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Originally published September 22, 2010 at 4:58 PM | Page modified September 23, 2010 at 9:36 AM

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Huskies' defense under review after blowout loss

The Washington Huskies have a bye this weekend before returning to the field Oct. 2 at USC.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The numbers from the Nebraska game — a 56-21 deficit on the scoreboard, and 533-246 in total yards — might indicate that the last thing the Huskies would want is to face a team like that again.

But Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt said quite the contrary on Wednesday.

"We talked about it as a defense and they would love to go play that game again because they know they didn't play up to their capabilities," Holt said.

In a way, though, the Huskies will get a chance at redemption against a similar-style offense as Oregon also runs the zone-read option that Nebraska executed so often and well. And some other Pac-10 teams also mix in elements of it, including UCLA, which runs The Pistol, an offense that also incorporates quarterback runs.

Holt said that on further review, he thinks the biggest issue for the defense was that the Huskies worried too much about the running ability of Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez.

"We were all trying to make the play on the quarterback and forgot we need to tackle the little inside-zone first and work from the inside-out instead of really the outside-in," Holt said. "So it's a good lesson for all of us to learn. Really, what hurt us were just some simple inside runs. There were a couple of long runs that we missed some tackles, but it was really some fundamental stuff and it's good to go back and re-coach some stuff."

That's exactly what the Huskies are attempting to do while they have a bye this weekend before returning to the field Oct. 2 at USC.

The Huskies are incorporating a few more tackling drills into practice, and also concluded Wednesday's workout with some live scrimmaging by the team's younger players.

The blowout loss led to a lot of analysis afterward that the Cornhuskers were simply the better team physically. Holt, though, says the gap isn't as wide as it may have appeared.

"Some of our guys that are usually physical, some of our older guys, didn't come with it," he said. "And we had a couple of young guys in there and they will get knocked around because of their age and their size and unfortunately that's going to happen when you have to play some young guys you don't want to but when you are forced to do that with our program where it is right now going to have to do it.

"But it was some of our older guys that have played a lot of football that are usually physical and usually really good at that, and they were trying too hard. And they know it."

Holt said the defeat didn't give him pause that UW's defense won't be able to match up physically against Pac-10 teams.

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"No, I think we can be more physical and we are a more physical team than what we showed," he said. "We just kind of lost our composure right there and it's just boom, boom, boom, and they are pressing too much to make something happen and get back in the game, instead of just playing one down at a time and winning that particular down. I think they just got caught up too much with all the other stuff, and it was a good learning experience for us, unfortunately."

Notes

• UW will practice again Thursday morning then take off for the weekend before beginning a normal game week Monday to prepare for USC.

• Many coaches will hit the road recruiting, including Steve Sarkisian, who said he plans to recruit locally and in California.

• LBs Cort Dennison and Victor Aiyewa returned to practice Wednesday. Dennison missed the Nebraska game with a concussion. Aiyewa suffered a concussion in the game and sat out the first two practices this week.

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

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