Dawgman.com Diary - 10/5

It looks like Scott White got his teammates' attention. In what he called a 'declaration' to the whole Washington team, White's comments to Seattle columnist Blaine Newnham after UW's loss to Stanford left little doubt as to what he expects out of the Huskies' effort this coming Saturday at home against San Jose State.

"I'll make a declaration to the whole team," White told Newnham, who writes for the Seattle Times. "If you're ready to fold your tent — then don't come back Monday. If you're ready to battle San Jose State for our first win, I'll posse with you."

White's 'declaration' begs the question - why was it needed? Sure the Huskies are 0-4, their worst start in 35 years. To add insult to the injuries sustained by Derrick Johnson, Sonny Shackelford, Quintin Daniels, etc..., UW is now the only BCS school in the country without a 'w'. To qualify this weekend's matchup with the Spartans as a 'must-win' for the Dawgs is as sure as a Maurice Drew scamper up the middle.

"I wanted it to be more like an eye-opener," White said Monday, clarifying his position. "I just wanted to make sure that everyone knows that we still have a lot to play for. Those four games are behind us now, there's nothing we can do about them. I want to be with guys that battle, want to go through the fire. If you can get up and enthusiastic to play at this stadium in front of these fans, don't come back."

White, a sophomore from Lemon Grove, California, did his part this past Saturday, racking up 15 tackles in a 27-13 loss at Stanford. And perhaps his comments were culled from some of the things he saw in last year's team, a team that clearly gave up in a 54-7 whitewashing at California. "I felt that last year," he said. "This year we are a tighter-knit team, but our mettle is being tested. In the end, I want guys that are going to be standing with me at the finish line."

"A victory or a loss is not going to change the tightness of this team, but losing will certainly test it," added Brad Vanneman, a junior center from Issaquah. "We feel like we are an angry football team right now, but we haven't lost faith at all. There's no quarreling, no sniping. We just have to band together, follow our leaders and play well."

With Charles Frederick and Zach Tuiasosopo out for the Stanford game and Derrick Johnson's status for this weekend's game as questionable, that only leaves Joe Lobendahn and Khalif Barnes as captains available to play.

"They still have leadership, they are still captains," Barnes said. "Zach went to the game and ET called guys up and talked to them. To me, there's no extra pressure at all."

But White decided it's time for others to help out and supplement some of the on-field leadership, hence another reason for the 'declaration'.

"Guys are starting to be a little more vocal," said White. "I just felt l needed to step up to the task. Everybody tells me I'm a born leader. I feel like we needed a spark, and I want to be that spark. I hope to be the catalyst for something big."

So the Spartans are next on the calendar, a game that was surely pencilled in as a 'w' the moment it was scheduled. Why not? Washington has won all 8 meetings with San Jose State, and even though the Spartans were ahead at halftime of their last meeting with the Huskies in 2002, the end result of the contest was never seriously in doubt.

This game has trouble written all over it. "We need to play good football for a full 60 minutes to win, that's what we have to do," Vanneman said. "We have to play well against a San Jose State team that can put a lot of points up on the board. We don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves. Offensively it's going to be a challenge to score as many points as we can, as fast as we can."

Vanneman and Barnes have been at the nucleus of a sterling OL effort so far this season that finds them second in the Pac-10 in sacks allowed. Through four games the Huskies have only allowed their quarterback to be touched up five times. UCLA leads the Pac-10 with only two sacks given up.

"It's no real secret, it's just wanting to do it," Barnes said. "We take pride in not giving up sacks. Coach (Charlie) Dickey is a good coach with a lot of knowledge. He was at Arizona for 14 years, so he must be doing something right."

"We have to keep the pocket 'clean', something Coach Dickey takes a lot of pride in," added Vanneman. "But we still need to establish the run better."

Do the players feel the added responsibility of playing for an embattled coach? Add a San Jose State loss to Keith Gilbertson's 2004 resume, and his bags will be all but packed. "We will always play hard for coach, all we can do is play our best," said White. "But this is our team. It's not Coach Gilby's team. This is not about trying to save his job. We have to play for ourselves and the tradition here.

"One day we will win the Rose Bowl again. Mark it down. You can't lose sight of that. I came here to be a part of the defensive tradition and all the great players that have played here. I wanted the opportunity to build something special."

"I'm more worried about getting to 1-4 first," said Barnes. "I want to talk about us getting a win. Our guys are confident, nobody has quit. As long as they want to come out, work hard and be a part of this team, I can work with everything else."

But White realizes the obvious can't be ignored. "If we lose this game, there's going to be some smoke in the city," White said. "Every game is a 'must-win' game, as far as I'm concerned. I know they (San Jose State) will come out gunning. Personally, I will be really embarassed if we lose."

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