discuss both the positives and negatives (there weren't many) from last Saturday as well as look ahead to the Arizona Wildcats, who the Huskies will play in Tucson this Saturday.

The Husky head coach also gave updates for many of the players that are currently riding the pine, including another starter who may be done for the rest of this season.

The first item on the agenda was the status of Cody Pickett. After sustaining a blow to the head towards the end of the first half and suffering a concussion, Pickett told medics that he had no recollection of even playing in the game. Gilbertson said that Pickett was still feeling "symptomatic" - meaning dizziness, light-headedness, and nauseous - and will be held out of practice for the moment.

"Cody will do nothing today," he said. "He's going to be out for another 24 hours. Then we'll put him back in a helmet and see if he experiences any symptoms. We'll go with Casey (Paus) and we'll move Isaiah (Stanback) back to quarterback for the next couple of days. He won't have any receiver reps. It will be all quarterback reps. If Cody is symptomatic during the week, he'll be out."

The move of Stanback back to quarterback will provide some amount of depth in case Pickett is not able to go against Arizona this Saturday. However if Pickett does make significant improvements, does not feel any recurring symptoms, and will be able to take snaps, Pickett will be the starter on Saturday. If Pickett is sidelined, Gilbertson said without hesitation that he felt the team was in good hands with Paus at the helm.

"I was very pleased with how he played," Gilbertson said of Paus. "I'm sure he feels pretty good about it. His teammates rallied around him. He went in and threw the ball right on the money and made good decisions. He's a smart guy and he really knows our system. He's thrown to a lot of those receivers because those kids have been in the ‘twos.' His decision-making was excellent. He checked to the play where he saw Reggie (Williams) down the middle on third-and-28."

Gilbertson stopped short saying that the quarterbacking job is Paus' to lose going into 2004. "Next year is next year," he said. "I don't want to get too far out ahead about anything."

The Huskies defense terrorized Oregon's offense throughout the night by coming up with big hits and causing turnovers. The pressure that the defense applied to both Kellen Clemens and Jason Fife was a big factor.

"Even if we didn't sack them," said Gilbertson, "We were around the quarterbacks better than we had been. Maybe not hitting them all the time, but just the pressure. Quarterbacks feel that and I think it has an effect. It was a real positive thing for our defense to get that kind of pressure. The 11 or 12 tackles for loss, seven sacks, that's a good night for defense."

Compared to their previous game against USC, the Huskies defense looked as if they were a totally different team against Oregon. Gilbertson said that he counted 36 missed tackles in the USC game compared to 11 missed tackles against Oregon.

"SC is really a fine team," he said. "They are a national champion caliber type team. Yet, I think we made them look better than they are because I don't think we played reckless, loose, fast football, or tackled as well."

With some of the injuries put upon the secondary, Gilbertson felt that Owen Biddle and Sam Cunningham stepped up and played a solid game. Biddle got the starting nod over Evan Benjamin after the USC game and provided for some spark after a huge hit to sack Clemens on a safety blitz. Gilbertson also felt that Cunningham, filling in for Roc Alexander and Chris Massey for the past three games, has been making improvements by consistently being matched up with some of the Pac-10's best receivers. Keary Colbert, Mike Williams, Demetrius Williams, and Sammie Parker have tested Cunningham the past two weeks. Both players are expected to start this week as well.

On the offensive side, the entire area of blocking on all fronts contributed to the 261 yards on the ground. The offensive line did not allow a single sack the entire game and showed signs of nastiness that had been lacking for a long time.

"I thought Todd Bachert had a good game," said Gilbertson. The senior center from Mission Viejo, California had a key block on Oregon's Keith Lewis that allowed Shelton Sampson to break free and sprint 77 yards down field for his third touchdown of the game. "I thought our wide receivers blocked very well on the perimeter as well. The tight ends did a good job of blocking down on their defensive ends. And the kids did a nice job of running the ball. They made people miss, accelerated, and really got the ball vertical.

"Blocking. It's amazing what it can do for the running game when you block. It was a very good night of play on the line of scrimmage."

