After watching the homecoming crowd storm the field at Arizona Stadium to take the goalposts for a ride, the Huskies returned to Seattle only to prepare to go back on the road this week to the Bay Area where they will face Gilbertson's former team, the California Golden Bears.
Gilbertson will return to Berkeley for the first time as a head coach. As the head coach at Cal from 1992 to 1995, Gilbertson led the Golden Bears to a 20-26 record and a win in the Alamo Bowl in 1993 against Iowa. But just like the game against Idaho earlier this season, Gilbertson insisted that there was no special significance to this game against his former school.
Cal (5-6,3-3) is coming off of a tough loss to Oregon last Saturday and while they may have be sitting below Washington in the conference standings, they can claim something that nobody else in the country can claim: a win over USC.
The Golden Bears defeated the Trojans earlier this season with a 34-31 triumph in triple overtime. Since then, USC has gone to just about annihilate everyone in their way, including the Huskies.
Last season, Cal head coach Jeff Tedford led his team into Husky Stadium and defeated the Huskies 34-27. It was the first time Cal had defeated Washington in 26 years. This week, they will attempt to beat the Huskies on their home turf, a task they have not been able to accomplish since 1975. Since the loss to Cal last season, the Huskies have been 9-10.
With that in mind, there has been division among Husky faithfuls as to who should be lining up behind center the rest of the season: Cody Pickett or Casey Paus?
And before that question was even asked, Gilbertson gave a quick answer:
"No we don't have a quarterback controversy. Next. End of story."
After the game last Saturday, Gilbertson did admit that he had thoughts of taking Pickett out of the game in favor of Paus, but he felt that he needed to clear up what he meant by that comment.
"There was a time in there when we went five possessions of punts and one fumble that I thought I could give (Pickett) a break and let him come to the sidelines to look at it," he said. "I have a lot of confidence in Casey Paus, but I also have a great deal of confidence and he's the starter and that's just the way it is. But I don't think it's a negative to substitute a guy every now and then and that's what I was thinking."
Gilbertson also said that he has no problems in playing Paus, but he also had no plans to play him either.
"There is no ‘1A' and ‘1B,'" said Gilbertson of the quarterback depth chart. "There is a ‘1' and there is a ‘2.'"
Washington was hit by the injury bug again in Tucson. Ben Bandel, who had been starting at tight end in place of the injured Joe Toledo, suffered a separated shoulder and is most likely out for the season. With a second starting tight end going down, that leaves junior college transfer Jon Lyon as the starter. Behind Lyon though, remains a mystery. Gilbertson said that he will evaluate Jason Benn, Andy Heater, and Dash Crutchley closely this week to see who will be Lyon's backup.
Also, starting safety Owen Biddle went down with a pinched nerve. He is listed as questionable for Saturday's game. If Biddle cannot go, Evan Benjamin will reclaim the starting assignment.
"In terms of Biddle, I thought that was a really big blow for our defense," said Gilbertson. "Owen really knows the game. He's a great hitter. He makes a lot of plays so that hurt us. He won't practice today and I don't know when he will practice."
Kenny James also took a hit against Arizona last week. James went into the game with a sprained ankle that he suffered against Oregon, but injured his quad in the first half. He was slowed by the injury and will be participating in a "limited practice" today, wearing a red jersey.
When asked if injuries have played a big part in the inconsistent play of his team, Gilbertson said that injuries were just a small piece to the problem.
"Some of it has," he said. "But I don't think we can blame all of it on that. We've lost 10-11 starters from the end of spring football, but I'm not going to blame it on injuries. It's been a problem, but not the total problem."
He continued. "We've been playing poorly in the red zone offensively and defensively. Little things like ball leverage and tackling have been problems for us at times. We look really good one week, and the next we look like we've never worked on it. Those inconsistencies in those areas have been a big factor."
On special teams, Gilbertson felt that the punting came out nicely against Arizona. Both Garth Erickson and Sean Douglas got a chance to punt the ball and Gilbertson was happy with the results. However, the placekicking was a different story.
"I'm not at all pleased with our placekicking," he said. "It seems that we missed a lot of field goals that should be made. I'm not pleased with it. We put it into competition just about every week and Evan (Knudson) has won all the competitions."
Looking at Cal, Gilbertson sees a team with a lot of talent. Bear tailback Adimchinobe Echemandu provides a dangerous threat on the ground. Echemandu is second in the Pac-10 with 1,074 yards on the ground and averages 121.5 yards per game. However, he sprained his ankle in the closing minutes of the Oregon game last week and his status for this week is still up in the air. Should he not be able to go, J.J. Arrington and Marcus O'Keith will get the nod. The Cal tailback committee will look to attack a Washington run defense that let Mike Bell torch them to the tune of 222 yards last Saturday.
"You can't say you're playing great defense when they get 250-260 yards on six plays," Gilbertson said of his defense. "There were six plays where we were in the wrong gap, going the wrong way, blew an assignment, didn't get the right leverage, and put the ball on the wrong shoulder. There were three plays where we didn't even lay a glove on the tailback. With Cal's tailbacks, they will kill you if you don't play better than that."
Gilbertson also said that he feels the team did not show their finest effort against Arizona.
"I feel the say way as last Saturday," he said. "I feel very disappointed. The effort, execution, blocking, tackling, and catching, very disappointed in how we played because I've seen us play better."
As to what causes the Huskies to come out flat, Gilbertson said that it was just as big of a mystery to him as it is to all those who are wondering the same thing.
"I don't know. If I knew, I could sell it to every football coach in the United States and name my price. I think you see that happen every week at every level, from the national football league to junior high. The thing that bothered me the most about it was that there was a lot on the line for our team and to go in there and just basically play as poorly as we did was really, really disappointing. I told them afterwards that I was embarrassed about it. I still am. It hasn't changed."
Gilbertson also felt that his team did not respect the Wildcats that much and that certainly led to the result that it did.
"I think that's a huge part of why they won," he said. "I think you have to have a really special group of guys to go out there and high-fly every week and you have to be very athletic to do that. Sometimes when you're really athletic, you can just get by and win the games because you're athletic. Our experience is, and I thought we learned our lesson, if we don't bring our ‘A' game, we're in for trouble. So I know our people respect Cal because Cal kicked our butts here a year ago."
With two more games left in the season and a bowl nowhere near guaranteed, Gilbertson knows that his players better shape up and know what they are playing for.
"Well you better play for the dang ‘W' on your damn helmet and be proud of that thing," he said. "That's first and foremost to me. Everything else is secondary to that."
Keith Gilbertson Press Conference - 11/10
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