Dawgman Diary – 11/8/05

The quarterback position is the most high-profile spot on any ball club, but it takes on even more importance for a Pac 10 team. No team can win in the Pac 10 without solid play from the quarterback and for the past two seasons, since Cody Pickett graduated in 2003, the Huskies have struggled to find a player with the leadership, mental and physical toughness and abilities to lead the team to a win. But it's not due to a lack of trying.

Isaiah Stanback has gone 1-9 as a starter (including his one start last season against USC in 2004) and his progress lately has levelled after getting off to a promising start under first-year offensive coordinator Tim Lappano.

Oregon transfer Johnny DuRocher has mopped up a couple games this season and got his most extensive playing time as a collegian this past weekend against the Oregon State Beavers. In the second-half of an 18-10 loss, DuRocher went 11 of 30 for 103 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

The problem is, as the media discovered on Monday, DuRocher has a broken bone in his left – non-throwning – wrist that is currently in a cast. DuRocher, who was abused all night by the Beaver pass-rush, can't even remember which hit it was that did him in.

"It was sometime, during the second half, but I'm not really sure what play it was," DuRocher told the media. "I came in on Sunday morning and it was really swollen so they took a picture of it and I broke a bone in my wrist, so I'm out four to six weeks I guess."

Head coach Tyrone Willingham, in his weekly press conference, noted that he was unsure whether DuRocher would be able to practice this week or not and that there is always the off chance he could be available if the need arises. DuRocher said it was more likely that he would sit out this week and then see what happens next week during preparations for the Apple Cup.

"We might try in two weeks to take it off," DuRocher said referring to his cast. "If I can bend it down, similar to taking a snap, then we might try to splint it up, but not this week." He was seen Tuesday afternoon at practice throwing the ball, but he wasn't catching it and it didn't look as if he would have much of a chance to make this weekend's road trip.

So by default, Stanback is back in the starters position and the fourth-year junior said he's ready to take the reigns and go, but he knows he will continue to be pushed by those behind him - including Casey Paus, Carl Bonnell and even walk-on Felix Sweetman. Paus started eight games for Washington in 2004. Bonnell started two in 2004 but has been laid low with a quad contusion.

"The competition is still the same," Stanback said with a laugh. "We've still got to practice every day. Whatever decision is made is made. All I can control is how I practice."

On area that has been a huge disappointment for the Husky team has been the play of a veteran offensive line. One that features four seniors including center Brad Vanneman who publicly apologized for the non-stop beating that both Stanback and DuRocher suffered at the hands of Oregon State.

"Vanny, he came up to me after the game," Stanback said. "He took the game hard, like I took the rest of the games. He's a competitor and when you're a competitor you're going to feel like that when things aren't right.

"I have a lot of confidence in my offensive line and I know they didn't play to the best of their ability as well as other positions on the field. Everybody was disappointed."

Stanback said the decision for him to sit during the second-half of the Oregon State game wasn't a surprise to him and he had confidence that DuRocher could get the job done.

"Being the quarterback of any team that's not having a lot of success, the first that people want to do is change the quarterback and I understand that," Stanback said. "When the decision was made I said ‘OK. I want to play, but Johnny's going in and I have a lot of confidence and I know Johnny can play'."

The Huskies' up-coming opponent, the Arizona Wildcats, appeared to be a team going nowhere but a strange thing happened. They made a switch at quarterback (from Richard Kovalcheck to true freshman William Tuitama) and Tuitama led them to two straight wins - including a 52-14 upset victory over previously undefeated UCLA last weekend. While Tuitama has been a spark, it's the Arizona defense that has really stepped up it's game.

"I haven't had a chance to look at them yet, but I know they're good," Stanback said of the Wildcat defense. "It's another Pac 10 team that we're playing so you've got to expect that you're going to have another battle.

"UCLA was up for the whole year and they had a lot of close games, but they faced somebody who finally put them away. I'm sure they'll bounce back from that. There's always going to be ups and downs during the season for every team."

Now it's time for the Huskies to catch someone and finally put their 14-game conference losing streak to an end.

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