The Huskies are not very good in keeping secrets. It wasn't that hard for us to figure out Jake Locker was going to play against UCLA on Thursday night (more on that below). Despite trying to be coy about their plans for a "black out" on Thursday night, the key details have leaked out in the Seattle press:
With the UCLA game now just four days away, the Huskies are beginning to confirm what has been a hard-to-keep secret --- that UW will wear black uniforms for the game against the Bruins as part of an overall "black theme'' for the night.
UW coach Steve Sarkisian did not talk specifically about the black uniforms but talked about the black theme, which he said will include some "different paint and what not in the end zones.''
He also said T-shirts will be handed out to the student section in a further effort to "black out'' the stadium.
Asked how it came about, Sarkisian said during his regular weekly press conference today that: "We are just trying to do something special for our student body to keep them involved and excited about coming to watch us play. We appreciate their support, no doubt, and they (are) a big factor on our game and (we want) to do something unique for our fans to get them excited. And also on our front, I think our kids are excited about it and it adds a unique feel to a night game, a Thursday night, something that hasn't been done here in 80 years now, maybe 90 years, just trying to do something fresh and fun to keep everybody excited about what we are doing.''
The pictures of the end zones also leaked out in the Seattle blogosphere. Whatever works for them I guess. Clearly, Sarkisian is pursuing every emotional edge they can possibly gather in order to give his team a jump start for a late season bowl run. No one should ever discount the power of emotion that can impact a college football game (I tend to think it really helps out a home team defense). So the Bruins better have their heads screwed on tight and locked in mentally heading into what is essentially a must win game for both programs.
Sarkisian shared extended comments on the UCLA matchup during his weekly presser yesterday in Seattle. His thoughts on UCLA's pistol were pretty interesting:
"I think the one real challenging thing more than anything is their ability to use a variety of formations most notably some unbalanced formations that can get your gap integrity in trouble. That if you don't align properly and you don't fit some of the runs properly they can create big gaps and create big seams the little back frankly can make things happen for them. I think one of the biggest challenges for our defense right from the time when they break the huddle is to get aligned to their formations so that we don't leave gaps uncovered in the run game. ... they have the ability to run all the runs that they want to run from behind the quarterback. That's the beauty of the Pistol. Most shot gun run teams have the back off set to one side or the other and it can limit you in a sense of which direction you're running the ball and what types of runs can come. By putting him directly behind the quarterback it gives you the same variety you would have as if you were under center but also gives you the ability to run your shot gun runs and in both directions. So it can tax you where you don't get the normal tips and keys from a shot gun running team. You get it right behind center and it can tax you."
There is no doubt the Bruins are going to attempt to pound away at the Huskies. As has been discussed repeatedly their defense is horrid. From Peter Yoon's "first look" at the Huskies:
Attacking their defense might be an easier proposition. Washington ranks No. 114 in the nation against the run, giving up 219.56 yards per game on the ground, which should come as good news to Johnathan Franklin and UCLA's pistol offense. The Bruins are averaging 194.44 yards rushing per game to rank 26th in the nation.
The Huskies are giving up 440 total yards per game, which is 107th in the nation and have given up 36.22 points per game to rank 109th.
While we expect the Bruins to ram the ball down their throats, I do think Chow will need to inject elements of balance. He will have to keep the Huskies honest with play actions, roll outs and hopefully some slant and screen passes. Bruins will have to be aggressive. They can't be in the mindset of playing it safe by running the same off tackle run plays on first and second downs. Otherwise, if they get stuffed by a fired up and emotionally charged Husky defense early on, the challenge is going to become even more difficult. So hopefully Chow comes out with a mindset to attack and then sustain it, instead of guiding it with his vanilla and conservative approach.
Peter Yoon noted above that that the game should be "a fairly even matchup" because of performance against "common opponents" as both teams posted close home victories over Oregon State, were shut out at home by Stanford and were blown out at Oregon. However, the Huskies' close victory over Oregon State came with a healthy Jake Locker, who was pretty banged up for Stanford and was out against Oregon State. It will be interesting to see how Locker looks on Thursday night. As mentioned above he is going to play:
Locker again participated fully in the two-hour workout, his third straight day of practice, and made his weekly visit with the media afterward stating that he expects to play against the Bruins.
"Yeah, I expect to,'' he said. "We'll meet with the doctor tomorrow and do a final evaluation.''
Locker hasn't been "medically cleared" to play yet but don't hold your breath over that song and distance. Locker's start is all but official:
"Yeah, I've expected to play from the beginning,'' he said. "Like I said, we'll trust our doctors. They've done a great job until this point. Nothing has changed from that standpoint.''
UW coach Steve Sarkisian said he again was encouraged by what he saw of Locker.
"I thought he looked good,'' Sarkisian said. "He showed me some things from a movement perspective that I was very encouraged by. His ability to change direction and make some throws, obviously in these elements as well, was very impressive.''
Well I sure hope Chuck Bullough doesn't stay in his base set and wait to figure out how Locker looks in the first series. Bullough needs to get after it in very first play. Again, this doesn't necessarily mean bringing the house on every down, but he is going to have to put pressure on Husky OL (which is susceptible to pass rush) and bring the heat from all directions.
The Bruin defense also needs to get extremely physical with Locker early (without being dirty), making sure he feels the heat through pressure and hurries, not allowing him to get in any kind of rhythm. Most importantly, our defenders will need to focus on finishing against a QB who should still be mobile. They can't afford to have another repeat performance like they had against Arizona's Matt Scott.
As for the Bruins, here is Rick Neuheisel following yesterday's practice:
Neuehisel's comments didn't add anything new to the extended thoughts he shared in UCLA's weekly presser earlier in the day. However, it was good to hear CRN saw some "old Nelson" at Spaulding last night. Hopefully we will see some of that against Washington on Thursday night. Last year, Rosario enjoyed a huge game against the Huskies at the Rose Bowl. More on Rosario from the LA Times:
"The pain isn't gone all the way, but it's good enough to run," Rosario said. "Being pain-free the rest of the season is not going to happen. It's football. As long as I don't roll it again, I'll be fine."
Whether Rosario has an effect on Thursday's game at Washington remains to be seen.
The Bruins have lacked numbers at wide receiver the last two games. Still, that did allow others to improve their standing.
Randall Carroll had nine receptions for 136 yards in the two games. That included three catches on the Bruins' game-winning field goal drive against Oregon State. Josh Smith had six receptions for 84 yards in the two games.
"If anything, it helped some guys get some really good game experience," wide receivers coach Reggie Moore said. "Randall had a couple decent games. The opportunity was there to mature a little bit."
The obvious question here is why did it take Reggie Moore so long to figure out that Randall Carroll and Josh Smith could contribute? Rosario wasn't exactly lighting it up before he went down with his injury. So it remains a mystery why Carroll and Smith (notwithstanding his one game suspension) were being shelved, when they clearly had the talent to contribute to this offense. These are questions - around Reggie Moore's coaching - that Rick Neuheisel will have to address when the season is over.
Elsewhere, the LA Times has a long profile on Kai Forbath. It's a nice piece on Kai. While I appreciate Forbath and marvel what he has done during his UCLA career, I am honestly getting bored from reading about our kickers. Just getting tired of reading about UCLA offense that is built around a kicking game. It needs to end and as we have mentioned again and again, Thursday night would be a good time to get it going against a hapless Husky defense.