Oct. 16, 2004
For those looking for bright spots in a disappointing home loss to Oregon State, the defense continues to mature while seeming to grow younger at the same time.
Another UW freshman found himself thrown into the fire today, as Caesar Rayford debuted at defensive end, becoming the fourth true freshman to see action on this year's defensive line. Rayford joined a group of freshman studs that includes Jordan White-Frisbee, Greyson Gunheim, and Erik Lobos, after sophomore Dan Milsten was felled with a leg injury in the first quarter.
"They will be really good in the future," said Head Coach Keith Gilbertson. "I thought at one time we were going to have all four in there. Those guys will all continue to play and get better and that is just the way it is. We've lost guys and these guys wanted to play. I wasn't sure what Caesar wanted to do about his redshirt so I talked to him about it, and talked to his family about it. He wanted to play and contribute and that's what we got."
Veteran Huskies were impressed with the freshmen's performances. "Rayford did pretty good for a freshman," said defensive end Mike Mapuolesega. "I talked to him during the week and I told him, `Just go out there and do whatever. Have fun and don't worry about getting this or that, just go out there and have fun.' I think he did pretty well."
Linebacker Scott White shared Mapuolesega's opinions on the freshmen as a whole. "I thought they played well. Teams are going go in and see a couple of those freshman and they're going to try to make some plays and run the balls at them. For the most part those youngsters played well. I didn't see Rayford out there too much, but I thought he did well."
Despite the unfavorable outcome, the freshmen's spirits were not completely dampened. "It was a lot of fun. The highlight for me was getting that fumble recovery. I saw the ball on the ground and jumped on it. I cuddled it up really fast so no one could take it from me. That was exciting," said Erick Lobos.
Rayford, the newest newcomer, fed off the energy of the crowd in his first playing time. "It was a great experience," Rayford said. "My adrenaline was going when I went out there. The best thing was coming out of the tunnel in full pads, with the crowd. That was really exciting. To get in the game though was exciting. It was a whole new experience, a whole new level. I had a lot of fun out there."
The youngsters remained determined to fight until the clock reached zero. "We fought and fought," Rayford said. "We were down, but we kept fighting. Turnovers, we kept fighting. We just kept going out there. We fought to the last minute, the last second. Those turnovers hurt us, but we fought to the last minute."