Dec. 3, 2010
2010 Husky Football Banquet Tickets On Sale
Gregg Bell Unleased
Foster Named All-America
Broadcast Information For Saturday (Football & Men's Basketball)
Dawgs' Focus Is On Retaining Apple Cup
Weekly Press Notes
|Gametracker||Live Audio||Gameday Central|
|TV: Versus||Radio: Washington ISP Sports Network|
by Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
PULLMAN, Wash. - Punter Kiel Rasp pelted snapper Brendan Lopez with snowballs while walking to the team bus at Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport. Teammates laughed from inside Washington State's Martin Stadium as fans heckled them during a brief, late-afternoon walkthrough practice.
The Huskies didn't just arrive for the 103rd Apple Cup on Friday. They embraced the wintry environment surrounding this prime chance to win the state title, finish third in the Pac-10 and go to their first bowl game since 2002.
"Yeah, baby! Taste it!" one Dawg yelled into the dark chill to no one in particular as Washington (5-6, 4-4 Pac-10) entered town to face archrival Washington State (2-9, 1-7).
The snow? A non-factor. It's piled up on the field's perimeter after a week's worth of plowing, and forecasts say there's just a 10-percent chance of light snow showers around Saturday's 4 p.m. kickoff.
Versus has the national cable telecast. The Washington ISP Sports Network has the radio call. And there will be the live, in-game chat and Gameday Central page rolling here on gohuskies.com.
The cold? The temperature late Friday afternoon was 27 degrees, and there was no wind. Saturday's conditions are expected to be the same: A temperature of 27 at kickoff dropping to 22 by game's end, with winds less than 10 mph. Huskies on the Martin Stadium field for the walkthrough talked how once they start running around Saturday, the conditions should be great.
This quick adaptation is precisely what coach Steve Sarkisian was hoping for when he had the Dawgs practicing in blowing snow and biting cold at Husky Stadium 11 days ago, during a rare November snowstorm in Seattle.
Mason Foster loves the entire scene.
"They always step up with their `A' game to play us," the Huskies senior linebacker and nation's second-leading tackler said of the Cougars. "And I love to play in games like that."
Washington is planning to bring its own heat: a resurgent running game led by plowhorse Chris Polk.
"It's going to be real hectic," Polk said of the atmosphere when the Huskies go for their third consecutive win in a turnaround season.
Polk has given quarterback Jake Locker's still-broken rib a break in the last two games. The sophomore ran for the season-saving touchdown on the final play last weekend at Cal, and has 224 yards rushing in the last two weeks. That includes a career high of 138 yards in the win over UCLA.
He needs 46 yards Saturday to reach 1,000 yards rushing for the second consecutive season. He would become only the third Husky with multiple 1,000-yard seasons, joining Greg Lewis and Napoleon Kaufman.
Polk peaking isn't the only reason he may get the ball plenty against WSU. The Cougars are last in the Pac-10 in rushing defense, allowing an average of 211.6 yards per game. And Sarkisian keeps saying the recipe to winning late in the season is sticking with a running game.
The other half of that recipe: playing strong defense. Washington has been swarming on that side lately.
The Huskies entered the UCLA game on Nov. 18 allowing an average of 440 yards per game, among the lowest-ranked units in the nation. Then they throttled the Bruins in a 24-7 win, surrendering just 163 yards. Washington gave up only 283 yards and now hasn't allowed a touchdown in seven quarters.
A tweaked defensive line has welcomed new sophomore starter Semisi Tokolahi, who has added more bulk and been stout in his assigned run gaps. The better line play has freed the linebackers to make plays with fewer blockers hounding them. Foster keeps piling up tackles at a rate of 12.5 per game, by far the best in the Pac-10.
And Quinton Richardson has been a ball hawk recently, picking off passes and flattening ball carriers.
"We're just playing with a lot of confidence right now," safety Nate Fellner said. Still, the Huskies know this surge has come against backup quarterbacks - in UCLA's case, third and fourth stringers. The Bruins and Bears managed just 147 yards passing combined with those injury fill-ins.
As UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt said, "Washington State poses some different problems."
Namely, quarterback Jeff Tuel. The sophomore is fifth in the Pac-10 in yards passing per game (225.6). He's also a threat to run when protection breaks down or no one's open. Oregon State found that out in WSU's surprising romp in Corvallis in the Cougars' previous game, before Washington State's two bye weeks.
"The last couple weeks the quarterbacks we have faced have been one dimensional," Huskies linebacker Cort Dennison said. "And with Tuel, he can run and pass very well. We just have to be smart, read our keys and realize there will be times he takes off. And when he does, we have to bring him down."
"The defensive line has definitely stepped up. We've been able to get other teams in long third-down situations. And Quinton, the last three games, has stepped his game up."
"We are where we need to be as far as improving," Holt, the former coordinator at USC, said of the defense, though he could have been referring to the entire team.
"We have the opportunity for maybe getting six wins, but we've got to play great defense. That's what I'm used to - and that's what we've been doing.
"It's been a big confidence boost. They feel good about themselves. And they want to keep this going."