10/15 Press Conference

Coming off their first loss in over a year, the Husky football team hosts Arizona this weekend looking to get back on track. Even though the Wildcats have been blown out in their last three games this season, the past three meetings the Huskies have had with the pesky Wildcats have been decided by a total of merely 14 points.

Last week's 35-13 blowout defeat in the hands of UCLA sent Washington home searching for answers on the field, and for healthy quarterbacks to run the offense in the weeks to come. Taylor Barton, who started in place of the injured Cody Pickett, was the hardest hit by injury. Barton sprained his ankle and left the field completely exhausted after the beating he took from the penetrating UCLA pass rush and intense game-time temperatures. He stayed overnight at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena for precautionary reasons, but nothing was found to be seriously wrong.

This week both Barton and Pickett will try to recover in time for Saturday's game, but the team will have to wait it out to see who'll be behind center against 'Zona. The possibility of using true freshman Casey Paus to run the show hasn't been ruled out either, that being the option if, and only if, neither Barton nor Pickett can go.

"If Casey (Paus) is the quarterback, then we have to find a way to win with Casey," Head Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "There is that possibility. We have to be realistic about that."

Currently, Barton and Pickett each say they are feeling a lot better, but ultimately the decision will be left up to the team doctors and trainers on whether or not they'll be able to play. Neuheisel says both quarterbacks have that competitive zeal about them that makes them want to play. But for now the team will be ultra cautious not to send either one out without getting the doctor's approval first.

In the event that both are able to play, there's little doubt as to who will start.

"If Cody is healthy and Taylor is healthy, then we'll go with Cody," Neuheisel said. "He was our starter and will be the starter again when he returns to full health. But I'm very pleased with Taylor's performance to date. I think he played courageously given the events of Saturday, and I still think we can win with him."

Whoever plays quarterback this week will undoubtedly have a much easier task than Barton did last week against UCLA's dominating defensive front. Arizona's defense has given up an amazing 149 points in their last three games and is hurting on the defensive line, making matters even worse. They have yet to use the same two defensive ends in consecutive games, and star linebacker Joe Siofele will be forced to miss the game this week after having surgery on his broken hand.

Washington, meanwhile, isn't exactly healthy either. Besides the troubles at quarterback, defensive lineman Terry Johnson is still recovering from the bruised knee that forced him to miss the trip to Pasadena. REB linebacker Kai Ellis is still "questionable at best" according to Neuheisel, and tight end Jerramy Stevens is still at least a couple weeks away from even thinking about returning.

Washington isn't blaming injuries for anything, and this weekend they'll be playing with no excuses. Against a team like Arizona, they'd like to get the ball rolling once again and rebuild some momentum.

"We look to jump back on the horse and ride again," Neuheisel said. "We had a wonderful 12-game winning streak come to an end, and it's important now that we refocus our attention on the rest of the season beginning this week against Arizona. What's most important to me is that we regain our confidence and bring back our swagger and see if we can't continue to improve."

"There's still lots to accomplish, but we have to take from the game what is valuable to us, and discard the rest and move forward. Everybody is anxious to do that. It's been over a year now since we tasted defeat. It was a great run, and now it's a time to start another great run."

One area where Washington may look to exploit Arizona is the running game. The Wildcats have traditionally been solid stopping the rush, but that can't be said this season. So far, they've allowed five different ball-carriers to top the 100-yard mark: Washington State's Dave Minnich (121), Idaho's Blair Lewis (110), Oregon's Onterrio Smith (131) and Maurice Morris (110), and Oregon State's Ken Simonton (104).

That type of rush-defense should give the Husky offensive line and runningbacks the opportunity to get back on track after Saturday's debacle in the Rose Bowl. Cornerback Omare Lowe led the team in rushing against the Bruins with 24 yards.

"We said all along that we were going to have growing pains (on the offensive line), but lets take it and realize it that we hung in there," Neuheisel said. "There were opportunities for lots of good things to happen."

People tend to forget that last year the Huskies lost their fourth game of the season and still managed to turn it around and win the rest of their games. Neuheisel doesn't see why the team can't refocus and do much of the same sort of thing this time around.

"I don't want our seniors or anybody else to think that all is lost for this season," he said. "We got whipped (at UCLA) and we're going to learn from it. We're going to get better, and we're going to go back to playing sound Husky football and hopefully be very proud of ourselves at the season's conclusion."

Husky Notes:

On the Tube: The UW-Arizona game this Saturday will be broadcast on the Fox Sports syndicated package on television stations throughout the West Coast. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. Locally, it can be seen on KCPQ 13. The Arizona State game on October 27, set for a 7:15 p.m start, has also been picked up by Fox Sports for a national telecast.

History not kind to ‘Cats: Washington holds a convincing 12-4-1 advantage in the all-time series against Arizona, including wins in five of the last six meetings. Remember the Leap?

Return to Sender: Washington and Arkansas are the only two Division I-A teams to have returned a kickoff, a punt, and an interception for a touchdown so far this season.

Deuces not Wild: Washington hasn't lost back-to-back games since losing the first two games of the 1999 season to BYU and Air Force.

Home Sweet Home: Washington has won 11 consecutive home games, dating back to a 1999 loss versus Arizona State.

Bruins Honored: UCLA RB DeShaun Foster and LB Robert Thomas were named Pac-10 Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week respectively for their top-notch performances against the Huskies.

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