I realize that's too far in the future to worry about, but I see enough talent at Washington for the new coach to come in and win with. Those that have groused about talent are misreading this team. It is depth that is lacking, and depth has been bolstered with the playing of so many young players in 2004.
This group of kids will respond to the change in coaching and they will go from last place to a contender. This program has a foundation built deep on tradition. It now has one built on a solid front simply because it has been developing linemen first and foremost for the past two years. You'll see the depth begin to rear its head very soon, those young linemen are good ones.
And football games are still won up front.
The immediate task at hand, however, is to beat the Cougars. This will take a lot of luck. It is, however, a definite possibility. The Cougars are the better team, but not by a whole lot. Both teams are not very good. Practices this week indicate that the Huskies think they can beat this team, and that is a major factor in the outcome of any football game.
This is a winnable game and regardless of the fact that the Huskies again lost two one of their best players, they match up well with the Cougars and can win a low scoring battle of the defenses.
The Huskies must stop the run, and Joe Lobendahn's replacement, Tim Galloway, will have to play the game of his life for the Huskies to win. He will be the key to this game, and fellow linebackers Evan Benjamin and Scott White will need to help stuff Jerome Harrison. Future All-American, Manase Hopoi and his defensive line team mates have got to get up field and disrupt the Cougar backfield.
Conversely, the Huskies will have to run the ball themselves and not put too much pressure on the quarterback position. They could win the game if they just don't lose it, which seems to happen every time something negative happens.
It would be a great tribute of thanks to Coach Gilbertson and his outgoing staff as well.
For one game, it would be nice to see the Huskies execute in three basic areas of football: ball protection, kicking, and throwing the football. Fresno, UCLA, both Oregon schools, Arizona, Stanford and Notre Dame were all beatable teams this year, and the Huskies played all of them tough for a while before caving in due mostly to turnovers. Good teams have a hard time absorbing blocked punts for touchdowns, let alone bad ones. The injuries to captains and starters was unbelievable this year, but the fact that they could not focus on simple things like throwing, catching, and ball leverage when carrying the football, is what really cost them this season.
Those things can be corrected or at least reduced significantly. Giving games away off of turnovers broke this team in half. Fresno State had three cheap touchdowns, and Notre Dame, Arizona, and California all blocked kicks. Those things are inexcusable. They can be corrected.
They MUST be corrected.
There remains the perplexing problem at quarterback but I think it is one of those positions that will flourish under a new coach. A new system and a new start and maybe some new personnel will help at that position. Maybe the Oregon transfer, Johnny DuRocher, will be the solution. Or maybe it will be a JC transfer. The competition will be thrown wide open and both Carl Bonnell and Isaiah Stanback will once again get another chance to prove they can still be the guy to bring the Huskies out of the dark.
Maybe Casey Paus will finally learn how to throw the football correctly with a new staff instructing him. Maybe, the Huskies will finally commit to the run and throwing the ball will simply complement the running game.
A lot of maybes there, but I think that there is enough talent here and it will take a change similar to the one Jeff Tedford pulled off at California for the Huskies to climb back on top. There is no reason to believe it can't happen at Washington.
Start up front. Both lines at Washington are in better shape than they were two years ago. Although a lot of young defensive linemen have been forced into action, but they were able to red shirt a complete offensive line. Offensive tackle is a big question mark but there are plenty of bodies to choose from. Trust me, the offensive line is deeper than it has been in years. But they are going to have to solidify the commitment of JC lineman James Paulk.
Certainly the four freshmen defensive linemen are going to mature into one of the better fronts in recent Husky history. Gunhiem and Rayford will be monsters off the edge because of another year in the weight room and another year of maturity. White-Frisbee will be another Dennis Brown before he is done and will emerge as one of the biggest and best defensive tackles Husky fans have seen. Erik Lobos gives them another interior and solid proven depth player. Add them to Hopoi, who conceivably could be an All American, as well as Milsten, Afoa, Eriks, Ala, and Mapu, the incoming staff will inherit a potentially dominant defensive front. Randy Hart has done an outstanding job with the youngsters. Hopefully he will be retained to assist his 5th head coach at Washington.
Back to the present, beating the Cougars will be difficult simply because the Huskies are incapable of scoring very many points. They will have to win a close battle and can only do so if they don't give up a cheap score. Considering that this is what has been their downfall all season, it is essential that they not give this game away.
By not losing the game they just might actually have a chance to win it. There is a mental edge to this game and I know they have been pointing to this game since the USC collapse. They know they played both Cal and USC tough for at least a half. The Huskies are desperate and need to win a game for themselves. They need to feel victory. They can save a tremendous amount of face with a victory here. They need to create their own opportunities and bank on their mental edge over a not very good Cougar team.
They can do this.
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