12-20 Practice Report

Washington practiced inside the Dempsey Indoor facility today for the final time before they take off for San Diego tomorrow. It was a good day of work for the Dawgs as they prepare to take on the Texas Longhorns in the Holiday Bowl. Texas has the top-ranked defense in the country, so it was no surprise that the Huskies have a trick or two up their sleeves.

"We've got a zillion of ‘em," joked Neuheisel after practice today when asked about the possibility of using some gadget plays. "They might have to play some Barnum and Bailey Circus music in the background, we've got so much up our sleeve. This is one of those games where you can just let it all fly."

"We're ready to hit the road. We are ready to do this. I thought we practiced really well today and am elated to see that we came and had that kind of energy given that we had a banquet last night, which was a celebration of sorts. I think that's a good sign that we are eager to play, which is obviously the most important thing."

Neuheisel knows that it will take more than trickery to defeat a fine Texas team, however. "(Being the underdog) was a similar circumstance two years ago against Kansas State. I understand what the odds-makers probably see in it. Obviously, the way we played our last game and given all of the talent on the Texas squad, I can certainly see that. What matters is that we go and play our best. If we play our best, I think we can hang in there."

Hard-hitting safety Greg Carothers had the hit of the day. Scout team receiver Matt Griffith ran a crossing pattern and, as the ball arrived, so did the Helena Hitman, delivering a shot that put Griffith on the turf. Much to the walk-on from Lakes' credit, Griffith bounced back up in pretty good shape.

Owen Biddle joined the hit parade with two shots of his own, both against mammoth freshman tight end Joe Toledo. On the first one, Toledo stretched out for a wobbly pass and was able to hang on before taking a direct hit from Biddle. Toledo got right up, partly because Biddle had let up right as he delivered the blow.

Two plays later, those two met again. Toledo was in the flat and the ball was overthrown. Biddle arrived just as the ball was sailing over the tight end's head and belted him to the turf. Toledo got up slowly but did make it back to the huddle. Biddle didn't as he earned a bit of a "chat" with head coach Rick Neuheisel for drilling the freshman.

Larry Tripplett had the defensive play of the day. The scout team offense ran a sweep with John Gardenhire carrying the rock. The Husky senior captain came through the line and not only stopped Gardenhire's progress, he ripped the ball free. It flew into the air and Tripplett snagged the loose football and ran it back for a touchdown.

Offensively, the Huskies will face their stiffest test of the season, as Texas comes into the game ranked number one in the nation on defense. Oregon had success last year against the Longhorns with a lot of misdirection and counter type plays. "When you are dealing with speed, you either have to get them to stop or get them going one way and go the other. So, certainly, misdirection becomes a big part of the deal," said Neuheisel.

The Husky coach believes his team is not intimidated, but rather excited, to play Texas. "I see a lot of enthusiasm. When we get down there and enjoy the festivities and get around the Texas players and realize that this is going to be a big-time game, I think our guys will be excited to play. I know they are right now. It is a great place to play and this is a marquis opponent. If you don't get up for this one, there is something wrong."

An interesting note about the linebackers – Jafar Williams is now working inside. After working at SAM linebacker for the past two seasons (this past season being a medical redshirt one), Williams is taking his reps now with Tom Williams' inside guys. That will be something to watch next year. Williams will return for his senior season next year in 2002. He wore number 13 last year, but has switched to #10 this year.

Charles Frederick was putting on an impressive display of fielding kickoffs. He would field one, put the ball into his left arm, and then field the next one with only his right arm. The display would've made Willie Mays proud.

Anthony Kelley earned the praises of the coaches today for his work at outside linebacker. On two consecutive plays, he got out and successfully defended passes in his area. On one intended for John Cook, Kelley laid out and got one hand to the ball and knocked it to the turf beautifully.

Terry Johnson was fun to watch today. "Tank" was paying close attention to defensive line coach Randy Hart, soaking in as much as he could. On a few plays, he would yell in from the sideline and ask the coach about the defensive schemes being called, to make sure that he was getting the right reads and assignments. Hart was encouraged by Johnson's attentiveness.

Todd Elstrom had the catch of the day. Cody Pickett fired a ball across the middle that was behind the senior wide out from Puyallup, but Elstrom was able to turn his body around and make the catch in heavy traffic.
Husky Notes:

DJ looking good: Cornerback Derrick Johnson took the year off while rehabbing a terrible injury to his ankle and foot. During that time, his weight has gone from 168 pounds up to 187, and his bench press has gone from 215 pounds to 300. He believes that he is one month away from being able to go full contact. Johnson had run a 4.36 40 prior to his injury.

Speaking of health…: Neuheisel believes that everybody is going to be healthy, among the guys that have played. "Knock on wood that we don't have any injuries down in San Diego, but right now, we can't complain." Of quarterback Cody Pickett's shoulder, Neuheisel reported that "he has looked sharp the last couple of days. I am hopeful that he can continue and look like he has looked at times this season. I think he is terrific when he is on."

Block that kick-rush: Texas has had a great season on special teams while Washington's has been a voyage of the damned. "Texas has blocked five punts this year and we have had five blocked. What do those numbers mean?" asked Neuheisel with a mock grin. "They come after you. Obviously, it is going to be a huge challenge for us and a key to the game. We've got to handle that part of our game with a level of expertise that has not been evident in the last couple of weeks. If we can do that, then we can affect the field position of the game in our favor. It is important that we get that done."

The Husky coach said that there would be no personnel changes despite the troubles of getting of punts. "We're just coaching it harder."

Recruiting the lone star state: Washington is only recruiting one Texan this year, OL Kyle Williams. When asked if the Huskies do much recruiting in that state, Neuheisel replied that they do it extremely selectively. "It is too hard to get there and do the thorough job that teams we are recruiting against are doing. If there is someone there who is really interested in coming to us, then we will get involved."

Husky Legend passes on: Longtime Husky Band Director Bill Bissell passed away in his sleep last night. The cause of his passing has not been released yet. Bissell served as the Husky band director for 24 years, taking the job in 1970 and serving until his retirement in 1994. Bissell is credited with introducing "The Wave" along with Robb Weller. He also made the song "Tequila" synonymous with Husky football and "Hey Baby" with the Husky women's basketball program.

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