Coaches and players were animated both during and after today's practice. It was a crisp and intense effort, even with the inclement weather, as the Huskies prepared for their big showdown with Stanford on Saturday.
"I thought it was a good practice. I think our kids are excited about the contest, as they should be. This is obviously a pivotal game. It has huge implications. Stanford is as hot of a team as there is in the country, so we look forward to that kind of challenge, especially here at Husky Stadium. Hopefully, we will have a great, great raucous crowd," said head coach Rich Neuheisel.
Defensive Coordinator Tim Hundley was very pleased with the effort of the defense.
"I think they have been practicing hard for the past three weeks. Guys like Jamaun Willis, Ben Mahdavi, Larry Tripplett and others have really stepped up the intensity at practice, which has helped us play better. We've got Kai Ellis back now too and that has helped younger guys like Zach Tuiasosopo play harder. We're pleased with the way they run around and work at the game. Even when its crummy out, they like that too. I thought practice was good today."
Kai Ellis is back and making his presence known. On a drill against the scout team, he was able to break free and immediately greet the quarterback in the backfield. That pumped up Ellis as well as the rest of the defense. They took a few seconds out to celebrate and hoot about the great play.
The defensive backs also performed well when they went up against the first team receivers. Chris Massey had good coverage on throws to Paul Arnold and Reggie Williams. Roc Alexander received a high-five from Cornerbacks Coach Chuck Heater after successfully defending a pass intended for Williams.
Despite the swirling winds, Pickett was able to deliver most of his passes on the money. The receivers continued to impress, with Arnold, Williams, Todd Elstrom, Pat Reddick, and Wilbur Hooks all showing good hands and making solid catches. Reddick had a ball go through his hands and bounce of his shoulder pad, only to bring the ball back in for a nice catch.
Coach Neuheisel doesn't expect the weather to force them to alter their game plan. "We practice in this weather all of the time so I don't think it precludes us from doing anything that we want to do. It is one of our advantages to playing at home – we practice at home. We also realize here in Seattle that you don't have much control over the weather. You just play in whatever comes. Our kids are ready and willing to do that."
Neuheisel is definitely putting an emphasis on special teams for this game. As the Huskies and the Cardinal both realize, a special teams play can turn the tide instantly.
"I think that special teams will factor into this game heavily. Stanford has made some real big plays. Certainly, the blocked punts were a large part of their victory over Oregon. We've made big plays on specials teams, but we have also been the victim of some unfortunate things. Special teams will be a turning point in this game. We just have to make sure it is a turning point in our favor."
Neuheisel is hoping that any confidence gained by his young offensive line's performance against ASU will carry over into this week's game. The running game will be critical because Neuheisel wants some ball-control offense against the Cardinal. "We will always try to run the ball. Especially, given a team like Stanford who controls the ball on the ground. They are averaging 34 minutes of possession time. We would like to be able to keep that down to 30 minutes if at all possible. To do that, you need to maintain possession and you need a running game."
The one thing missing from practice today was the red jersey. Neuheisel remains guarded when acknowledging that the team is a bit healthier now.
"We are gaining on it. We have a lot of players who we have lost for the season that we would have liked to have had. But football, over the course of a season, is a war of attrition. There are going to be people that you are going to have to replace. And we have been able to manage that without taking on too much water. The rest of the teams in the conference are now starting to struggle with that. So, we will just see how it goes down the stretch. Certainly, we like where we are and hopefully can continue to get healthier and continue to improve as a football team."
Neuheisel has not officially addressed the team regarding facing Stanford again for the first time since the injury to Curtis Williams. Curtis will be talking to the team on a conference call tomorrow to be a part of the team's Thursday meeting.
"I talked to Curtis earlier in the week, given that the one-year anniversary of his injury was Sunday. He is upbeat. He has never let on that he has felt sorry for himself. He just continues to be an inspiration to me as a young person – remember to just keep fighting, keep trying, and good things are going to happen. Curtis' situation, other than this is the same opponent, doesn't have much to do with this particular game. But, our kids always like to be able to talk to him and hear from him," shared Neuheisel.
10/31 Football Practice Report
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