10/10 Practice Report

The Huskies practiced indoors today in the Dempsey Indoor Practice Facility, avoiding the cold damp climate outside to execute what Rick Neuheisel called a "good practice." Had this week's game been scheduled to be a played at home, the head coach said the team would have practiced in Husky Stadium today.

But whenever the team has the opportunity to practice indoors while gearing up for a warm-climate school like UCLA, it's hard to pass up.

"It's obvious that this indoor facility is immaculate and beautiful and all, but today it was a huge functional advantage given the weather outside and where we are playing this weekend," Neuheisel said after practice. "We were able to practice and concentrate and get a lot done in a climate that will be similar to what we'll be playing in, so I thought it was a huge day for us in that regard."

The head coach continued to address the need for his team to have a solid running game this weekend.

"We can't let (UCLA) keep our defense on the field all game," he said. "We've got to try to stay with them in the time of possession game, just so that we don't get behind and let them try to wear us down."

Last week's performance by Willie Hurst played a large role in the win against USC, but lost in it all was the inability for Rich Alexis to get any yards. Neuheisel says it wasn't a matter of Alexis not running well, rather a case of him having no holes to run through.

"It wasn't anything that Rich was doing," Neuheisel said. "I'm not disappointed in Rich Alexis at all. I thought he ran really well against Idaho, I thought he ran really well against Cal, and I think he'll run really well against UCLA."

Today Alexis looked good, running hard between the tackles. He's continuing to work on hitting the holes hard instead of hesitating at the line. That's something Willie Hurst has improved at greatly since his early days with the team when he liked to dance at the line, and Alexis could learn from that.

At quarterback, Cody Pickett again could only watch as Taylor Barton controlled the offense today. Pickett was suited up for the second day in a row, but never attempted to throw the ball. In the starting role, Barton appears very comfortable with the offensive system and quite capable of leading the team into battle come Saturday.

"I don't think that we need to eliminate any portion of our offense just because Taylor is the quarterback," Neuheisel said.

"The option is still pretty effective," he said. "We don't have # 11 running it anymore, so maybe we're not scoring as many touchdowns off of it as we once did, but it has been an effective football play for us this year. We will continue to use it this week. How much we do remains to be seen."

Also, this week's backup, freshman Casey Paus, worked with starting center Kyle Benn to get on the same page incase he's needed this week. After Barton's struggles last week with Benn following Pickett's injury, Neuheisel made sure that this week's second-stringer would feel comfortable if forced into the game.

Defensively, Larry Tripplett was unstoppable today. When the defense ran against the scout team, Tripplett was in the backfield time and time again. The scout team offensive line just couldn't even slow him down.

The highlight of practice, though, was a huge hit by Jamaun Willis on a scout team receiver on a play near the sidelines. After the receiver caught the ball, Willis was there to send him flying out of bounds.

It's hard to talk defense these days without mentioning UCLA, who have one of the toughest defensive units in the country up front. Coming off a bye week, they may have a few tricks up their sleeve this week - especially with the Huskies having to use their backup quarterback. Still, Neuheisel thinks they'll probably not mess with success, and stay with what's worked thus far this year.

"I would say that they'll have some wrinkles, given that they've had two weeks to prepare for the game, but it would be silly of them to deviate too much from what has been a pretty awesome defense," the head coach said. "I don't know that they'll do too much differently because they've been very, very successful, and as coach you don't want to wake up on Sunday saying, ‘why did I go away from something that worked very well and not have the results that I was looking for.' I think they're going to stay pretty close to their game plan."

After saying that, the coach laughed and said, "Now that being said, they'll change everything."

USC mixed changed their game plan against the Huskies, as did Cal. Saturday, we'll see if UCLA does the same.
Husky Notes:

C-Dub returning to Rose Bowl: It appears as though Curtis Williams will be able to make it to the Husky game this weekend, according to Neuheisel. It will be a return appearance for Williams, who made the trip down to Pasadena to watch his team play Purdue on January 1. "Curtis is going to come," Neuheisel said. "I talked to David (Williams) and Curtis earlier this week, and my hope is that he's going to make the game."

TJ Ailing: Defensive lineman Terry Johnson missed practice today with a sore knee. Neuheisel is hopeful he'll be available for UCLA.

Pickett Improving: Cody Pickett's separated shoulder is healing as scheduled. His flexibility is improving every day, and the hope is to have him return next week against Arizona, according to Neuheisel. "We plan on him holding for kicks this week, and the likelihood is that he will resume practicing quarterback next week," Neuheisel said. "How effective he'll be, remains to be seen."

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