For head coach Keith Gilbertson and the Washington Huskies, they would have preferred a chance to have another game under their belts before conference play started, but they will have to take what the schedule makers gave them as they get set to host UCLA at Husky Stadium this Saturday afternoon.
After opening the season with a 31-20 loss at home to Oklahoma State, UCLA bounced back with a 35-17 win on the road against Illinois.
"They do it with great balance," Gilbertson said of UCLA's offensive attack. "They have a veteran experienced player at every position. A lot of kids we know from trying to recruit them. They have great skill and speed outside with (Craig) Bragg and Junior Taylor and they have Tab Perry back. They have a great athlete at tight end (Marcedes Lewis) and two quality tailbacks (Manuel White and Maurice Drew). The offensive line is playing very well and they have an experienced quarterback who's doing a lot of good things with the football. So right now they are a high rolling act offensively and they are playing really well."
Bragg, Taylor, and Lewis are all major weapons for quarterback Drew Olson. Perry, who was ruled academically ineligible last season after starting the previous two years, is back to strengthen the passing game. White and Drew provided a solid one-two punch for the Bruins to combine for 239 yards rushing against Illinois.
"I think (UCLA) feels like they really improved from week one to week two," said Gilbertson. "I think in week one, they played a really big, strong team. On TV, those Oklahoma State guys look gigantic. But I think UCLA feels like they improved a lot from week one to week two. They gave up 17 points so it probably feels like they made some improvement."
Even though UCLA defeated an Illinois team that is not considered one of the better teams that school has ever fielded, Gilbertson said it does not hinder his thoughts about just how good of a team the Bruins are.
"I do have a sense," he said. "Just about every kid on that team, when you look at them, we in some fashion tried to recruit. So I know their talent, we coached against a lot of those people. It seems like we have coached against some of these players forever. They got quality athletes. I don't know all of them personally, but I know them all trying to recruit them or evaluating them out of high school."
Looking back to last year
Many remember last season's game against the Bruins in Pasadena and how the Huskies took a 16-7 halftime lead only to see UCLA storm back with 39 unanswered points in the second half.
"It was quite a lesson and we were really stunned by that," said Gilbertson. "We were a little bit different on offense with Cody (Pickett) and Reggie (Williams). I don't know if we have the ability to go out and do that offensively like we did that first half. But I would hope that we wouldn't fall off as fast or as hard as we did.
"The misleading thing is last year after that horrific play where they recovered that fumble in the end zone, we took two straight drives down inside their 10-yard line and came up with zero points. In fact I think we threw two interceptions in a row. I thought their people picked it up and played so well offensively and they were a defense last year that was as experienced as they were on the line of scrimmage, you didn't have great margin for error."
Review of last week
Gilbertson has said all along that he was not the biggest fan of bye weeks this early on in the season and he re-addressed those concerns.
"I don't know if it did us much good having a bye week in the second week of the season," he said. "It doesn't do your football team much good particularly when you are young and inexperienced at quarterback. It would have been nice to play another non-conference game. You hope you got things done and you are sharp and efficient but you never know when you come out of a bye."
The bye week did give QB Isaiah Stanback a chance to rest a sprained ankle. Stanback injured his ankle during an 8-yard touchdown run against Fresno State and, according to Gilbertson, did not take a snap all week. Gilbertson also said that he did not know where Stanback would find himself on the depth once he begins to take snaps and would evaluate him from there. With the absence of Stanback, Bonnell, who played briefly in the fourth quarter in week one, got all of Stanback's allotted reps.
"He got a lot of work and a lot of reps and being the newest here, he probably had the farthest to go," said Gilbertson of Bonnell. "I think last week was really good for him. He got a lot of work and a lot of throws and really got some timing with his receivers, so it was a really good week for him."
But even if Stanback is not cleared to play UCLA, Gilbertson would not guarantee Bonnell would occasionally spell Paus.
"We'll probably start Casey and see what happens," he said.
As for the other players that took advantage of the bye week to open the eyes of the coaches, Gilbertson singled out two young players.
"I think Louis Rankin is a guy that gets our attention more and more all the time at tailback," he noted. "The depth is pretty good there but I think he's a guy that's making a move in there to get some playing time. A part of that is also Chris Singleton still does not appear to me to be healthy. His foot is not recovered and that injury is not totally healed. He really has trouble cutting and doing some things that are essential at tailback.
"I think C.J. Wallace has practiced very well and worked his way up to more playing time. I think he just has a better sense of what we're trying to do defensively."
At tight end, not much has changed on the injury front. Jon Lyon remains on the top of the depth chart.
"So many guys have missed time and not practiced so I'm not totally sure there," said Gilbertson. When asked to give an update on Joe Toledo and Ben Bandel's condition, Gilbertson did not sound very hopeful in having the two of them back anytime soon.
"Joe conditioned on Saturday," he said. "I think realistically you would see Toledo well before you see Bandel from what I see."
Keith Gilbertson Press Conference - 9/13
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