Washington (2-1) vs. UCLA (2-0)

Washington has come through the first three games of the season feeling very good about themselves, with wins over San Jose St. and Fresno St. sandwiching a loss to Oklahoma in Norman. UCLA has posted wins over Utah in week one and then a surprisingly close win over the Rice Owls. The Bruins and Huskies meet Saturday in Seattle, kickoff is at 4:00PM PST and the game will be televised on TBS.

LAST WEEK: The Huskies took a major step in their turning the corner as a program by winning a game that was tight down the stretch against a decent opponent. Washington was able to do enough on offense to keep their defense off of the field, and they protected the ball well and didn't give the Fresno State Bulldog offense any short fields to work with. QB Isaiah Stanback showed good instincts and tucked and ran when it was open, and he had no turnovers, something that has plagued him throughout his career. WR Marcel Reece was a bigger part of the offense and will now be a go-to guy in the middle of the field for Stanback. Reece looks more and more comfortable with every passing day of practice. The offensive line has had a solid season thus far, giving Stanback decent time to make decisions, but has also shown that they can open holes for tailbacks Kenny James and Louis Rankin to slip through. James and Rankin split time, so they both stay fresh, and when you mix in Stanback's running, it is a formidable attack on the ground. Marlon Wood is dangerous on the end around from his wide out spot. LAST WEEK: UCLA had a week off to prepare for Washington. This will be the Bruins first road contest of the year, having played both the Utes and the Owls in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Karl Dorrell knows Husky Stadium well, having been the offensive coordinator under Rick Neuheisel prior to a stint in Denver for the Broncos and his new gig in Westwood. In UCLA's last contest against Rice, Dorrell liked what his defense gave him. "Our defense is off to a good start. I'm impressed with how hard they're playing. We didn't get as many third-and-outs as we did against Utah, but we still had a good ratio." Dorrell hopes to improve on ball handling, however, as UCLA struggled to finish offensive drives that ended in turnovers and field goals. Tailback Chris Markey, however, was impressive, and his speed and cutback abilities will give the Husky linebacking corps fits. WR Junior Taylor and flanker Brandon Breazell have enough speed to make the Husky secondary pay if they don't step up this week.
KEY INJURIES: TE Rob Lewis, TE Michael Gottlieb (both out) KEY INJURIES: None reported.
WHEN WASHINGTON IS ON OFFENSE: Isaiah Stanback is the toughest Husky to defense because of his 10.4 100 meter speed and his size (220 pounds). He can hurt defenses and make them commit to him, and then stop and fire a laser to a receiver that the defenders had to ignore because of the threat of Stanback. Last week against Fresno State Stanback did a nice job of squaring up and throwing on the run, not forcing too many bad balls. He had five passes dropped but didn't let it get to him or his team. The five offensive line starters never come out, so Husky coaches keep their fingers crossed that no injuries occur. Marcel Reece doesn't start but when he's in the game, he makes his presence known. At 6-3 and nearly 250 pounds, he's a load but has wheels. The double-headed rushing threats in the backfield are starter Kenny James, the between-the-tackles guy, and Louis Rankin, the speed threat that has shown great improvement in pad level and at hitting the hole quicker that he was in 2005. Rankin ranks fifth in the Pac-10, averaging 92 yards per game. Anthony Russo and Sonny Shackelford are Stanback's other favorite targets. WHEN UCLA IS ON OFFENSE: Ben Olson is perhaps the most accurate passer that Washington will face this year. When you watch him drop back and release the ball, you will be reminded of the prototypical NFL quarterbacks of a decade ago. I see a lot of Drew Bledsoe in him. He is a first-year starter though and had some fumble problems against Rice in game two. The Bruins spent the bye week working on ball handling issues to clear them up before their conference opener. He has completed 73% of his passes so far this year. The Tailback is the talented Chris Markey, a 204-pound junior that can hurt you with either the cut back or flat out speed. He leads the Pac-10 in rushing, averaging 120 yards per game. He is spelled by Kahlil Bell, a 205-pound sophomore. They run behind a line that only has one senior (Center Robert Chai), is not huge, but very adept at getting out into their men and sealing their blocks. At wide out, Junior Taylor is very capable of making the Husky secondary look lost. The Husky defensive backs will need to communicate well, and hope for a pass rush to force Olson to throw before he's ready. TE Logan Paulson is averaging 18 yards per reception.
