Huskies defense shines in scrimmage
When Washington concluded its scrimmage Saturday afternoon the scoreboard — which read Gold 31, Purple 29 — was both wrong and...
Seattle Times staff reporter
When Washington concluded its scrimmage Saturday afternoon the scoreboard — which read Gold 31, Purple 29 — was both wrong and misleading.
A little later, players reported that the final tally wasn't correct, the Purple apparently winning.
Such a score, whatever the actual number, would seem to indicate a lot of offense.
But as often happens in spring scrimmages, coaches had devised a special scoring system. The Purple, which was the offense, scored in the conventional way. The Gold, the defense, was given points for things like stopping drives.
That they did that enough to almost get a win on the scoreboard indicated to players that the defense is making progress in the first spring under new coordinator Ed Donatell.
"The attitude and confidence is definitely rising right now," said sophomore safety Nate Williams after a day in which the offense scored just two touchdowns — the starting offense worked against the starting defense and the No. 2 offense against the No. 2 defense.
One touchdown came on a broken play when Jake Locker scrambled and threw a 74-yard TD pass to D'Andre Goodwin, who snuck behind a secondary that crept up to contain Locker. The other came on a 16-yard run by tailback Brandon Johnson, capping a long drive for the No. 2 offense.
Otherwise, the offense got only field goals, some coming after having been awarded the ball in favorable territory.
Scrimmages are always tricky to read — Locker, for instance, was off-limits to contact, meaning plays involving him running were fairly rare and halted when he was touched.
Still, the defense seemed to hold its own a lot of the day, with players saying they are noticing improvement.
"The defensive line was real good and the linebackers looked real good filling their gaps today, so there wasn't really anything there for us," Johnson said, noting there weren't as many wide running lanes as a week ago when UW scrimmaged.
That was rarely said a year ago when the Huskies ranked last in the Pac-10 in total defense, allowing a school-record 446.4 yards per game. After the season, defensive coordinator Kent Baer was fired and replaced by Donatell, a longtime NFL defensive coordinator who players say is making a quick impact.
"There's more energy and more enthusiasm, and coach Donatell brings a lot of that," said Williams. "He just lifts our spirits up and makes it more fun for us being out there. That's the main difference, I think."
Williams said Donatell is a lot more hands-on than was Baer, saying he will often drop into position meetings after general defensive meetings to talk with players.
"I think coach Donatell interacts with us more during practice," Williams said. "If he sees the defensive backs doing something, he will jump in and show us the footwork that he wants to happen. If he sees something with the defensive line he will get in there with the stance and show them what to do. I think that's good because we can interact with him, we can feel him and understand what he is trying to coach because he can show us exactly what he wants."
• There were no apparent injuries.
• Starting FS Mesphin Forrester missed the scrimmage to attend a wedding, and SS Darin Harris sat out with a knee injury, so the starting safeties were Williams and sophomore Victor Aiyewa.
• Goodwin, a sophomore who has been having a good spring, was again the offensive star, also turning in a 24-yard catch on a fade route when he caught the ball while falling backward.
• The starting defensive tackles, a position at which there are no players returning with any significant experience, were sophomores Cameron Elisara and De'Shon Matthews.
• Backup QB Ronnie Fouch, who has had some struggles with his accuracy this spring, looked better, saying he is getting comfortable with a change in his motion made by coaches, who want him to hold his elbow lower. Fouch threw a 39-yard pass to Charles Hawkins and also had a 22-yard completion to freshman Chris Polk, which led to Johnson's touchdown.
• It was a pretty clean day with no turnovers and only a couple of penalties.
• UW's annual spring game is April 26 at 12:45 p.m.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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