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There's nothing like home cooking, but sometimes you'll find any excuse to go to Outback. As I spoke to players on Monday afternoon, the general consensus was that after five straight games at the friendly confines, the Huskies are looking forward to their first road game in over 45 days.

This week the Huskies will face a Trojan team that brings yet another senior quarterback and a stingy defensive front. Much has been written about the Dawgs' inability to run the ball. OL Elliot Zajac knows that, and doesn't intend to be content. " We came a long way this week, but I think we still have a ways to go. We ran the ball a lot better last week, but as far as the standards at the University of Washington we're not there yet. We still have a long ways to go," said the senior captain.

"It's pad level for me personally. I'm struggling to keep my pad level down because of my leg. For the other guys I don't know. I don't think it's assignment errors. It could've been movement or something Arizona was doing, but we'll make those changes this week."

Strong tackle Nick Newton is questionable for this weekend's game, but Zajac felt that redshirt freshman Rob (don't call me Robin) Meadow would get the job done if necessary. " We have tremendous faith in Robin. We were a little nervous to see how he would react. But after the first play his nerves went away just like everyone else's and he just knows how to play football and he did really well." Said the big man from Bakersfield.

The front four of USC has been able to get to opposing quarterbacks without much help from the linebackers, however with DT stud Shaun Cody to miss the rest of the season the Trojans lose a large piece of that puzzle. "I think they'll stay with what they're doing. You don't have to change it up for one guy (Cody). I don't think he was that big of an impact player as far as their defense goes. He's a good player but they've got tremendous backups and they'll stick to what they know. I gave up a sack last week. It was the first sack of my college career. But things are going pretty well as far as protection goes. I'm about 80 percent with my leg. 80 to 90, right in there. It's going to be hard because I keep playing on it. We're struggling to get it to all the way back," said Zajac

True freshman Nate Robinson was close to being a Trojan himself. "At a point I did almost commit there. But I didn't feel at home like I did here at the udub. Coach Neuheisel and the guys made me feel very comfortable. It was nice down there but I wasn't feeling it like U-Dub."

Going on only his second road trip is something the frosh is looking forward to. "I expect a hard-nosed dog fight. In the Michigan game I didn't get in much except the kick-off returns, but now that I play more they expect more out of me. They're a great team and I look forward to playing against them. It's cool because you get to go out of town, see new places and different people. You get to hear more boos, but when you do good the crowd is silent. You get to shut them up."

When asked if he was prepared for the repetitious Trojan marching band Nate-Rob didn't think it would be a problem "They played that song (Conqueror) when I was on my recruiting trip the whole time. They've got their song and we've got our song. I'll just block it out."

As the only true freshman to earn playing time so far, Nate is doing his best to soak it all up. "I didn't expect it, it just happened. I just waited my turn. I don't mind it. The more playing time the better. It's hard because I have to learn so much as a freshman. There are so many different plays you have to run and learn. The coach tests you on them so it's really hard. It's different on the field because you get to see the actual lineups instead of on paper, so in the game you just gotta know what you have to do. Stay focused and communicate with the other players."

I couldn't help but ask if the 5-9 cornerback would soon be going for jump balls on the hardwood as well as the field turf. "I don't know. I'm hoping I can go to practice, but I don't think that's possible. I haven't talked to Coach Neuheisel. I'm going to ask him that. I really don't know. I'd love to play both if I could," said Robinson. He later mentioned that the final decision belongs to Coach Neuheisel.

QB Cody Pickett has put up some crazy numbers so far this year, and is rewriting the Husky record books. But the junior from Caldwell is only concerned about W's and L's right now. "I'm not worrying about that right now. That's something I can look at after the season, but not right now. I threw for 390 something yards against Cal and we lost. That's one of the worst feelings you can have. So I'm not worried about that now," Pickett said.

With one big game on the road this season already under his belt Pickett hopes this weekend will produce a different result than the last. "It (Michigan) was a little help. Obviously we didn't get the win like we wanted to, but it was a hostile environment in front of a lot of people and it was a big time experience for us. I think it's going to help us going into this week. We've got to go out there and basically play error free football. This is a great team we're playing in USC. Michigan has great athletes on defense. It was a great confidence booster going in there and being able to move the ball decently. It's going to be kind of like that this week. Going into a hostile environment and playing a great defense."

Pickett was hurt in last year's contest with USC but doesn't think that will factor in his play. "We felt like we were moving the ball pretty well in the first half. Then I checked to an option play, it wasn't a called option, I checked to an option. I ran around the left side, got about ten or twelve yards and kinda got hit into an awkward position, went down, it hurt but it was scarier more than anything not knowing what was wrong with my shoulder. The big thing was being able to come back the next week and knowing that I could play with the shoulder. It was something that happened a long time ago."

Although it may not have showed in the stats, the Husky running game did make strides last week. "It's really valuable. You've got to be able to keep the defense on their toes even if you are a big passing team. If you try to throw the ball on every down they can just drop back into zone and take away a lot of your lanes. It was definitely big time for us to be able to run the ball. It kept them on their toes. Play action doesn't work very well if you don't ever run the ball. The play action worked a little better later in the game after we banged a couple two and three yard runs in there. It doesn't seem like much but in the fourth quarter those two and three yard runs put a wear on the defense," said Pickett.

Greg Carothers has had a new role in recent weeks. In passing situations he has lined up at the SAM(strong outside) linebacker position and filled me in on how he was adapting. "The drops and everything I am familiar with. I've done them at safety. Things like jamming number two and getting into the curl-flat zone I'm used to. It's just different being so close to the line against the run. Everything comes at you that much quicker. You've got to deal with different blockers coming at you. It's just different; you've got to be quicker," said Carothers

The nickel zone was torched for 443 yards by Jason Johnson and the Arizona receivers last week. But missed tackles on many 6 and 10 yard out patterns bothered the Helena Hitman more. "Sometimes it's got to be like that. You can't take away everything. In any scheme you're try not to give up big plays. Arizona threw for a lot of yards you can't take that away from them, but we also gave them a lot of yards. Missing tackles and doing things like that. If we just tackled well they probably would've had 100 less yards then they actually threw for. We've got to be able to be disciplined. When we say someone is going to go down, that is where they need to go down.

"It's tough. Obviously on some of those plays we gave the quarterback too much time by losing contain. So your drops get a little bit deeper and they're able to hit stuff underneath. It's hard, you've got to be disciplined to not jump the underneath route so you don't give up a big route, so you've got to play a happy medium. That's what make zone defense so hard. You've got to be able play so many different things. Sometimes you may have three different threats in your zone, but you've got to be able make a play on all of them. I think we definitely have the quickness and speed on defense, but maybe just need to work a little more," said Carothers.

Add the strong safety to the list of player ready to hit up sunny Los Angeles. "I love playing here, but I want to get on the road. That's college football, that's rivalries. Going into other stadiums, that's what makes it fun. We'll leave Friday, so it's not that much different. We'll do our run through here and get on the plane and just do like normal. We'll have our meetings, eat, do all that, go to sleep, get up at the same time and just do like we normally do."

On Saturday we'll see if a change in scenery brings good fortune to the Huskies.

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