While the football coaching staff at the University of Washington didn’t open up its defensive meetings to the public this week, it’s a pretty safe bet that there were a few words of emphasis about allowing receivers to run unchecked into the depths of the Huskies’ secondary.
Two weeks in a row, UW has found itself in a quick deficit because of a brain freeze in pass defense. While the Huskies recovered from both miscalculations, it’s become apparent that the UW pass defense could use some nuts and bolts.
Heading into today’s game at Utah, the Huskies rank 117th out of 120 Football Bowl Series (FBS) teams in pass defense. Only North Texas (337.3), Troy (329.7) and Memphis (328.3) – teams with a combined FBS record of 2-8 – have allowed more passing yards per game than UW’s clip of 327.5. The Huskies rank 116th in opponents’ third-down conversion rate (52.5) and 78th in sacks, with just six.
Add in the season-ending loss of pass-rushing defensive end Hau’oli Jamora earlier this week, and the Huskies (3-1 overall, 1-0 Pac-12) may well be in for another rough afternoon against Utah (2-1, 0-1).
The Utes, who are playing their first home game in Pac-12 competition, might have found the perfect opponent to spark their passing offense this afternoon. Utah has relied more on a ground game led by junior-college transfer John White in its first three games, but coach Kyle Whittingham admitted the Utes aren’t necessarily a run-first team.
“We’ve only had three games, so it’s not a great body of work to base it on yet,” he said during a conference call this week. “The running back, John White, has been pretty productive for us, so we’ve been getting him the ball quite a bit. But I think as the season goes on, when all is said and done, you’re going to see a very balanced attack.”
Whichever way the Utes go, the Huskies will have to show improvement on defense today.
UW has struggled on that side of the ball this season, allowing more than 300 passing yards to three of its first four opponents while giving up another 155 yards and two touchdowns to run-happy Nebraska two weeks ago.
It’s left the UW defense scratching its collective head this week.
“I feel we’re a good unit as a whole, but it’s just little mental mistakes – a guy busting coverage or whatever it is,” said junior cornerback Desmond Trufant, who has been solid since getting targeted often in UW’s season-opening win over Eastern Washington. “We’re making plays out there. We’ve just got to put it together.”