SEATTLE – Lost in a week filled with quarterback changes, disappearing ground games and issues along his offensive line, University of Washington coach Steve Sarkisian slipped in a phrase that went relatively unnoticed.
“I think we’ve improved defensively, quite honestly,” Sarkisian said after a four-game stretch that has seen the UW defense give up 170 points – an average of more than 42 points per game.
If the proof is in the pudding, then the Huskies may well be hoping that the Oregon State Beavers taste like tapioca today.
UW (6-4 overall, 4-3 Pac-12 Conference) gets a rare reprieve after facing four of the nation’s top 28 offenses on four consecutive Saturdays. An Oregon State team that ranks 10th in the Pac-12, and 80th in the country, in total offense could be just the medicine the Huskies’ defense needs to get well.
“We’ve got to step it up,” freshman linebacker Johnny Timu said this week. “Everything is on the line for us.”
After getting completely run over for 446 rushing yards by a punishing Stanford team four weeks ago, the UW defense has quietly shown some encouraging signs.
The defense was arguably more impressive than the UW offense in a 42-31 win over Arizona three weeks ago, making some key stops late against a powerful Wildcats offense that scored just three touchdowns while getting help from an interception-return touchdown.
A week later, UW’s defense held its own again while containing Oregon for most of three quarters before the Ducks used some good field position in its favor on the way to a 34-17 win.
And last Saturday’s loss at USC saw the Huskies play some solid pass defense for stretches.
“I just think, regardless of who we’re playing, I think we’ve improved – I really do,” Sarkisian said Thursday. “We’ve got, obviously, a challenge in their ability to throw the football, Oregon State, with all four of those guys – the three wideouts and the tight end. We’ve got our work cut out for us on that aspect of it. But the key for us is we’ve always got to stop the run, initially.”