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Originally published Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Running game in spotlight as winless Huskies regroup

The Washington Huskies might be off this weekend, but not this week. With an 0-3 record and problems galore, there will be no rest, even...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Washington Huskies might be off this weekend, but not this week. With an 0-3 record and problems galore, there will be no rest, even if they may be weary.

"We are going to get after it," said UW offensive coordinator Tim Lappano. "It will be like training camp all over again. [We'll] be smart about it. We can't afford to get our good players hurt or anything, but we've got to get better and improve fundamentally everywhere."

The team will likely scrimmage quite a bit as it practices this week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before taking the weekend off.

Lappano's first goal is to improve a running game he acknowledges hasn't been what was hoped for.

"We need to get our run game cranked up," he said. "That's going to be the number one emphasis going into this week. I'm not pleased with where we are at. We are better than what we are operating. We have improved throwing the football but I don't think we have improved running the football."

The Huskies figured a veteran offensive line would pave the way for a powerful running attack, even against the type of opponents UW has played. Instead, the Huskies are eighth in the Pac-10 in rushing offense at 105 yards per game, with 54.3 yards per game coming from quarterback Jake Locker. Take out all the runs for Locker and backup Ronnie Fouch (including sacks) and the Huskies have 161 yards on 62 rushes, or 2.5 yards per attempt.

Offensive line coach Mike Denbrock said he thinks the line has improved the past two games and he's not anticipating significant moves up front.

"I'm not dissatisfied," he said. "I guess I'm not looking to make wholesale changes. But we are 0-3, so we are going to look wherever we need, look under any rock we need to look under, to make sure we are doing the right things with the right people."

Lappano says the scrimmages will also be used to evaluate some of the young players who have yet to see action, including receiver Anthony Boyles, who was one of the most highly-touted members of the Class of 2007, then delayed enrolling until January due to academic issues. Lappano says Boyles is "starting to understand what it takes to play at this level as far as being at meetings on time and all that kind of stuff. He's starting to get it. So I'm kind of fired up to see what he does this week because I think he wants to go out and prove that he can help us play and win games."

With the defense already in flux in a number of areas, defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said the bye week emphasis will be more about overall improvement than settling personnel issues.

"We'll take another week to grow our young players," he said. "Another week with fast action coming at them."



• One spot that is again up for competition is the kicking job. The Huskies were 0 for 3 on field goals Saturday — Jared Ballman, also the team's punter, missed from 47 and 48 and Ryan Perkins missed from 28. Ballman converted the final point after touchdown against the Sooners after Perkins missed his field goal.

Perkins has been listed as the starter, with Ballman taking longer kicks. Special teams coach Brian White says those two will compete anew this week.

"I thought most of the kicks were kicked well," White said, noting all were long enough. "But they didn't go through. So we've got to figure out a way to get them through the uprights."

• Also a task this week is cleaning up the shotgun snaps of center Juan Garcia, who rolled at least five back to Locker, one resulting in a fumble that Oklahoma recovered.

Coaches, however, say they think it was an anomaly, with Garcia more worried at times about his matchup with Oklahoma defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger than snapping the ball.

• Defensive tackle Craig Noble, an incoming freshman, learned he passed his high school exit exam, the last step to make him eligible to enroll at UW, his high school coach said Tuesday. Taft High School (Los Angeles) coach Matt Kerstetter said Noble, 6 feet 3 and 285 pounds, plans to come to Seattle later this week to join the Huskies.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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