Huskies defense shows improvement, wins Spring Game over offense 36-10
New Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox would like to believe that it's just that simple. He would like to think he and the new...
Seattle Times staff reporter
New Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox would like to believe that it's just that simple.
He would like to think he and the new defensive staff just made a few tweaks here, a couple of adjustments there, and the unit is suddenly the juggernaut it looked like during Saturday's Spring Game.
In a game format in which the defense was awarded points for series stops, turnovers and touchdowns, the Washington defense beat the offense 36-10 in front of 11,802 at CenturyLink Field.
And the score pretty adequately described how the defense appeared to dominate — the defense had seven sacks and the offense rushed for just 20 yards on 35 carries. The offense scored only on a field goal and a touchdown that didn't come until the final minute of the third quarter.
But Wilcox knows that scrimmages in April come with a lot of vagaries. The offense didn't open the playbook up much, and the line has struggled with a variety of injuries and rarely had the unit out there Saturday it expects to have in the fall — a big reason the Huskies did not split into two teams for the game.
"I was excited that guys came out and competed," Wilcox said. "But I wouldn't read too much into that (score). I know you don't want to hear that, but it's the Spring Game and the offense was vanilla and we were vanilla."
Indeed, quarterback Keith Price said the plays the offense were called were all from the part of the playbook installed during the first two days.
"Stuff they've (the defense) seen tons of times," he said.
Still, acknowledging the above caveats, the Spring Game — the last of UW's 15 practices during the month of April — seemed to reveal that the defense is improving and that the offense may need some time to adjust to a lot of new faces.
While center Drew Schaefer, who barely played Saturday, and guard Colin Tanigawa, out with a knee injury, are expected back, the line will feature two new starters. And for much of Saturday, the offensive line in any incarnation had its hands full with a defensive front that seems be playing at a faster clip than a year ago.
Meanwhile, a receiving corps without its two leading receivers of last season — Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar — struggled to get open against a veteran secondary while the running game — now trying to find a replacement for Chris Polk — was nonexistent much of the day.
"They were aggressive," UW coach Steve Sarkisian said of the defense. "They played enthusiastic and I thought one of the big telling things defensively is that they won a lot of the one on one battles, especially down the field with the ball in the air. They closed on the ball and they were confident closing on the ball in the back end and they made plays. That was extremely encouraging."
It added up to a tough day for the most proven piece of the offense, quarterback Keith Price, who was 14-of-28 passing for 168 yards with a long of 23, which came on the lone TD of the game when he dumped the ball off to fullback Jonathan Amosa, who then wove his way into the end zone.
Price put much of the blame for the offensive struggles on himself.
"I've got to show that passion and I don't think I came out with my hair on fire," Price said. "So I know what I need to do next time and I know how to approach the first game of the season."
It was hardly all Price's fault, though, as there were a handful of dropped passes, a few penalties and a few more missed blocks.
Price, who vows to take more of a leadership role this season, said he told some of the younger skill guys that they will have to step up their game.
"We've just got to make plays, point blank," Price said. "I told the guys 'hey, every ball is not going to hit you in the chest — you've got to make plays for me. And if you want to continue to get the ball, you've got to make plays.' "
The most obvious candidates to take over as playmakers — receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins — each had quiet days. Williams had both of his catches in the final quarter for a total of 31 yards. Seferian-Jenkins was shut out, including being unable to control a pass in the end zone on a leaping attempt that was broken up by Nate Fellner.
Sarkisian and new offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau said that the Huskies didn't put much in the game plan for those two, as they would during the regular season.
"I don't think it (the offense's lack of production) is a concern, no," Kiesau said. "It's just more that we've got to continue to get better and improve. We are replacing a lot of good players from last year which gives a lot of these young kids a chance to develop and get better as we move forward. But concern is not really the right word, no. Now, if we had everything (in the playbook) going today and it looked like this? Then it would probably be a concern, yeah."
SPRING GAME STATISTICS
RUSHING — B.Sankey 11-34, A.Sims 3-11, W.Wilson 5-11, J.Callier 2-4, D.Petty 2-0, M.Hall 1-(-10), D.Brown 9-(-14), K.Price 2-(-16).
PASSING — K.Price14-28-0-168, 1 TD; D.Brown 12-24-0-129, T.Vincent 1-4-0-11, J.Callier 1-1-0-17.
RECEIVING — J.Johnson 6-42, B.Sankey 4-51, J.Perkins 4-40, M.Hartvigson 3-49; J.Amosa 3-44, 1 TD; K.Williams 2-31, E.Hudson 2-17, D.Campbell 1-23, K.Price 1-17, M.Hall 1-11, W.Wilson 1-0.
FIELD GOALS — E.Nothstein 37 yards.
TACKLES — A.Hudson 4 solo-2 assists, T.Stevenson 3-3, J.Sample 4-0, E.Zeger 2-2, T.Tutogi 2-2, A.Long 2-2, D.Schultz 3-0, T.Feeney 3-0, J.Shirley 2-1, C.Cree 2-1, M.Peters 2-1, W.Shamburger 1-2, P.Fuimaono 1-2, M.Lyons 1-2, N.Fellner 1-2, G.Ducre 2-0, C.Waller 2-0, J.Timu 1-1, A.Kimble 1-1, T.Watson 1-1, K.Egu 1-1, S.Lawyer 1-1, A.Gobern 1-1, K.Herren 1-0, J.Glenn 0-1, G.Gilliland 0-1, T.Crichton 0-1, T.Tupou 0-1.
SACKS — A.Hudson 2 sacks-16 yards, D.Schultz 1-9, C.Cree 1-8, C.Waller 2-16, A.Kimble 1-5.