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Originally published December 30, 2011 at 6:35 PM | Page modified December 30, 2011 at 10:27 PM

No news, but UW defensive coordinator expects to return

Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian says defensive shortcomings will be addressed, but Nick Holt says he "absolutely" expects to be back as coordinator.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The rapidity of the touchdowns was dizzying. So were the numbers on the stats sheet.

Baylor gained 777 yards, the most ever against Washington, and scored 67 points, the second-most.

Ultimately, though, the number the Huskies were most left to ponder was 7-6, their record for a second straight season.

After a 67-56 Alamo Bowl loss to Baylor on Thursday, Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said he was satisfied with the progress of the program under third-year coach Steve Sarkisian.

The Alamo Bowl, however, accentuated what fans had seen all season — a team developing a dynamic offense but saddled with a fatally flawed defense.

Sarkisian said he soon would evaluate every aspect of the program to see if changes need to be made.

"It's obvious we need to improve," Sarkisian said. "We need to get better on the defensive side of the ball, and it'll be addressed and addressed as quickly as possible."

Washington officials said there was no credence to a report Friday morning on the website FootballScoop.com that defensive coordinator Nick Holt and safeties coach Jeff Mills would not return next season.

Holt told The Seattle Times, after returning from San Antonio, that the report was "news to me."

Asked if he expected to be back in 2012 he said, "Absolutely, yeah."

Like every other member of the Huskies coaching staff, Holt's contract runs through the 2012 season. He is scheduled to earn $650,000 next year.

Even if no other changes are made, the Huskies' defensive coaching staff will undergo a shake-up due to the recent departure of cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin, who left for UCLA earlier this month. With a vacancy to fill, Sarkisian could shuffle other jobs, as well.

Something, surely, needs to be done to fix a UW defense that finished as the worst in school history in yards allowed per game (453.3), passing yards allowed per game (284.6) and total points (467).

All the weaknesses were on display Thursday against Baylor. The Bears' eight rushing touchdowns tied a UW opponent record, and their 482 rushing yards were second-most. Sarkisian, though, said the stats only meant so much.

"Numbers are numbers, records are records, all that kind of stuff," he said. "That doesn't change your perception or view of things. There's a style of play in which I think we need to pride ourselves on playing, and that didn't happen tonight. That part is the frustrating part."

As Sarkisian noted, Baylor had the second-best offense in the nation this year, averaging 571 yards heading into the Alamo Bowl. But the Bears had never before topped 700 yards (in fact, their 777 yards were the most ever gained by a team in any bowl).

Baylor got an amazing 331 rushing yards in the second half, including 257 in the third quarter as it began to rally from a 42-24 deficit.

"We were expecting pass, pass, pass in the first half and it came and we were stopping it, and then they figured something out," said UW defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu. "First half, I feel like we shut down a lot of things. And the second half, they ... came back with a good game plan and got after us."

In fact, Baylor outscored UW 43-14 in the final 29 minutes, scoring touchdowns on five straight drives and gaining 308 yards on only 20 plays.

Washington's offense kept pace for most of the night. If there was a difference, it was the running game. Baylor held UW to just 48 yards rushing on 18 carries in the second half.

The Bears seemed to be keying on Chris Polk, who had 147 yards on 30 carries, but just 91 on 29 minus a 56-yard TD in the first half. He was held to 40 yards on 14 carries in the second half of what was likely his final game as a Husky. The junior is expected to declare soon for the NFL draft.

With quarterback Keith Price back, the pieces seem in place for another solid offense in 2012. Price showed just how dynamic he can be when healthy, getting the first three rushing touchdowns of his career along with a career-best passing game. Four of five starting linemen return, as does a talented group of skill players led by receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

But the defense is obviously in need of major work, even if Sarkisian insisted he saw positives Thursday.

"It's some encouraging signs that we've got some good young football players that are playing and making plays for us and in my opinion have gotten better as the year has gone on," he said.

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

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