Dawgs, 'Dogs, Show Mutual Respect

It's been twenty-five years since Washington and Fresno State got together on the football field. The Huskies won that game 49-14, but in 2004 the tables have turned somewhat. Washington is no longer considered a national football power, and the Bulldogs are still as dogged as ever when asked to play anyone, anywhere. Pat Hill and Keith Gilbertson spoke Monday, and the platitudes were being thrown around like the Sunday game was being played at Texas Tech.

"They are a team that's steeped in tradition," Hill said. "I know Washington will be ready to play. We expect them to have a chip on their shoulder, with something to prove."

Washington Head Coach Keith Gilbertson, aware of the Huskies' 72 wins in Husky Stadium over their last 85 home games (including one tie), knows all too well his team needs to step up and match the physical challenge Fresno State is sure to present. "Hey, we've still got to go out there and prove it," he said. "They are really experienced and we aren't. We can't be rattled early on. They've played a lot of tough games on the road, so they are veteran like that. We need to get in the flow of the game as soon as possible."

Kudos were flowing like beer from a post-rugby kegger between Hill and Gilbertson, adhering to the time-honored code of not giving your opponent any bulletin-board material. "Where do you want to start?" queried Gilbertson when asked about the perceived strengths for Fresno State. "They have a veteran offensive line and quarterback and they've played a lot of big games. They have two exceptional tailbacks. They have quality athletes and strong lines. They have eight veteran offensive linemen. On defense, they have speed, quickness everywhere and their defensive backs have been together for awhile. They are just a real solid, quality football team.

"They are going to bring the blast, the iso, power, the double-pull play ... we just have to be physical and handle it. They have two quality backs that we are going to have to deal with."

Of the 27 games Fresno State has played against BCS teams, 24 have been on the road, and their record over their last 13 games against BCS opponents is 7-6. The Bulldogs have put together more wins against BCS opponents than any other team in a non-BCS conference, and beat two Pac-10 teams - Oregon State and UCLA - last year alone. "When you are in our position, you have to earn your way in," said Hill. "The cost of poker has gone up in college football.

"We see teams like California going to Southern Mississippi and Air Force, and we would love to jump on a bus and go play them. Same with USC, but they don't want to play us."

When looking for experience on the two-deeps for both teams, the numbers can be a bit misleading. Washington has eleven seniors in their two-deeps, compared to eight for Fresno State, but the Bulldogs have thirty players that started at least one game in 2003, three more than the Huskies. UW has four players on their roster with twenty or more career starts - Charles Frederick, Khalif Barnes, Manase Hopoi and Derrick Johnson, while the Bulldogs have only three - OT Logan Mankins, TE Stephen Spach and SS James Sanders - and Mankins did not play in 2003 due to injury.

"We finished strong last year but had a lot of injuries," he said. "In the long run that probably made us a better team for this season. We have a lot of hungry players. Since we don't have any interaction with the players between spring and fall, they had to assume responsibility for themselves this summer. We've had a very tough training camp, with a lot of hitting. A cool day during our camp was 94 degrees. And we are healthy for the first time in a long time."

The Huskies also appear to be healthy, with tight end Ben Bandel the only player expected not to play that would have been previously penciled into the two-deeps. Joe Toledo will start, but Jon Lyon - recently named to the John Mackey Award watch list for the nation's top collegiate tight end - will get significant time. "I'd prefer to start him because he's the one guy that went through almost all of fall camp," Gilbertson said of Lyon.

Gilbertson also mentioned Khalif Barnes, Casey Paus, Isaiah Stanback, Kenny James, Ryan Brooks, Rob Meadow, Manase Hopoi, Mike Mapuolesega, Joe Lobendahn, Derrick Johnson and Dashon Goldson as fall standouts. "I think Sean Douglas also kicked very well for the most part," he added.

The addition of Lobendahn in the middle of the Huskies' defense, is arguably the most important. The junior from Honolulu was lost for the 2003 season after suffering an ACL tear during the second game of the season. "He's just a good football player," Gilbertson said of Lobendahn. "He likes studying the game and he's a hitter that has speed and an attitude about the game. He's going to bring a lot of spirit to the game."

Hill knows that the Huskies are going to throw a two-headed quarterbacking monster at the Bulldogs, a team that gave up an average of 381 yards of total offense per game in 2003. Washington gave up an average of 385 yards per game.

"Anybody that watched the Virginia Tech game watched USC and how they had to adjust to the speed of that quarterback," Hill said. "We just really have to be very aware of which quarterback is in the game and adjust our groupings accordingly."

Casey Paus will start, and Gilbertson expects Isaiah Stanback to get his shots to play Sunday. "We will have an idea of when he'll be getting his opportunities," he said.

"We just need to be good with the football, don't put it on the ground. We can't get too ahead of ourselves. We need to get in the flow of the game, especially with these new quarterbacks."

When Hill hears about the apparent demise of Washington football, he shakes his head. "When I hear talk about how a team might be down, I think of when we went to play Colorado in 2001," he said. "People thought they were going to be a down team and they ended up winning the Big-12 championship that year."

What Hill forgot to add was that Fresno State went into Folsom Field and came away with a 24-22 win.

Back to the NFL: When asked what it would be like to be playing a Sunday game, Gilbertson said, "It's like being in the NFL again, except for these guys aren't in a union and we don't have to give them Tuesday off." The game is going to be televised by Fox Sports Net and will also be available world-wide on XM Satellite Radio.

Husky Legends: Washington's 1984 team, which won the 1985 Orange Bowl vs. Oklahoma, will be honored as part of Sunday's game as the 'Husky Legend'. The day will also include special recognition for that team's defensive coordinator, Jim Lambright. Lambright, a former Husky player and longtime assistant coach, went on to serve as UW's head coach from 1993 to 1998.

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