Oct. 9, 2004
by Kortney Kinzer
The Husky defense was on top of their game Saturday versus San Jose State, leading Washington to its first win of the 2004 season. The defense proved why they entered the game tied for first in the Pac-10 in red zone defense, holding the Spartans to just two field goals in five trips inside the 20-yard line. Their efforts did not go unnoticed by head coach Keith Gilbertson.
"Those guys went out there and stopped them every time," said Gilbertson, who was celebrating his 100th game as a head coach at the Division-I level.
Their performance was all the more impressive considering the youth of most of the players. Only two seniors were among the 11 Huskies who took the field to start the game, while freshman Grayson Gunheim made his first career start, alongside fellow freshman Jordan White-Frisbee.
"It was fun to be a true freshman out there with Jordan," Gunheim said. "The seniors and the older guys were the leaders. The others followed their example. Everyone stepped up today."
Gunheim and the Huskies held a San Jose State offense that scored 70 points in a win last week over Rice to just six points on Saturday, the lowest total by a UW opponent since a 53-3 win over Idaho in September of 2001. Spartans' quarterback Dale Rogers, who came off the bench to pass for 359 yards and five touchdowns against Rice, was held to just 22 yards Saturday on just seven completions.
That's not to say that San Jose State never threatened. On five separate occasions, the Spartans drove inside the Husky 20-yard line, only to be held out of the end zone on each occasion. Early in the second quarter, with the Huskies ahead, 7-0, the Spartans appeared to gain momentum after a an interception by linebacker Brian Nunez set the San Jose State offense up just 15 yards from the UW end zone. The Husky defense, however, held firm, forcing the Spartans to settle for a field goal.
Another interception just minutes later set the Spartans up again, with a first-and-10 on the UW 19-yard line. The Huskies took the momentum back on the very first play, however, with sophomore linebacker Scott White sacking Rogers for a loss of seven, one of two sacks for White on the day. A goal line-stand in the third quarter forced a loss on downs, and two other red zone drives resulted in just three SJSU points.
"It feels really good when they get in the red zone and we can make a big stop," said junior Evan Benjamin, who led the team Saturday with 13 tackles. "We said, `We're not going to let you guys into the end zone.' That was a big momentum changer."
When the Huskies look back at the 2004 season, they may view Washington's play on defense against San Jose State as a major turn in momentum for the entire year. After starting the season with four-straight losses for the first time since 1999, the Huskies put a win under the belt entering an important Pac-10 contest with Northwest rival Oregon State.
"This was a big morale boost going into next week," said White, who backed up strong words during the week with an 11-tackle performance, including three for-loss. "We have to build on this and keep the train rolling. We need to put the shovels away, stop digging, and start building."