Huskies focus on putting more pressure on quarterback
Huskies didn't generate much of a pass rush in opener at BYU, hope to pressure Syracuse quarterback and force turnovers this week.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Syracuse @ UW, 4 p.m., FSN
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Whether it was defensive coordinator Nick Holt, linebacker Cort Dennison or defensive-line coach Johnny Nansen, Tuesday's message was clear: The Huskies need to force turnovers.
"What we're trying to do is get the ball back for the offense and to create turnovers," Holt said. "You do that in a lot of different ways."
One way to generate turnovers is pressuring the quarterback, something Washington struggled to do in Saturday's season-opening loss at Brigham Young.
"Obviously, we're going to try to rush the passer and get sacks," sophomore defensive end Talia Crichton said. "That's the bottom line. That's what we're working on right now. Other than the blitz, it's just our responsibility to do that."
Because of the way the Cougars operate on offense it was difficult to generate pressure.
"BYU, it was a very frustrating offense in terms of a pass rush, because there were a lot of quick plays," Nansen said. "By the time we were trying to shoot our moves, the ball was already out."
The Huskies had to consistently adjust to two quarterbacks in Jake Heaps, the quick-tossing freshman from Sammamish's Skyline High School, and Riley Nelson, who is just as likely to run as pass.
"Last week, it was a spread offense," defensive end Everrette Thompson said. "It was kind of quick. It was kind of hard to get a consistent pass rush. But this week, we're just practicing hard, working on the little things."
"I wasn't pleased with it (the pressure) and I think it's something we're focusing on this week to improve," Nansen added.
This week, the Huskies match up against a Syracuse team that utilizes something more familiar to Washington's defense. Nansen said he expects to see more of a prostyle attack with a lot of play-action.
"It's not going to be quite where we're teeing off and racing to the quarterback," Nansen said. "You're really going to feel the hard sets and go to your moves. They do a great job of slowing down the pass rush with their personnel."
Nansen said there were at least two or three opportunities to force turnovers against BYU. But the Huskies finished the game without a take-away.
Washington has been stressing the need to get more pressure in the backfield this week and Nansen said the message is hitting home, especially with young players like Crichton.
"We need to rush the passer in order for us to have a chance," Nansen said.
Punter Will Mahan sprains knee
Senior punter Will Mahan suffered a left knee sprain during Tuesday's practice. The injury happened when a teammate rolled into the back of his knee.
It was unclear after practice how severe the injury to Mahan, a right-footed punter, was.
If Mahan can't kick, Kiel Rasp will take over.
"He's getting better every day," Nansen said when asked about Rasp. "He's ready to step up when we need him. I don't know what Will's situation is. I think it's just a little sprain."
Rasp was the backup last season, but wasn't with the team in the spring.
If called into action, Nansen said he's confident Rasp can contribute.
"To be honest with you, Kiel is a different kid," Nansen said. "He won't even know he's kicking in front of 75,000 people. That's the type of kid he is. I'm pretty sure he'll be fine."
• RB Johri Fogerson sat out practice with a hamstring injury.
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