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As the Washington Huskies prepared for football practice yesterday, there were more smiles and a bit more swagger. These Huskies are feeling better about themselves, having won two straight and ensured that the streak of 26 straight non-losing seasons would remain intact.

Cody Pickett is ready for the Apple Cup, where he'll face off against Heisman hopeful Jason Gesser. "(Jason and I) haven't talked yet this week. I met him this summer at Pac-10 media day. He's a great guy and we started talking earlier in the season. We haven't talked to each other in a couple weeks but I'm sure we'll talk to each other this week," said Pickett of Gesser.

He set more records on Saturday, most notably Ryan Leaf's single season passing yardage mark. He and Reggie Williams hooked up 14 times for nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns against the Oregon Ducks.

"He makes my job a lot easier. He's a big target and makes big plays when he catches the ball," said Pickett.

Helping things last week was the emergence of an old friend – the running game. "It's a great momentum builder for our offense. We came out and established the run," said Pickett. "Rich did a great job running the ball, and our offensive line did a good job blocking. They also did a good job giving me time to throw the ball. It was a pretty good game overall for us."

Pickett will face the Pac-10's finest cornerback in Tacoma's own Marcus Trufant. Said Pickett, "He's a big physical guy. He's going to come up and try to jam you."

The junior Husky quarterback remembers his last trip to Martin Stadium. "It was really cold. There was snow on the ground. But we'll be ready to play. We're used to playing in the cold. It's the same here in Seattle so it shouldn't be a problem."

Washington hasn't changed anything schematically during their two-game upswing. Pickett thinks they are just executing better now. "I'm just trying to stay more patient and not force balls. If it's third and long then we don't necessarily need to get the first down. We can just punt and play the field position game. So I've bee trying to stay more patient and it's been working."

"Last week we went up there and tried to stay patient early. We knew that they were going to try to come out to a big time start. They were fired up and we just had to weather the storm. After that we just executed our game plan and everything worked out. Option: It's always in our game plan. It's something that keeps the defense on their toes. We'll throw it out there. If it's not successful we'll go to our other things. But it's always in our offense."

Senior OG Elliott Zajac saw extensive action against the Ducks. He was the one that presented Rick Neuheisel with the game ball following the victory. "He told me he wanted it after the game. Once I was out there I didn't think anything of it. I realized that I was the one who wanted to give it to him. It was just to show that we're all on the same page and together. We're all here for the common goal of winning. I think that's how he took it, and it felt good to give it to him," said Zajac.

Of WSU's all-American candidate Rien Long, Zajac was pretty non-effusive in his praise. "He's alright. He's a good player. He's obviously not overpowering by any means. He uses his speed to his advantage. Obviously that shows on tape. He's not like a Ngata who's going to try to overpower you or smash you into the backfield. He's a finesse guy. I don't think he gets tired, I don't think they rotate him as much. He's in really good shape. He's a really good player. We're looking forward to playing him again," said Zajac, who will undoubtedly see Long up close and personal in the trenches.

Long has 12 sacks from his defensive tackle position this year.

Zajac talked about the recent upturn of the Huskies' football fortunes. "It seems ever since Siegler from Oregon State called us out it seems like our team has decided to flex its muscles. Since that comment everyone has been on the same page, everybody has been putting a lot more into practice and playing a lot harder. I think the biggest thing is that we're having more fun. You actually see guys smiling running around and having fun. It seemed like while we were losing guys were just running around doing their assignments and trying to get through the game. It started off with Oregon State. I didn't play that game, but I think our team played really well and carried it over to Oregon. "

Zajac says that his physical condition is improving. "I'm easily 30-40 percent better. I'm not at 100 percent but I'm at a solid 90-95 percent. I'm out there and I don't feel my leg and not thinking about it. It's not hindering me in anyway."

Punter Derek McLaughlin had a career day against the Ducks, setting a school record with an 80-yard meteor shot that was downed at the two. It was one of four punts that were downed inside the Duck 20.

"I think a lot of it is that I got benched by my coach. When you come back you feel like you have to prove yourself a little bit more. That's a big key. I felt like I needed to prove myself. I didn't change anything in the preparation. I went back to basics. I stopped looking at the big pictures and started looking at the small pictures. Once I was able to focus on the small things and make those more important it was easier to find my rhythm and just start hitting ball well again," said McLaughlin.

He got a lot of encouragement from teammate John Anderson. "He came off the sidelines saying, ‘you can have it.' He did not enjoy his experience doing that. It's cool because he's my roommate and it's fun. But when he went out there I was hoping he would kick well. It was nice to go back out there and have a good game and have some faith instilled in me by the coaches."

Punters normally aren't in the spotlight. "We usually only get attention when we're doing badly. So it's nice," said McLaughlin.

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