Coach's Corner

If you're playing football at either the high school or college level, you realize that often you are only as good as the seniors and leaders. I know everyone, including myself, was thrilled by the performance of the red-shirt freshman quarterback, Jake Locker, but do not underestimate what the seniors on the team did on Friday night to enable this victory.

The defensive line, led by three seniors, and the offensive line, anchored by the experience of Juan Garcia and Chad Macklin, totally dominated the line of scrimmages. That was essentially the winning ingredient that determined the outcome of this wonderful opening game.

How long had it been since the Huskies went on the road and won a game against a non-conference division-one opponent? I think it was at least seven years ago when the Dawgs went to Colorado and won, and it was nine years and four coaches since they beat BYU in Provo to open a season. It hadn't been done since any of these seniors joined this program. This was their coming out party. This is their season and this was their time on the big stage and they were the difference.

Say what you want about the awesome performance of Jake Locker, but this one was won in the trenches and it was led by some seniors who are determined that this Husky team will be different.

They intend to win and they showed that last Friday.

Big plays came in bunches and they almost all came from seniors. Randy Hart's crew up front collected seven sacks. Senior Greyson Gunheim had two, senior Wilson Afoa got part of one, senior Jordan Reffett got one, senior Caesar Rayford got one and a half, and senior outside linebacker Dan Howell got one. Only one sack, by junior Daniel Teo'Nesheim was not made by a senior. They also got such great push that there were eight tackles for loss on running plays. That's a total of 15 tackles made on the other side of the line of scrimmage or a ratio of one out of every four snaps. That's good defense.

At the same time the offensive line gave up no (that's ZERO) sacks while at the same time opening holes for a net 302 yards rushing. That's more than any game all of last season.

Almost half of those rushing yards were gained by senior running back, Louis Rankin, who totaled 147 yards on only 17 carries for 3 touchdowns.

Now that's what I'm talking about. Rankin was clearly the best player on the field. He was electrifying, and he was running at a different speed than anyone else in the dome that night. Nobody fumbled and everybody joined in on the fun, but Rankin was special.

Senior receivers caught 15 passes (14 from Jake and one throw by fellow senior, Carl Bonnell), accounting for all the receptions by the Huskies in the game.

Senior Anthony Russo caught five balls, with one, a seam route down the middle, being the longest and best catch of the night. Marcel Reece had four, tight end Robert Lewis had two, as did Rankin and senior Corey Williams. There was only one drop and that was on an early Locker throw that was just a little too high.

This is what you expect from your seniors. These kids are determined to lead this program and themselves to a winning season. They are off to a great start and believe in their system, believe in their coaches, and believe in each other. Many of these seniors have been with 2-3 different coaching staffs and have experienced the horrors of the lowest times in Husky history. They deserved this victory and they shined on Friday. They were on national television and led their team to its finest road win in many years.

One game doesn't make a season, but for this group of seniors it meant a great deal. It was a great start to this class of seniors' final season. It felt so good that they were singing in the locker room and probably on the plane ride home.

Now it's back to reality and on to the next opponent, the highly ranked and highly successful Boise State Broncos. A team that just doesn't lose (14 straight) and will be bringing thousands of it's supporters to Husky Stadium. Now it's time for these seniors to re-establish their dominance at home. Make Husky Stadium their next advantage for continued success in front of sold out crowds. This is about bringing their show off the road and proving to their fans that they are for real.

Who would have thought that beating Boise State would become a defining game for this program? Years ago we would not have even scheduled them, but that was years ago, and today they are the darlings of college football, especially after beating Oklahoma in a BCS bowl game with "Statue of Liberty" and "hook and ladder" plays. BSU finished undefeated and absolutely blew out their opening opponent this season where they scored almost 50 points in the first half alone. A tough opponent, indeed, but this group of seniors is undaunted. They expect to win on Saturday.

Can they continue to dominate the lines of scrimmage? Can they continue to get pressure on the passer? Can they improve enough on kick coverage to take away the field position from their opponent? Can they shore up the back end of the defense to stop a prolific passing offense? Can they stop a Heisman Trophy candidate runner in Ian Johnson? Can they win a game against a nationally ranked opponent? Can they lead their teammates with exemplary play to yet another victory? Lots of questions still to be answered but lots to feel good about, coming out of the first game. They won, they won on the road, and they won the old fashioned way, by pounding their opponent. It doesn't get any better than that, but now it's over, and there is so much more to prove.

Now it's time to prove to the hometown fans that this class of seniors is for real. They want to prove that they will be the ones to restore this great program to the elites in America. They know that if they win this coming game, they will be ranked for the first time in a long time.

I'll repeat what I've been writing all spring and this fall - this is the best Husky TEAM I have seen in close to eight years, and it is because they have a group of seniors leading the way for a very special young quarterback.

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