Observations from the Press Box

With an arctic nip in the air and thick gray clouds lying low overhead, the Huskies and Bruins were about to kick it off. It was the Pac-10 Conference opener for both schools. In walking along the sideline, and amid such cold temperatures, it seemed amusing that the Big Fog machines were set up behind UCLA's bench.

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  • On the surface it seemed that perhaps UW coach Keith Gilbertson had a diabolical plot in store for the cold-phobic boys from sunny southern California. But a UW official stated later that to have the Big Fogs along their sideline, a visiting team must order them in advance.

    When Washington began their opening drive, running back Kenny James was powering through gargantuan, gaping holes, and the yardage totals were piling up. For the first 15 plays from scrimmage, Washington RAN the ball 14 times! One could start to wonder if Keith Gilbertson had stolen Bellevue High School's game plan, when the Wolverines had defeated De la Salle without ever passing or punting the football. The reason for the heavy emphasis on the run was twofold; UCLA's run defense in two previous games wasn't very good. And Gilby and his assistant coaches were obviously still shell-shocked from the lethal QB blunders perpetrated against Fresno State.

    The home crowd was very, very appreciative of the running game's early success. You could sense the surprise and delight—and even the recognition, of something that they hadn't witnessed in ages and were thrilled to see once again.

    With 0:09 left in the first quarter, I noticed that I had predicted the score precisely: Washington 24, UCLA 20. However, given that UCLA's Maurice Drew had 109 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 2 carries, I had a vague notion that perhaps UCLA might be scoring a few more points before the final gun was to go off.

    In the 2nd quarter, the Huskies were facing a 3rd and 20 when a draw play was called, and the ball was given to Shelton Sampson. On this particular play, he ran out of bounds after a gain of 13 yards, with Bruin players closing in. Although the odds would have been against him, it was disappointing that he would do that, rather than put a shoulder into the defenders or perpetrate a juke move, so as to extend full effort toward getting a first down. Instead it was 4th and 7, and the Huskies had to punt. In the seconds that followed, the Bruins scored again.

    As fantastic as UCLA running back Maurice Drew was, it was his dominating offensive line that provided the key for the Bruins to gain such ungodly chunks of yardage. Drew's fourth touchdown was emphatically NOT the result of his talents, but rather a hole on the right side of the line that was wider than Lake Sammamish.

    On a key 3rd down and 8, late in the first half, Paus was under pressure and did a great job of setting up and throwing a quality pass to Anthony Russo… But the ball was muffed and bobbled and then bounced harmlessly to the turf. There were a handful of key drops by receivers today.

    In the second half, it was more of the same; the Bruins marched right down the field at will. Up front, the Huskies showed insufficient muscle and discipline to stave off the Bruins' rushing onslaught. The lone bright spot was defensive lineman (and freshman) Jordan White-Frisbee. Although he is extremely raw, he was a big, physical presence in the middle. In the fourth quarter, he made a fantastic stop on a 3rd and goal at the 2-yard line. This play kept the Huskies in the game.

    On the whole, Paus did a decent if not credible job. But on many of the longer timing patterns down field, the mental rapport between QB and receiver seemed out of sync and lacking mutual trust; akin to a blindfolded man throwing darts at an erratically moving target.

    On another 3rd down and long for UCLA, a beautifully designed delayed screen ate the Huskies for lunch, and gave the Bruins another first down. Washington's proverbial sails kept having the wind removed from within; The Husky defense had an utter inability to stop UCLA's 3rd down conversion attempts.

    During the final drive, Paus' valiant effort fell just short. With the desperation last play ending at the three yard line, the clock ran out and the Bruin players poured onto the field in relieved exaltation. Washington's dispirited players trudged off the field to the tunnel. A few minutes later, the Bruins followed. Their diminutive and sensational running back, Maurice Drew, had his helmet off and carrying it with a tired and humble smile upon his face. His behemoth offensive linemen were engulfing him with hugs and enthusiastically patting him on the head.

    As he reached the track, just a few yards from the tunnel's entrance, Drew joyously exclaimed, "Ain't this just crazy? We're all going out to dinner!"


    ALONG THE SIDELINES:
    There were certain notables as well prized recruits in attendance for the UCLA game. Among those spotted were Don James, Lorenzo Romar, Jim Lambright, Greg Carothers and Elliot Zajac. New Athletic Director Todd Turner viewed the entire game from the sidelines, and he prefers this to sitting in the President's box.

    Among the recruits in attendance were: Jamil Turner of Bethel, Andrew Hooper of Kentwood, Steve Campbell of Inglemoor, Jimmy Miller of Venice, Dan Johnson of Skyline, Ryan Perkins of North Thurston, Andrew Rochon of Jackson and Joel White-Frisbee from Inglemoor. Joel is a Jr.

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