At some point, University of Washington football coach Jim Lambright might pull out film of Washington State’s victory over UCLA on Saturday to figure out how to stop Cougars quarterback Ryan Leaf.
But when he watched the game live Saturday, what he noticed most was the numerous players who fell victim to heat and exhaustion. Included was UCLA running back Skip Hicks, who sat out his team’s crucial last three offensive plays.
“There were a lot of lessons in that game,” Lambright said.
Lambright hopes to avoid similar problems when the Huskies open their season Saturday at Brigham Young in the expected heat and certain 4,553-foot altitude of Provo, Utah.
It’s been unusually hot in Provo lately, and the trend could continue through Saturday.
“Having nice Seattle weather with rain and wind doesn’t help us a whole lot, so that is one concern,” Lambright said. “The effect of heat and altitude combined is a tremendous home-field advantage for BYU and something that we respect and hopefully will be ready to overcome.”
“The first thing you do is run a lot in practice,” Lambright said. “We can’t duplicate the heat or altitude, so you try to get your legs in shape, first. Then we do a lot of preaching about hydrating early in the week and making sure they understand the value of having potassium in your diet.
“You also have to have a mindset to get ready to play in that sort of homefield advantage and dismiss it from your mind.”
Lambright also will play backups liberally, including inserting true freshman quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo for at least one series in each half.
Lambright said coaches will decide Thursday exactly how and when to use Tuiasosopo, who beat out sophomore Jon Minter and true freshman J.K. Scott for the backup job.
“We want to keep (the starters) as fresh as possible,” Lambright said. “So you put all the emphasis now on having great practices by your (second- and third-teamers) because they will play.”
The coaching staff also will decide Thursday how best to use guard Benji Olson, whose practice time has been limited after having off-season back surgery.
Lambright said only three Huskies are likely out for Saturday, other than those who have already suffered season-ending injuries - guards Mostafa Sobhi (back) and Buddy Phillips (sprained ankle) and nose tackle Kurth Connell (hamstring).
Senior tight end Jeremy Brigham, who has practiced sparingly while recovering from an arch injury, has made quick progress the last few days, and Lambright expects him to play Saturday.