Keith Gilbertson Press Conference - 11/24

The sweet taste of victorious apples was still the flavor of choice in Montlake but when reality sinks in the Huskies could very well find themselves staying home for the holidays. At 6-6, Washington is technically qualified for a bowl invitation, but they find themselves tied with UCLA for that final slot. With a little luck though, Washington could still find themselves "bowling" this post season.

With the regular season now in the books, Huskies head coach Keith Gilbertson met with the media on Monday to discuss the possibility of a bowl as well as some of the areas that he will address this offseason.

After saying that he would be enjoy being the happiest guy for the next 24 hours after the win, Gilbertson came back Monday ready to get back to business. Overall, he had nothing but praise for Washington State.

"I think we beat a pretty good football team," said Gilbertson. "They are really balanced, they have good athletes everywhere you look, and they a very, very athletic team. To beat that team, we feel pretty good about ourselves."

With his fifth-year senior quarterback leading the way, the Huskies head coach felt that Cody Pickett used his veteran instincts to lead the team on the final drive. Gilbertson said that the team did not really use a "two-minute offense" on the final drive, but rather used all the little opportunities the Cougar defense allowed and turned it into positive gains.

"I thought Cody was really good on the last drive," he said. "I thought our kids were really good about protection. The most significant thing to me on that drives was that we were just taking what (Washington State) gave us. Cody did a nice job with the little throws that they gave him."

"With the ball to Corey Williams was a laser shot. That was humming. That ball was in the only place you could put it. It was a great, great final throw for that guy."

The Pac-10 has a contract with six bowls with the Las Vegas and Silicon Valley Bowls the only realistic games Washington is even in the race for. Should Oregon State go down against USC next week, they will find themselves in a three-way tie with Washington and UCLA for the sixth place. Even though the Huskies defeated the Beavers in Corvallis last month 38-17, Oregon State will have a better overall record and with the fact that star tailback Steven Jackson is from Las Vegas, they will likely be the ones invited to Vegas.

That leaves UCLA and Washington waiting fro the Silicon Valley committee to make their selection, with the most likely WAC Conference invitation going to Fresno State. With identical records in conference play as well as overall record, they are technically "tied" for the last spot. However, the Bruins did hand the Huskies a 46-16 thrashing earlier this year. Add that to the fact that Fresno State will open next season against Washington, and the bowl committee may be interested in bringing neighbor UCLA up, that seems to favor the Bruins to get that final slot.

"I think the guys would really like to play. I think our guys would really like to play another game," he said.

Even though Gilbertson felt that it would be "very strange" to play an opponent in a bowl game only to open up with them next season, he said that he would sell his team to the bowl committee if that is what it took to get the Huskies the invite and would love to play another game in any way possible.

"I would tell them that you have a prolific passing combination. The way that we played the second half of the season against the likes of Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington State, I think we travel well; we've been a prominent bowl figure for many years, so those are the things that I would sell. I also think we have some exciting young players like Kenny James, Shelton Sampson, and Corey Williams."

However when asked how he could sell the program to Reggie Williams in order to get him to stay for his senior year of school, Gilbertson replied, "You don't."

"You don't do any sales job. You let him figure it out for himself with his family. He knows what he wants to do and needs to do. His dad and I are going to talk this week. I saw his dad right after the game and he said he would like to visit with me next week so we'll talk."

"I'm just going to sit down with Reggie and his dad. It's just really Reggie's decision."

Gilbertson also all but ruled out Terry Johnson returning next year. Johnson can gain a year of eligibility back if he graduates on time, but even if he did get that year back, Gilbertson said that he does not think we will see the same No.99 out there next season.

"I think Terry is ready to make the move to the next level," he said.

"I think in his mind he's thinking it's time for me to go. Being in the situation he is, I just feel in his mind collegiately, he's enjoyed Washington, but he's ready to take on the next challenge. When guys start thinking they've got to go, they've got to go."

In the best example, he recalled of his days as the head coach at Cal when he had a star underclassmen receiver by the name of Sean Dawkins. Dawkins approached Gilbertson with idea of leaving early and Gilbertson told Dawkins that if he felt ready he should leave. The same also went for every Washington player Gilbertson coached who had thoughts of leaving early.

"I think it was time for Jerramy (Stevens) to go. I thought that he was ready for the next level. I've had a number of kids in the situation."

"I think it would have been a lot of fun if Steve Emtman stayed here one more year, but I think it was time."

However, if he felt that kid was not ready for the NFL, Gilbertson said that he would not stop short of telling him that he was not ready.

"I'm just going to tell them straight. I'm going to tell them what I think."

Looking at next year though, Gilbertson said that with Kenny James and Shelton Sampson getting a lot of playing time this season, he would be a lot less apprehensive about the running game than he would have been if the two freshmen did not play that much.

With Chris Singleton also coming back from injury, the running game will feature Singleton, James, Sampson, Scott Ballew, and red shirt freshmen Louis Rankin, who Gilbertson described the coaching staff is "very excited" about.

The only problem that he sees is the lack of a "big back." With all the tailbacks similar in size, Gilbertson said that they would want a big back to mix it up from time to time.

"I also think Zach (Tuiasosopo) can go in there and give you yards as a tailback. He's a good enough runner. It will be some interesting competition"

On the recruiting front, Gilbertson stated what he felt were the team's targets this offseason.

"Obviously quarterback," he said. "I think that's always a major deal. I think you need to make sure you sign an X-number of offensive and defensive linemen annually and I think safety is an issue for us in recruiting. I would just like to sign a balanced class. Obviously receivers, we don't need very much because of the amount of youngsters playing and that we are still redshirting."

"We need some junior college help, so we're going to have to be involved in junior college recruiting."

But overall this season, the Huskies head coach looked back fondly on his first year at the helm. There were many clichés used such as "up-and-down," "roller coaster," and "rodeo," but with his first and obviously most difficult year behind him, Gilbertson felt that he has much to look forward to.

"I enjoyed every minute with these kids," he said. "The best time of my day was being out there with them. It doesn't change the fact that I think we gave two games away where we clearly should have won the game."

"Although I do feel good about the fact that we beat three very good football teams in the second half of this season. Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington State are three good football teams. For us to beat the, it says something about us. But I think we should have taken care of business in a couple of other instances better than we did and that's just how I feel about it."


Notes:
Should the Huskies do get to a bowl, that would leave some time for the banged-up Huskies to recover. Gilbertson stated that he would expect Rich Alexis, Ben Bandel, and Owen Biddle to have enough of a recovery time to at least be able to play in a bowl game. He was less optimistic with Joe Toledo, Tusi Sa'au, and Chris Massey.

Evan Benjamin was the Pac-10's Defensive Player of the Week. The sophomore safety from Redmond had 10 tackles (six solo), two interceptions, and one tackle for loss. Cal's Geoff McArthur was the Offensive Player of the Week and USC's Reggie Bush was the Special Teams Player of the Week. Benjamin became the first Defensive Player of the Week honoree for the Huskies this season. Cody Pickett and Charles Frederick were both Offensive Players of the Week with no Huskies player ever getting Special Teams Player of the Week this season.


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