11/21 Football Practice Report

Cody Pickett returned to the field today at the Dempsey Indoor Practice Facility as the Huskies conducted their second-to-last practice of the week before flying to South Florida on Friday morning. The team will have an early morning practice tomorrow that will allow the players to go home to their families to celebrate Thanksgiving for the majority of the day.

Head Coach Rick Neuheisel gave some insight as to what his plans are for the holiday, and interestingly enough they didn't include turkey.

"We're having pizza," he said. "My wife does too much work already, I don't want her worrying about turkey. We'll have some pizza and then take the kids to the movies."

Back to the world of football, Pickett looked sharp today in his first day throwing the ball all week, and had plenty of velocity on his passes. In fact, some of his throws had so much behind them that Reggie Williams and Jerramy Stevens, two of the best set of hands on the team, often had difficulty holding on to the ball. Stevens especially had a hard time and showed his frustration afterwards. The tight end is still trying to get back in the swing of things after missing the majority of the season with a broken left foot.

Neuheisel didn't sound worried at all about Pickett, or more specifically the quarterback's injured shoulder, after practice. All year long the redshirt sophomore has shown that he's been able to battle through pain to play great ball, the only exception being the Oregon State game.

"I thought he did terrific (today)," Neuheisel said of his starting quarterback. "Cody's had a great year and I hope he plays his best game on Saturday because I'm going to need him to."

Willie Hurst, meanwhile, was again unable to make a go of it today, still recovering from a swollen knee that also held him out on Tuesday. The running back wore a red jersey and could only watch as his teammates went through the final stages of devising their game plan for Miami.

With Hurst out Rich Alexis practiced with the starting unit, and Matthias Wilson got the bulk of the carries with the second team. Freshman Chris Singleton, who changed his number from #42 to #40 a few weeks back, manned the number three spot. Wilson's move back to tailback from fullback leaves senior John Hart as the backup fullback behind Ken Walker, and today Hart got all of the carries with the second unit.

Even after Hurst's second consecutive day out with injury, Neuheisel remained optimistic for his running back's outlook on Saturday.

"I think Willie will make the game," he said.

Neuheisel added that there were other players who missed practice today as a precautionary measure, naming Omare Lowe. Lowe spent the entire practice riding a stationary bike on the sidelines while taking a day off to recover from back spasms that he suffered yesterday.

"I think everyone will make the game," Neuheisel said.

One player that stood out today on defense was Chris Massey, who pulled down two interceptions because of his aggressive play. Massey jumped in front of a pass from a scout team quarterback for his first pick of the evening then made a nice effort off a pass tipped by a receiver to catch his second. Cornerbacks coach Chuck Heater was pleased by the play of his redshirt sophomore cornerback.

Joe Toledo also caught the eye of many with both his effort and athleticism today. Wearing #88, the huge tight end is inching himself back to full speed after breaking his foot back in August. Today he hauled in a pass in traffic over the middle of the field from Casey Paus while working with the scout team.

Later in practice, Paus threw the best ball of the day on another pass thrown to Toledo. This one sailed 30 yards on a fade route and Toledo easily grabbed it out of the air after beating linebacker Sam Blanche, who had to rotate over to cover the tight end. The freshman ran the remaining 10 yards into the end zone. Paus to Toledo - a glimpse of the future? Quite possibly.

All in all, the Neuheisel was satisfied with his team's effort for the evening.

"I thought they practiced well," he said. "The rest of the campus has left and it's kind of a ghost town here and our guys are here working and I didn't see anybody disappointed about it. I think they're all eager to play."

Eager or not, the game is coming fast. It's been over 50 years since the Huskies have had to play a regular season game after playing Washington State, and Neuheisel hopes that won't hurt the way his team shows up to play against the Canes.

"I think when we land in Miami we will realize that there is going to be a football game," he said. "I read where it will be their first sellout of the year. I think their average attendance right now is 40,000 and they're expecting something close to 70,000. So obviously there is a lot of excitement about the game , and we are excited as well."
Husky Notes:

Neuheisel on Ken Dorsey's comments: "(They surprised me) a little bit. I don't recall any of that stuff going on last year," he said, referring to the quarterback's claims that the Huskies played dirty in the 2000 match up. "They are two games away from a chance at a national championship, and I don't think there needs to be any other motivation for the game."

Tripplett nabs another Honor: Senior defensive tackle Larry Tripplett was named today to the First Team All-American Team. He was the only Husky to make the list, and one of three members of the Pac-10. The others were linebacker Robert Thomas of UCLA and offensive guard Eric Heitmann of Stanford. Also on the list was Larry Foote, the Michigan linebacker who had a great game against Washington in the Huskies season opener.

The Emt-Thing in the House: Former Husky defensive lineman Steve Emtman, who many would argue is greatest Husky defender to ever lace 'em up, came to practice today to see the team before they head off to Miami. If only he still had eligibility remaining!

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