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Originally published Wednesday, September 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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UW's offensive line vows improvement

A Washington offensive line expected to be road graders instead looked more like roadkill Saturday in Eugene, unable to make any room or...

Seattle Times staff reporter

A Washington offensive line expected to be road graders instead looked more like roadkill Saturday in Eugene, unable to make any room or buy any space for the team's skill players.

But they are vowing to pick up the pieces after a 44-10 loss to the Oregon Ducks.

"We've got to, man," senior guard Jordan White-Frisbee said Tuesday, looking ahead to Saturday's home game with Brigham Young. "It's our last year [for the three seniors on the line], our first home game of the season. This is a big one for us and being the O-line that we are, we expect to dominate any team we come up against."

That was the plan coming into the season, anyway. The return of four starters on the offensive line was supposed to make up for a lot of youth everywhere else on offense.

"When you are inexperienced in some places and experienced in one, that group that has some serious leadership and seniors up front has got to step forward," offensive-line coach Mike Denbrock said. "And we didn't do our part."

Denbrock, who followed coach Tyrone Willingham to Washington from Notre Dame, gamely took the hit for what happened.

"I didn't feel like I got it done and I put 100 percent of the blame on me to start with," Denbrock said. "I've got to do a much better job of making sure those guys are prepared."

But after reviewing film, White-Frisbee said no one escaped guilt.

"On every play, at least someone on the line messed up," he said. "We just weren't all clicking together like we had been all fall, throughout training camp."

The experience and supposed strength of the line led UW coaches to concoct a game plan against Oregon emphasizing the inside run. Washington coaches knew the Ducks would likely stack the line of scrimmage to stop the run and force the Huskies to throw to a receiving corps with just one sophomore and the rest freshmen. But with Oregon inexperienced at defensive tackle, they thought they could make headway up the middle anyway.

"We knew going into the game that they may put us in a position where they stack the line of scrimmage," Denbrock said. "And we still felt like we had the ability to run the football at them and we didn't get the job done up front."

Still, it was frustrating butting heads with so many Ducks on every play.

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"With as many in the box as they had, it's going to be hard to run against anybody," White-Frisbee said. "We expected to dominate physically and they dominated us scheme-wise. They played smarter than we did."

The question now is what the Huskies do when other teams inevitably try the same strategy. This week, UW coaches aren't quite sure what to expect. Unlike Oregon, which plays primarily man defense in the secondary, BYU plays more zone out of a 3-4. But having seen the success of the Ducks, UW coaches expect to see BYU try some of that strategy, as well.

"It wouldn't surprise me one bit," Denbrock said.

White-Frisbee said he had already looked at film of BYU and noticed a difference in the way its line plays that may also help.

"This D-line coming up, they are a lot more aggressive than Oregon's," he said. "[The Ducks] kind of did a hit-and-read. They aren't very tough. They let the linebackers make plays for them. But with BYU, they have a lot more aggressive line, which is good.

"I like to play that way," White-Frisbee said. "I like to bang people who aren't scared to hit."

One way to combat the stacking-the-line strategy is to simply complete more passes. Washington offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said Oregon left the middle of the field wide open to devote more players to stopping the run but that "we were not able to get the ball in there."

Part of that was the inability of the receivers to beat man coverage, something UW coaches think will happen with more regularity as players get more experience. Being at home, where the crowd could help the players play faster, they hope, will also make a difference.

Ultimately, though, the success of the offense figures to come back to the line, led by the senior trio of White-Frisbee, fellow guard Casey Bulyca and center Juan Garcia.

White-Frisbee said he and Garcia have already talked about the urgency of getting things turned around this week.

"This game has to change it right now," he said. "There is no time to wait. This is it for us. We know how big and strong and bad we are. But we've got to prove it, and last week we didn't prove it. This is our chance."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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