In the Trenches with Evan Benjamin

Sept. 23, 2004

The Huskies' defense was not it's strongest component during the team's 37-31 loss to UCLA on Saturday, but one bright spot on the defense was Evan Benjamin. An offseason change from safety to outside linebacker doesn't seem to have bothered the 6-foot junior, who earned 10 tackles and an interception Saturday against the Bruins. In just two games at his new position, Benjamin has already snared two interceptions, to accountfor one third of his career total of six. With football on the brain, the Redmond High School graduate took a few minutes away from studying game film to talk with reporter C.J. Bowles about the UCLA game, and the Huskies' upcoming trip to Notre Dame. How does Washington compare to UCLA as a team?
Evan Benjamin: 'I don't think they're better than us. They're definitely good, but I think most of it was mistakes on our part. We really didn't come out ready to play in the first quarter. We thought that our effort was there, but we missed some tackles, we weren't getting off blocks, and doing the things that we needed to do.'

GH:: When you watched the tape from the UCLA game, what jumped out at you?
Benjamin: 'I actually saw some good play. People were getting out there and running and hitting, but there was one mistake each play and that's what really hurt. They took advantage of that, ran the ball north and south. It was tough.'

GH:: The defense played so well against Fresno State and then poorly against UCLA -- which is the real UW defense?
Benjamin: 'We're convinced that we're the defense that played against Fresno State. We know that we didn't have our best day the other day and UCLA took full advantage of it. Once we fix our mistakes I think it's going to be hard for offenses to get going. Once we figure that out and some guys step up and play, I think we're going to be all right.'

GH:: How's the team's morale right now?
Benjamin: 'It's tough right now, but we've had time to relax and think over the whole thing and watch the film of the last game. We know that we just need to put a whole game together. We can't have lapses like we did and we can't have mistakes. I don't think we're far from putting it all together.'

GH:: What effect, if any, has the 0-2 start had on the team's goals this season?
Benjamin: 'Everything is a pride thing, but we still have some big goals set for us this year. We know that once we get a complete game together we're going to be a real good team. The first week against Fresno State wasn't a good offensive week, and this last week was not a good defensive week. Once we put everything together we're going to be running.'

GH:: Are you excited to go to Notre Dame and play?
Benjamin: 'Definitely. It's a great place to play. I haven't played there yet, but the tradition is awesome. I'm looking forward to going out there and playing, but I'm more looking forward to getting back in the game and getting back on the winning track.'

GH:: How hard is it not to get caught up in the Notre Dame aura this week?
Benjamin: 'I think if you get out there and start getting caught up in the tradition that they have, you're going to be in trouble. You have to be able to stay focused and block that stuff out. I played in a couple of big stadiums so I think I'm sort of used to it, but for some of the young players -- and even a couple of the old players -- we need to block out the `Touchdown Jesus' and all that stuff and go out there and play. Maybe after the game you can take a look around and see where you are, but until then we have to stay focused and try to win the game.'

GH:: What has been your favorite road trip as a Husky?
Benjamin: 'Probably Michigan. It was a tough one, but Michigan was my first collegiate game and I got to play most of the game. It was an awesome experience to go in there with 108,000 people, so that was probably the best road game.'

GH:: The Huskies have played hard road games the past few years with trips to Miami, Michigan, and Ohio State. What's the key to being successful in big road games like those?
Benjamin: 'You have to prepare well. During the whole week you have to prepare for a hostile environment. Going out to Ohio State and Michigan is an experience that I can look back at that makes me ready for a big road game like this week at Notre Dame. Notre Dame has a great tradition and a great team and we'll be ready. Going on the road is going to be a little different look for us. Maybe that'll be good for us to see a different scene, even though it feels bad to be away from Husky Stadium.'

GH: Well, thanks for your time, Evan, and good luck this weekend!
Benjamin: 'You're welcome. Thank you.'

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