Dawgman.com Diary - UCLA

Spirits seemed relatively high amongst the Huskies players on Monday, as they met with the press. Dawgman.com sat down with four of them to get their perspective of the current state of this floundering football team.

Joe Lobendahn was asked about what needs to corrected with the defense. "I think we have had too many mental errors," he said. "And we've got to get rid of them. I think we're a lot more disciplined than last year's team. I might be wrong with that, but… We've just got to study our playbook and eliminate those errors. We're much more together than last year with the loss. I can see it."

Maurice Drew's name has been mentioned a lot this week already given his 322 yards and 5 touchdowns that he put on the Huskies last year in Husky Stadium. Lobendahn was asked about UCLA's diminutive running back. "I have a lot of respect for him, he's a great guy," he said. "I met down at the Pac-10 media day. He's a hard runner, and he can create some big plays. We've just got to stop their running plays. If we do that, we've got a chance to win the game."

Wide receiver Sonny Shackelford hails from Beverly Hills by way of West Los Angeles, and sees this trip to play UCLA as a homecoming.

"When you go home and see friends and family, it makes you want to play harder," he said. "I don't know if I can say play harder, because every game you're playing as hard as you can. But you've got family there, so it makes you play that much harder. This is their chance to see me, and my chance to show them what I can do. They don't get to see me play that often. I don't feel extra pressure, because your family is your support system.

"I talk to my Dad every Saturday after the game," he said. "He called me after the Air Force game, he was saying, `oh you had a good game, 5 catches', or `you didn't get too many yards, but you made clutch catches.' He was really happy after the California game, because it was my first 100-yard game. He got to watch that on TV. And for the Idaho game, it wasn't on TV, but he heard the play-by-play on the internet. He always says something positive when I talk to him. It's fun to see my parents keeping up with everything, even though every game is not on TV.

"We've got a lot of guys on the team from California, so we're going back to where we came from," he said. "So it's kind of a homecoming. Everybody is trying to get tickets for family members."

Free safety Dashon Goldson was asked to comment if Notre Dame did anything offensively to confuse the Husky defense.

"Nothing," he said. "We knew that they were going to both throw the ball and run the ball. A lot of their (passes) were deep drop-backs. But they started playing with their little three-step games, their little quick passes, so that our linebackers and defensive line couldn't get to (QB Brady Quinn). Because they saw how we got pressure on the QB against Idaho the week before. Their short passes came out to be big passes, and their short runs came out to be big runs, especially late in the game. They did a good job."

"This game coming up is a big one for us," said Goldson of the impending UCLA game. "I don't want to say that they demolished us last year, but in the running game they did demolish us. Everybody on the team is still pretty fired up. UCLA is probably ranked now in the top 25. It will be a big deal if we can knock them off on their home field."

Isaiah Stanback was asked to gauge the team's confidence, as well as his own. "I haven't played on the road as a QB, except at USC, so it will be a learning experience for me," he said. "So we'll see what happens. But our team has a lot of confidence. We don't have any quitters. Last year, when we turned the ball over, some guys just gave up. This year, we use it an incentive to keep after it. I have no doubt that we're going to be good."

As for the problem with turnovers against Notre Dame, Stanback sounded resolute in addressing the issue. In turn, he referenced his interception in the end zone, Craig Chambers' fumble at the goal line, and Kenny James' fumble when the Dawgs were driving into Notre Dame territory. All three turnovers snuffed any lingering chance of Washington winning the game.

"On my interception, I should have trusted my first instinct," said Stanback. "I should have put more air under the pass. I tried to aim the ball instead of throw it. I mean, I have thrown that pass plenty of times before and have been just fine. But I was trying to aim it, and for some reason I was second-guessing myself. If I throw it the way I know I can throw it, then there's no way that (the Notre Dame defender) can make a play on it. And then if Craig holds onto the ball-- that's a touchdown. And if Kenny holds onto the ball, then that's a touchdown drive. So it's not that we're being stopped. It's that we're stopping ourselves."

Stanback was asked if the mood in the huddles grows tense, when the offense enters into the red zone.

"No, but I definitely thought about the red zone aspect after the game," he said. "I really want to work on it this week. We always work on red zone offense, but I'm going to talk to the coaches and get a few more reps working on it. I like to make my weaknesses my strengths. So we need to get better. The day will come when our team will begin to turn it on when we enter the red zone, eventually."

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times mentioned to Stanback the parable that Willingham told to the media Monday, from his childhood days growing up in North Carolina. Willingham likened the Husky team to a water pump that he used to get water from for his grandmother. Willingham's point was, sometimes it took one or two pumps to get water, other times it took ten to twenty pumps. In any case, the lesson was that you can't give up because you might be close to getting water, and not realize it.

Condotta asked Stanback if he had heard that one yet. Stanback laughed and said he hadn't. "He does that every now and then," said Stanback. "To give us something to think about. He tells us those kinds of stories."

When Dawgman.com followed that up by telling Stanback that the Notre Dame players used to call Willingham `The Prophet', he broke out laughing. "Yea? Well, we don't have a nickname for him yet," he said, still grinning. "But we'll get one for him. I haven't heard that (pump story), but I'm sure he'll tell us. I'm sure it's coming."

Next, as the other reporters got up and migrated elsewhere in the room, Dawgman.com spent a couple of one-on-one minutes with Stanback. He was asked if he notices the increased poise and confidence in himself that other coaches and fans are remarking on.

"Yes, I notice it. I do. That's because I know what I'm doing this year," he said with a chuckle. "My preparation is a lot better now, and I feel confident with our offense. We are NOT going to have a season like last year.

"The coaches have had a great impact on me. But I had to make a decision at the end of last season, about what I was going to do. If I was going to be a QB, I knew I had to figure out how to play the position and get better at it. My drive this summer was higher than it's ever been, to try to get this position. And of course, the coaches helped me out a lot, because I was in their ear all the time, trying to get information."

Lastly, Stanback was asked about the influence of his girlfriend, Husky women's basketball player Cheri Craddock. "Cheri calms me down," he said quietly with a smile. "She knows when I'm mad and stuff like that. She's been through it too. We can both relate to it; as she has had problems with coaching staffs, and I have had problems with coaching staffs. So we've both had our challenges, and we talk each other through the bad stuff."

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