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Defensively Speaking: Washington

Today’s game against is never going to be an instant classic for either team. But for UW it is a convincing win and for us a loss that showed progress in some areas and regression in others.

Essentially, a Helton-led team on the road is at a handicap. And offensive coordinator Graham Harrell continues his learning about the Pac-12. Short version, if there are three down linemen, then run the football and protect your 3rd-string quarterback. There were some pretty interesting statistics to look at however.

1. UW had more passing yardage than did USC but we out-gained the Dawgs by two yards.

2. Our up-tempo offense produced 65 plays vs. UW’s mostly under-center offense’s 61 plays, with 18 first downs to UW’s 16.

3. We won the TOP for the game…go figure.

4. Our eight penalties were costly and compares unfavorably to UW’s seven.

5. Our defense forced two fumbles (recovered one).

6. Both teams’ defenses produced three three-n-outs and six punts each.

So, all things being equal and looking at those above stats you would think this game was close.

It wasn’t. USC never really threatened UW. Giving up three interceptions and producing one out of three redzone conversions vs. UW’s four out of four is just too much to make up, especially on the road to a pretty good (but not great) University of Washington football team.

Defensively, we ran our basic pressure defense even with key personnel missing due to injury. We targeted first down run stops between the tackles. We used 2nd and 3rd downs to pressure Washington quarterback Jacob Eason with some success and we were marginally ok here.

What worked:

  • Our edge defense was better but still not a strength.
  • Marlon Tuipulotu and Jay Tufele are just a great combination on the field. A pleasure to watch.
  • EA (Palaie Gaoteote) had his best game by far but needs to keep his feet moving through his tackling. He dives too much and misses TFL’s as a result. Clancy is using him better.
  • John Houston had a solid John Houston game. He is playing his best football…by far.
  • Secondary coverage was ok, but in pressure sets they covered generally pretty well.

What’s not working:

  • Isaiah Pola-Mao at safety is showing his youth and inexperience. The long touchdown run was on EA and Pola-Mao.
  • Our edge is still a liability. RPOs and sweeps are problematic. There was improvement but not a strength
  • Punting game is killing us. Coach Baxter needs a tarmac experience in my view. Both punting (Griffiths) and coverage are not well developed. Just let Griffiths kick the dang ball and cut out the cute crap.
  • What’s with the rotating kickoff guys? Alex Stadthaus puts the ball thru the endzone. Boom, play him unless his leg is tired and there is no way he was tired today
  • Offensively, you run the ball against a three-man front. Then you can pick a nice play action etc. What’s so difficult to understand about that? Coach Harrell you should have read my article this week (UW’s defense vs. Air Raid). This is from 2018 for crying out loud, figure it out.
  • Stepp not on the field on the three yard line on 4th down. Somebody needs to explain this to me as I don’t get it and never will. Put him in and it holds the linebaker and/or nickle back to respect the run. The first interception doesn’t happen if you turn around and hand the ball to Stepp…he’s in the endzone. Look at that tape coaching staff and figure it out…please. Unlikely ND uses a base three down linemen defense and a Cover 8 but they sure will have it in their bag of tricks.

So now what happens? We take a week off and get some guys healthy. I don’t believe the practices will be intense nor will there be live tackling drills. I hope we can improve by visualization then and travel to South Bend in two weeks with either a young freshman quarterback or a more seasoned 3rd-string quarterback. Defense, you better be ready for a real slugfest.

Kevin Bruce

Kevin earned his MBA and BS in Business Administration/Finance & Econometrics from the University of Southern California, where he also played four years of varsity football, serving as co-captain and playing in three Rose Bowls. Kevin’s college honors included All-American (AP-Honorable Mention), All Pac-8 Conference - Linebacker (1st) and Academic All-American, two NCAA National Championships (football), NCAA Post Graduate Scholarship recipient and Trojan Diamond Award-outstanding graduating senior. He is a member of Football Writers Association of America and is a contributor to WeAreSC.com.

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