Notes from the Press Box

Walking along the sidelines prior to kickoff, the field was drying out and both teams were going through warm ups with very little apparent anticipation or joy for what was to come. I felt it a shame considering that there are so few games to be played in a season and the Huskies stood a great chance of winning on this day. Shouldn't they be excited to play? Maybe I'm too idealistic, but I was disappointed.

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  • I felt like charging onto the field and grabbing some facemasks and head butting a few of our guys to get things fired up. But I figured that was a good way to (a) get knocked off my feet and pulverized into the turf, and (b) dragged out of the stadium by security, and (c) have some explaining to do later on to Dawgman. So common sense prevailed over hot-headed emotion, and I stayed put.

    In looking closely at San Jose's defensive line, I was astonished at how small they were. One defensive end in particular, Sean McNamara, was listed at 205 lbs, but looked perhaps 10 lbs less than that. I figured that Washington could wear them down as the game progressed, and that is ultimately what occurred.

    In looking at Husky running back Louis Rankin, I am constantly impressed even with his mere physical presence- a lanky build with long arms and yet a swift-moving and powerful physique. Watching him during warm-ups, I got excited thinking that today would be the day that he'd get some playing time and show what he could do.

    When I got up to the press box, I was reading the San Jose State media release, and was astonished by a certain stat. The Spartans were only 8 for 25 in 3rd down conversions in the last two games, despite scoring 70 points a week ago against Rice! Based on that numeric morsel, if the Huskies were to lose today, it would be from giving up the big play, and nothing else.

    Washington's opening drive proved successful, as QB Carl Bonnell tallied 65 yards on 6 carries and tallied a touchdown. The Huskies would not score again until the 3rd quarter, and the flow of the game became stagnant and boring. The Husky defense was enjoyable to watch.

    From there, despite the close score, about the only thing that felt competitive was the poor punting from each team. Their efforts seemed to mirror each other. The crowd only came alive once in the second quarter, when CJ Wallace laid a reverberating WALLOP! on Spartan QB Dale Rogers.

    The Huskies' continued woes with the passing game are perplexing and troublesome. It is like the guys have no confidence that they are going to catch the football. If they wish to win a league game, they need receivers to come of age.

    When Paus came in to sub for the injured Bonnell, the first two plays the Dawgs ran were option keepers. I know the coaches say that the offense is the offense regardless of who is quarterbacking. But Paus is not fleet of foot and this doesn't make sense to me. He is an average QB at best, and has been criticzed heavily. But as we saw against Oregon last year, he is capable of doing some good things. Until the day I die, I am convinced that if Paus had come in for the injured Cody Pickett against Arizona last year, the Huskies win that game by three touchdowns.

    But regarding wondering why Paus is being used to run the option, I also remembered what Don James said to me during our interview three months ago: "As a coach, the question of why did you do that is hard... I think I read a quote from President Kennedy, that you can't effectively criticize my decisions until you have the same exact knowledge that I have. It's also true for football coaches. There's no way fans can come out here and know the same things the coaches know, after the coaches have been pouring over film and video tape for a week, and a lot of them do summer evaluations as well. We know the injury list for the other team, and the tendencies of the other team's offense and defense. We can tell you everything they're going to do on the left hash or plus 20, we've got it all. And after we called a play that didn't work, we evaluated that ourselves. The big thing is the fans will never have the same information the coaches have, and that includes me as I am watching a game now, we will never have the same information that the coaches will have."

    Fans will always criticize (as it should be) and writers like me will always spout off about what went wrong and how things can be improved; but it is food for thought the next time we're pulling our hair out over something we see as being inconceivably imprudent (like having Paus run the option), that this has been well thought out ahead of time and maybe is the lesser of multiple evils. Against San Jose, the coaches were clearly looking to minimize mistakes and grind out a victory.

    The main things that stood out in the second half were the UW offensive line and Kenny James really establishing themselves, and the amazing stoutness of the Husky defense. I actually missed Kenny James' first TD. I went to the restroom, and was at the sink washing my hands, when at once I heard a massive, sustained roar erupt from the stadium. I thought I was alone in there and said aloud, "great, we finally do something and I miss it." Suddenly from one of the stalls I heard an echoing voice say: "Well it's about #%@$# time!"

    When the game clock ran out and the Huskies had won, the entire Husky team jogged onto the field to shake hands with the Spartans and congratulate each other. Kenny James had carried the football even on the final drive, massing 189 yards and 2 TDs. The defense had shut down SJSU's passing attack to 22 yards. The Husky passing game had been anemic. The atmosphere is the stadium was often morgue-like. As boring as it was, it was also a much-needed victory. But when the Husky players ran onto the field, there was one player missing; as at the strike of 0:00 running back Louis Rankin immediately jogged away from his teammates, right off the field and up into the tunnel, with his head down and looking disappointed. While realizing that any number of things may have been happening to him, read into that what you will.

    Derek Johnson can be reached at Top Stories