Sept. 26, 2008
by Jeff Bechthold
For the more optimistic among Husky fans, today's game vs. Stanford represents a sort of second opening day. In a lot of ways - if you don't mind trying to look forward rather than back - it is indeed a new start.
For one thing, the off week since the Huskies' last game has hopefully provided a chance for the team to catch its breath. It has given the young Dawgs time to heal, as well as more time to learn.
For another, Stanford will be the first opponent the Huskies have faced this season not ranked in the top 25.
And, as far as new beginnings go, today's game is also something of a re-start to the Pac-10 season. With one league game under its belt, the Huskies have eight more to go in what is always an unpredictable title race. But that one league game (Aug. 30 at Oregon) is also a four-week old memory and with two non-conference games and an off week in between, it certainly feels like Pac-10 play has yet to begin in earnest.
With their one remaining non-league game still three weeks away, the Dawgs can now concentrate on its conference slate for the time being. Sometimes fans underestimate the resiliency of the athlete. That applies all the more so to the college players and even more to the younger ones. And, with the lineup that the UW is sending out on the field these days, hopefully that will work in the Dawgs' favor.
In this same space a few weeks ago, the point was made that the Huskies are playing more freshmen than nearly ever before. That contention has grown since.
While commonly freshmen who play see most of their action on special teams or in backup roles, this year's 10 freshmen who have played have all done so in important capacities.
Against Oklahoma, three freshmen (tailback David Freeman and receivers Devin Aguilar and Jermaine Kearse) started the game on offense and two (safety Johri Fogerson and Senio Kelemete) started on defense. Earlier this season, tight end Kavario Middleton and tailback Chris Polk started games in their first college seasons, bringing the total to seven freshmen starters this year.
Last year, by contrast, only three different freshmen started a game for the UW. Two years ago, only two pure freshmen saw playing time and neither ever started.
What does any of that mean? For one, it means that with each passing week, the team grows in experience and understanding in a way a veteran team can't. While a week's practice represents only a tiny fraction of the experience a senior player gains during his college football career, each week of playing and instruction represents a large portion of time for a player who has only been on campus for seven or eight weeks.
How much time and experience will it take to push these young pups over the hump and into the wins column? That's what we're here to find out today.
As it seems that we all rediscover each Saturday of the fall, it's difficult to predict what might happen on a given day in the Pac-10. And isn't it that lack of predictability that, at least in part, brings everyone out to Husky Stadium seven Saturdays a year?
In other news, something else that happened since the last game was the naming of the UW's next full-time director of athletics, Scott Woodward. After having spent the last seven-plus months as the acting AD, Woodward was appointed to the job on a full-time, permanent basis a week and a half ago.
So, welcome to him and to all the UW freshmen who began their first college classes last week. To all of you: Go Dawgs!