Coach's Corner

Besides the score, there were lots of positives that came out of last Sunday's loss to Fresno State. Sure, the Huskies got slaughtered on the scoreboard, but believe it or not, the team is already better than it was at this time last year.

Why the Hell would I type that? Because they are playing defense, that's why. If they can continue to play that well on defense (and they played exceptionally well), they will still have a chance at a winning season and a bowl bid.

With the exception of one "flat" play following the fourth turnover, the Husky defense played well enough to win most games. The stars are starting to emerge and the team concepts appear solid. They held a good team to less than 300 yards of total offense, 11 first downs, and really only gave up one long play. And, considering that was to Curtis William's brother, it made it easier to take. Their longest runs were scrambles by the quarterback. It was a sound start by the Husky defense and the one obvious plus taken from an otherwise dismal opener.

Joe Lo is going to be a great Husky linebacker over the next two years and with fellow linebacker Evan Benjamin and Dashon Goldson now in center field the Dawg Defense is looking real strong up the middle. Lobendahn was all over the field and if it were not for a "stinger" in the second half, he probably would have had 20 tackles.

Goldson brought back flashes of Tony Parrish or Lawyer Milloy to anyone who has followed Husky defenses. He is like a rocket to the ball and likewise showed that he is going to be a great player in the Husky secondary. He and Benjamin really showed their speed to the ball and left little doubt that there is a new Husky defense this year. Tormey and Snow did some nice work in the off-season.

Derrick Johnson showed he is a premier college corner and it is becoming obvious that teams are going to be throwing away from him. That will put a big challenge on the shoulders of Sam Cunningham and Matt Fountaine. You can bet they will be getting thrown at by at least a two-to-one ratio throughout the year. With steady and heady Jimmy Newell directing traffic and some outstanding youngsters waiting in the wings, the backside of the Husky defense looks to be much improved over the previous three years.

Up front, it was obvious that the move inside by Manase Hopoi was the best for him and the team. He was very active and was second on the team in tackles from the defensive tackle position. With a rotation of 290 lb.Dan Milsten, 290 lb. Donny Mateaki, and super frosh, 335 lb. Jordan White-Frisbee all at the inside positions, it appears the Huskies will always have fresh and stout bodies to plug holes and stop the run. I thought the Huskies looked a lot stronger and tougher in the trenches. All four of those guys held their own real well against a good Fresno running attack.

The defensive ends still struggled but there were positive signs at least in contain and against the run. Brandon Ala missed more tackles than he made but at least those were done at full speed. Ty Eriks will push him to get better or he will be watching Ty play. Mike Mapu showed toughness at the point of attack and appears much more fit and quick than he did when he first came from junior college. He will probably emerge as the best defensive end as the season progresses. Just like White-Frisbee, true freshman Greyson Gunheim played like he had been there before. Although both of these rookies are still raw, they will prove very shortly to be the best players the Huskies have had at those positions in years. Both will be great players with White-Frisbee reminding me of Dennis Brown and Gunheim of the Ball twins who played for UCLA. I watched them both on my binoculars from the press box and came away impressed. With 4-5 guys inside and 4-5 outside, it appears the Husky defensive line is much improved and considering that Hopoi is the only senior, all will be back for years to come.

Even Hopoi could return if he was to get his degree this year, per the partial-qualifier rule.

Going into the game I felt the Husky linebacker corps was the most improved position unit on the team. Joe Lo and Evan are really developing well under Chris Tormey, who is the best linebacker coach the Huskies have had since Jim Lambright. (Well, maybe not as colorful as the guy who replaced Lambo). It is more than obvious that those two and Scott White are learning well under Tormey's teaching. Throw Tim Galloway's experience in and you have four pretty good players at the three spots. Behind them are another great group of youngsters. True freshmen Dan Howell and Trenton Tuiasosopo both are going to be really good linebackers with Howell having more speed and foot quickness than any of them. With the exception a few missed tackles, the linebackers turned in a solid performance against the Bulldog and really stuffed the Bulldog fullback and running game. They are only going to get better and all except Galloway are underclassmen.

Two other things are obvious. The Husky defense is attacking is much more, and they are more aggressive against the pass. They contested every ball and went after the Fresno quarterback with pressure and a vengeance. They played good enough to win most games. What they need to add to their arsenal is more turnovers to the house.

Just like Fresno's defense did.

They need to score themselves and not bank on the offense to do all the scoring. I am positive that that is one of their game goals. Score on defense! That is how you win games. That is precisely how Fresno won this game.

And that is the way the Huskies must win games this season. Stop the run, create turnovers, and score on defense. Do those three things and improve the kicking game and the Huskies will win games no matter what their offense does. That's what it boils down to.

Facing facts, the quarterbacks are young and the team will have to overcome their mistakes of immaturity. As long as the defense plays the way it did, however, the Huskies stand a great chance of turning this disastrous start into a winning season. Top Stories