By Derek Johnson
Following Washington’s 40-32 win over Hawaii last Saturday, UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt addressed the question of improvement to reporters. “I think it was our team that played today,” he said. “Last week (vs. Eastern Washington) we played a little cautious, not to lose, and we weren’t physical and not playing Sark football. And today we did, and I think we got back to kind of being us. It was good to see.”
From the standpoint of winning a football game that was entertaining to watch, Holt was right. And the team is 2-0, so that’s a positive. But in looking at game film of the Husky defense, the only one liking what they see will be Washington’s upcoming opponent, the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Former UW coach Don James always said that football teams make their biggest leaps of improvement between Week 1 and Week 2 of the season. While the Husky offense looked dynamic against Hawaii, the defense displayed severe problems that will soon be exploited to a point that a losing season might be inevitable.
Going into the 2011 season, media and fans harbored mental images of Washington’s defensive domination of Nebraska in last year’s Holiday Bowl. The stellar performances of linemen Alameda Ta’mu and Hau’oli Jamora looked like the second coming of Steve Emtman and Tyrone Rogers.
But after playing vastly inferior Eastern Washington and Hawaii, there has been no push up the middle defensively. Opposing quarterbacks have had all day to locate open receivers and deliver the football. Even with the increased intensity the Huskies displayed last Saturday, they could only bring pressure on the blitz. And Hawaii took advantage of UW’s vulnerability several times with a dissecting passing game.
There are three factors that have saved UW’s bacon thus far: The running of Chris Polk, the placekicking of Erik Folk and the winning of the turnover battle.
However, the level of weekly competition is about to be ratcheted up, starting this weekend with Nebraska and their talented quarterback, Taylor Martinez.
How will Washington transform its weaknesses into strengths before kickoff?
Let’s hope that increased cohesion and confidence enable Washington to bring their “A Game” this Saturday and avoid a slaughter.