Washington Huskies need to find ways to stop run
UW ranks 113th in the nation in run defense, allowing an average of 234.75 yards and 6.0 per attempt. UW has allowed more rushing yards for a season only twice in its history.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Arizona State @ UW, 7 p.m., FSN
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University of Washington football fans don't need to be told that wins at USC are rare.
UW's 32-31 win over USC Saturday was just the third for the Huskies in Los Angeles since 1980.
What might not be as obvious is the rarity of the manner in which the Huskies got the win.
UW emerged victorious from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum despite allowing 298 yards rushing.
The Huskies have won only three other times since 1947 (the first year detailed full-season game-by-game stats are available) when allowing that many rushing yards, and just once since 1972.
That came in 1995 when UW won at Oregon State despite allowing 348 yards to the Beavers — though it's worth noting that OSU at the time ran the wishbone and barely even tried to pass.
The two other times it happened came in 1972, almost a completely different era of football when offenses were often dominated by the run. UW beat Purdue (323 rushing yards) and UCLA (348) in two close games in which those two teams attempted a combined 17 passes.
UW players and coaches, while acknowledging that USC ran well, point out that the most important thing is that the Huskies won, stopping the Trojans short of the goal line on two critical fourth-quarter drives.
"At the end of the year it's not going to be like 'look at all the yards they gave up,' " said UW linebacker Cort Dennison. "They are going to say 'they beat USC.' "
Still, the number is a vivid illustration of what area needs the biggest improvement for the Huskies after four games.
UW ranks 113th in the nation in run defense, allowing an average of 234.75 yards and 6.0 per attempt. UW has allowed more rushing yards per game for a season only twice in its history.
Obviously, the number is based on a small sample size and skewed a bit by the Nebraska flameout (when the Cornhuskers rushed for 383 yards). UW has also played a schedule rated by many as among the most difficult in the country so far — Jeff Sagarin has it at No. 7 this week — though few would argue that the offenses of BYU or Syracuse qualify as elite.
But as history shows, giving up that much rushing yardage and surviving won't happen often.
The Nebraska and USC games could just be reality coming to the fore — recall that the preseason assessment of the Huskies was that the defense wouldn't be as strong as the offense, many observers feeling UW may simply need a few more recruiting classes to get the talent needed on that side of the ball. USC, with an offensive line filled with touted players, often seemed to just manhandle the Huskies up front.
But UW coaches say the defense can play better, citing specifically that there have been too many missed tackles.
"No doubt it's something we've got to get better at," said cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin. "It's Football 101."
Cornerback Quinton Richardson, had one of the more notable missed tackles Saturday when he charged in on a blitz and flew into USC QB Matt Barkley, who spun away and fired a completion downfield.
Martin said Richardson's main error on the play was having his eyes too high. "His eyes were wrong so his pad level was high and he took the wrong leverage on the quarterback," Martin said. "It's fixable. It's just some things we've got to home in on and drive in on and get better."
After the Nebraska game, UW coach Steve Sarkisian increased the tackling drills the team conducts, and players say they are confident the problems won't persist.
"We are working on that, we are cleaning that up, and that's one thing that will get fixed," vowed safety Nate Williams.
It had better. The Pac-10 features four of the top 23 rushing teams in the country (including USC, which is 15th at 234.4) and seven of the top 56, including Saturday's opponent, Arizona State, ranked No. 56 and averaging 167.6 yards to complement a passing attack that leads the Pac-10 at 301.2.
• Sarkisian said during the Pac-10 coaches conference call that Johri Fogerson is likely out for another week with a hip flexor. Fogerson has played only in the opener against BYU, and has a redshirt year available if he can't make it back. However, Sarkisian said the hope for now is that Fogerson will be able to return and play this season.
• Five walk-ons joined the team this week with the rosters allowed to expand now that school has started. The number includes fullback Tobias Togi, who was also with the team last season, and punter Evan Steinruck, a punter from Lake Stevens.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information in this article, originally published Oct. 5, 2010, was corrected Oct. 6, 2010. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of times the Huskies have won in Los Angeles since 1980. The correct number is three.
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