Nov. 13, 2004
By Jesse Hulsing
Coming into Saturday's game against the Huskies, No. 6 California was rated as one of the most powerful offenses in the country. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers held the best quarterback rating in the Pac-10 and tailback J.J. Arrington was ranked fourth in the nation in rushing yards per game, with 161.75. The Husky defense knew this coming into the week, and they were ready to step it up a notch.
"It was gut-check time on Monday, the coaches put a tape on, showing the type of plays that they can make," said linebacker Scott White. "They (the coaches) really challenged us to match California's intensity, and for the most part, our guys were up to the challenge. We showed tremendous effort, we were really flying around, and guys were excited, having fun out there. For the most part, we stopped them, and our confidence began to rise, our guys are starting to feel more and more that we can play on the same level as California, and that was the key, once we had confidence we started to make plays."
Consistent with most games this season the linebacking trio of Evan Benjamin, Joe Lobendahn, and Scott White, kept the defense on track. The three have been a dominant force all year and all are ranked in the Pac-10's top five in tackles.
"Our playing so well is a combination of a lot of things. Our coaches do a tremendous job of maximizing our talent, they really prepare us well, and they put us in the right position to be successful," said White. "From a player standpoint we all try to be well prepared, and just get out there and make plays. I think that is the reason we have had so much success this year."
In Saturday's game they were the key in holding the potent California offense to only seven points in the first half.
Lobendahn sparked the defense early with a sack on fifth play of the game that helped force a California punt. In the second quarter he again struck with a third down sack that forced the Golden Bears to a three-and-out.
Early in the second quarter, White added a big play of his own with an interception on the the Washington 38 which halted a California scoring drive that was gaining momentum.
"It was a sprint out pass, my job on that coverage was to expand one zone when they sprint out and he threw the ball right to me," said White. "I guess I was just in the right place at the right time."
At the end of the first half the score was 7-6 and California had been held to only 167 yards of total offense. Normally dominant tailback J.J. Arrington, was held to only 37 yards on the half.
In the second half the trio continued their excellent play, with Benjamin grabbing an interception in the endzone midway through the third quarter. But towards the end of the third quarter, Lobendahn was knocked out of the game when he fractured his wrist as he dove to tackle Rodgers. After Lobendahn went out, the Golden Bears started to pull away.
"We definitely lose some enthusiasm when Joe is out," said Benjamin. "He adds so much to the team, and its hard to keep the same intensity when he is not out there."
Linebacker Tim Galloway will replace Lobendahn for the Apple Cup.
"I know Tim Galloway is a great linebacker and he'll step up and make plays for us," said Benjamin.