Sept. 5, 2008
By Jeff Bechthold
Trying to find a silver lining to a season-opening loss to a Pac-10 and northwest rival isn't easy. Certainly no one enjoys losing, much less to a neighbor like Oregon.
However, new weeks bring new games, new opponents and most of all, new opportunities. Opportunites to improve and rebound. Opportunities to learn and to move forward. And opportunities to wash away the bad taste of the previous Saturday.
What might help to make that difficult process - moving forward and making improvements - easier is the fact that the Husky football team that took the field last Saturday was loaded with young players.
In fact, a total of eight true freshmen saw action for the Dawgs last weekend in Eugene: Devin Aguilar, Jermaine Kearse, Senio Kelemete, Kavario Middleton, Chris Polk, Jordan Polk, Alameda Ta'amu and Everrette Thompson. Last year, all season, only seven true freshmen saw action.
Two of those true freshmen (Chris Polk and Middleton) started the game on offense. Another, Jordan Polk, was on the field for the opening kickoff as the return man. All of them saw significant and meaningful action in the game.
An additional seven redshirt freshmen played in their first college game last week: Kalani Aldrich, Tyrone Duncan, Skyler Fancher, Ronnie Fouch, Alvin Logan, Marquis Persley and Quinton Richardson. And, Tripper Johnson, who spent the last eight years playing professional baseball, started his first football since high school.
So, is that an excuse? No, but it's good reason for hope.
All of those players underwent a baptism that should, given a positive frame of mind, provide them with a quick lesson about the speed, strength and complexity of college football at the Pac-10 level.
As they entered into a week of preparation for this afternoon's game vs. the visiting Brigham Young University Cougars, they all had a new baseline for the level at which they need to perform. For everything their coaches and older teammates told them as they prepared to start the season, nothing could illustrate what it's like to play in the Pac-10 than, in fact, playing at this level.
"The great thing about youth is they are more resilient than others," Coach Tryone Willingham said after last Saturday's game. "They will bounce back.''
There's more than a little truth in what the Husky coach said there. The fact is that elite athletes in general are simply more resilient than your average fan in the stands. The very nature of what they do (and what they did to get to this level) demands that they take the tough times with which they're confronted, learn from them and move on.
The athlete's skin is thick and his memory is short. If that weren't true, many would have struggled to make it this far in the first case.
Another item of good news is that the Husky team will get to enjoy home cooking for over a month. After the Aug. 30 opener in Eugene, the Dawgs won't have to return to the road the entire month of September, playing three straight home games with an open Saturday mixed in on Sept. 20.
As for today, the Huskies welcome one of their three big-name nonconference opponents that will visit Montlake this season as Brigham Young comes to town.
The Cougars have been a regular non-conference foe for the Dawgs in recent years, including a stretch of four straight seasons in the 1990s in which the UW and BYU squared off.
This Cougars squad comes to Seattle with very high hopes and expectations for the 2008 season. BYU is a top-25 squad that was the overwhelming pick to win the Mountain West Conference in the league's preseason media poll, picking up 29 of the 34 possible firstplace votes.
The Cougars, no doubt, represent a significant challenge for these young Dawgs. And with each new challenge comes new opportunity.