WHEN UCLA HAS THE BALL: Washington's defense has been somewhat abused through the air this season. They have given up an average of 28.7 points per came thus far, ranking 8th in the league, and rank dead last against the pass (245 yards per game). Up front the Dawgs use a lot of people but the main guys emerging inside are Wilson Afoa and Jordan Reffett. Donny Mateaki plays a lot as well. On the edge is where bookend defensive ends Daniel T'eo Nesheim and Grayson Gunheim have made an impact, combining for 18 stops and 3 tackles for loss. The linebackers are Scott White, Tahj Bomar, and Daniel Howell returns to the lineup after flying home last week to mourn the sudden loss of his father. White has 20 tackles and Chris Stevens has 14 in a reserve role, while leading the team with 2 sacks and 5 tackles for loss. The secondary includes Pac-10 leading tackler CJ Wallace, Jason Wells, Matt Fountaine, and Roy Lewis. They're going to be tested severely on Saturday. WHEN WASHINGTON HAS THE BALL: The Bruins have made an attempt at shedding the "soft" tag and becoming more physical on defense. Defensive ends Justin Hickman and Bruce Davis are both fast. Hickman has four tackles for loss and three sacks already. The inside guys are the undersized Kenneth Lombard and the talented Kevin Brown, who has three tackles for loss. The linebackers behind them are Aaron Whittington, Christian Taylor, and Reggie Carter. All are undersized but all can run. Taylor is the most active from his middle position. The secondary is excellent, led by free safety Dennis Keyes who co-leads the team in stops with 12 and has two pass breakups. Strong safety Chris Horton also has 12 stops. The corners are Rodney Van and Trey Brown. Expect the Huskies to try to exploit Brown's diminutive stature with taller receivers, but Brown does have a pick. UCLA ranks third in the Pac-10, giving up an average of 13 points per game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Place kicker Michael Braunstein has been perfect on the season, hitting two of two on field goals and 10 of 10 on extra points. His kickoffs have been high and deep and has had four touchbacks. Punter Sean Douglas is one of the finest in the country, as he is averaging 48.8 yards per boot, including two punts of over 80 yards. Marlon Wood is the punt return guy for the Dawgs while Roy Lewis is the chief kickoff return man, and has had a long return of 31 yards. SPECIAL TEAMS: Place kicker Justin Medlock is as solid as they come. He has connected on five of six field goal attempts in two games, his long coming from 51-yards out. He also handles the kickoff duties. Sophomore punter Aaron Perez has punted six times, three of those being downed inside the 20, and his average boot is 39 yards. Markey handles punt returns while Jeremy McGee has returned all three kickoffs the Bruins have received this year.
WASHINGTON OUTLOOK: This is a team that is feeling good about themselves for the first time in a long time. Tyrone Willingham was very upbeat after the game on Saturday, as were his charges. Isaiah Stanback can take another huge step forward in his progression as a quarterback with a win over UCLA. Decision making has been a difficult part of the position for Stanback, but last week his choices were good ones. Credit to offensive coordinator Tim Lappano for devising a strategy where Stanback could use his strengths and know when to cut his losses. Another game of no turnovers on offense could have the Dawgs at 3-1. UCLA OUTLOOK: The Bruins are really yet to be tested. They have played a Utah team that looked quite pedestrian while following that up with a lackluster win over Rice. Both of those games were at home. Now they travel to Seattle where it is expected to be cold, windy, perhaps wet, and facing a Husky team that is coming off one of their biggest wins in three years. The Bruins will need to take a step up this week, and perhaps the time is right since they will be rested having come off of a bye week. If ever there was a secondary that Ben Olson would love to face, statistically, this is it. They don't cover well, they appear to confuse easily, and they don't make plays when the ball is in the air.
WASHINGTON CAN WIN IF: They follow the identical recipe that they followed last weekend. First and foremost, no turnovers. The much maligned Husky secondary will give up a lot of yards, so the key is to limit the number of drives that the Bruins will get. The best way to do that is to move the chains on offense, not turn the ball over, and have the punter get the ball to be downed inside the 20 so the Bruin offense has to travel long distances for their points. Isaiah Stanback needs to show that same moxie he did last Saturday, tucking and running when there is an opening, and not forcing the ball to receivers that are being shadowed by speedy defenders is crucial. Going down before the ball can be popped loose is crucial. And the best way the Huskies can help their quarterback is to open holes for Louis Rankin and Kenny James to find and make it 2nd and five and 3rd and one. Defending Stanback on these types of downs becomes very difficult. UCLA CAN WIN IF: They give Ben Olson time to pick apart the Husky secondary. Tackles Aleksey Lanis and Noah Sutherland will need to keep the speedy Husky defensive ends and outside linebackers away from the backfield, and if Olson has time, he'll find guys and hit them with accurate throws. Dwayne Wright and Adrian Peterson both ran through the Husky defense with success, so expect Chris Markey to try to do the same. If the Bruins can get Markey going, it will force the Husky linebackers to stay home, thus opening up the intermediate routes for Junior Taylor. The Bruins also like to throw to their fullback Michael Pitre, something else the Husky linebackers will need to watch for. The Bruins also need to take better care of the football and punch it in when they get to the red zone. On defense, the Bruins need to shadow Stanback and get pass rush with their front four with the aid of one linebacker, because the other linebacker is going to need to watch #4 in Purple.
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Author David Samek has covered the Huskies for Dawgman.com since 1996. He is the Publisher of Dawgman.com and the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Washington magazine. The information source for the UCLA capsules is from articles by Brandon Huffman, on Bruin Report Online.

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