The duo of Sampson and Kenny James gave Husky fans much more than just a glimmer of optimism. The two freshmen tailbacks combined for 235 yards and three touchdowns on just 24 carries. But the future may be now because the present news is not all that great. Senior tailback Rich Alexis may be out for the rest of the season, thus ending his Husky career.

"Well I don't know if he'll be back," said Gilbertson. "There's only three weeks left this season and he has a tear in his quad. So I think it will be ‘nip-and-tuck' for him to be back." Should Alexis be out for the season, he may be joined by Tusi Sa'au, Justin Robbins, Joe Toledo, Chris Massey, and Roc Alexander; all of whom who Gilbertson does not anticipate being back at the moment. So in the mean time, Sampson and James will get the majority of the carries and Scott Ballew will now be taking more reps in practice as the third tailback.

But the news is not all bad on the injury front. Charles Frederick, who most people ruled out for the Oregon game, made a surprise start and caught two passes fro 30 yards including being the recipient of Paus' first career touchdown pass in the third quarter.

"He made a couple nice plays," Gilbertson said of the junior wide out from Lake Worth, Florida. The move that he made on that one kid on the goal line was phenomenal. That was vintage Charles Frederick. But that's what he gives you. He gives you that kind of spark and athletic ability. It was fun having him back out there." Frederick was still sore on Sunday and even felt sore on Monday, but he is expected to be a full go eventually this week.

"I'd like to see the guy practice once in a while," Gilbertson said with a laugh, referring to all the practices missed by Frederick to his chest bruise and the bout with the flu earlier in the season. "He hasn't had enough practices to letter, but he's played in the games."

Looking ahead to Arizona, the Wildcats are currently in the cellar of the Pac-10 standings. At 0-5 in conference and 1-8 overall, Arizona has not defeated a conference foe in nearly a year. Records aside, there has also been a lot of turmoil in Tucson with the firing of head coach John Mackovic earlier in the season. Interim head coach Mike Hankwitz is still looking for his first win as a head coach.

Also, history indicates that Arizona will give Washington a run for their money. The last five Arizona games have been decided by total of only 21 points, with Washington taking four of the five. With a chance the Huskies make take the Wildcats lightly because of their misfortunes, Gilbertson said that hoped the team already learned a lesson regarding taking anyone lightly.


Notes:
Dr. Gilbertson: In a light moment, Gilbertson informed the media of his concussion test. "I've always had a solid test for guys with a concussion. I hold up one finger and I say, ‘How many fingers?' If he says, ‘one,' I say, ‘what's your mom's name?' and if he says, ‘Mom,' I say, ‘You're OK. Go back in there and play your ass off. You're fine.' I never ask them what time it is, what team they're on, or what team they're against."

That's a BIG DUCK: The kicking game did not have their finest hour against Oregon. Evan Knudson missed two extra points and a field goal but Gilbertson felt that having a new holder in Paus may have contributed to the ill-timing and a certain Duck by the name of Junior Siavii may have also contributed to the misses. Siavii, a 6-5 332 lb defensive tackle gave the special teams line a lot of fits. "That guy though, No. 94, is a BIG man," said Gilbertson. "That's an impressive looking human being. He makes Nick Newton look like he's been at weight watchers. If that guy decides he's going through the A-gap, he's going through the A-gap. He's a big man. I knew he was big and when he came out Saturday night, I was like, ‘look at THIS guy. We don't have anybody who can block this guy!'"

A Talkin' to for Khalif: While he was happy that Washington was only penalized twice for 25 yards, Gilbertson added that he was none too pleased with Khalif Barnes' penalty on Keith Lewis. "Our tackle on No.16 (Lewis) was very unnecessary. It was unfortunate that he did that and I don't condone that," said Gilbertson. When asked whether or not Barnes would be disciplined for the play. Gilbertson joked by saying that he would make Barnes room with Todd Bachert and himself on the next road trip. But all jokes aside, Gilbertson said that he would address the matter with Barnes privately.

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