By Derek Johnson
It will be interesting to hear the reactions from Matt and Kyle after witnessing the Washington-Nebraska game. The 51-38 defeat had both positives and negatives in abundance. Quarterback Keith Price is an exciting young talent and it seems like the sky’s the limit for him. Chris Polk is such a hard runner and tremendous asset for this football team. Without Polk, the Huskies might be 0-3 right now, instead of 2-1. Wide receiver James Johnson re-emerged by accumulating 106 yards and 2 touchdowns in receptions.
But that defense, aye carumba. They entered the game ranked dead last in the NCAA for 3rd down efficiency. Today, they surrendered over 300 yards on the ground. Nebraska players and coaches mentioned how they sensed the Huskies defense getting tired and fatigued by halftime.
In today’s post game interview, defensive coordinator Nick Holt started to roll his players under the bus, before stopping himself and including himself in the criticisms.
These are themes we heard during the Willingham years of 2005-2008, with a defense led by quarterback Kent Baer. The Huskies would often play a competitive first half before collapsing the second. They would often surrender record-setting performances to opposing QBs and running backs. And both Willingham and Baer were infamous for blaming their players. When I interviewed Husky players for Bow Down to Willingham, they almost universally described how divisive that was to team morale.
On the plus side, the Husky defense was bringing the lumber against the Cornhuskers, with several hard hits on the ball carrier.
But there’s a feeling of uneasiness to this season. Chris Polk and Keith Price, if healthy, might be enough to get this team to 6-7 wins and a minor bowl. But any opponent with a competent, accurate quarterback, will likely slice this Husky D to shreds.
It’s now the third year that head coach Steve Sarkisian and his DC Nick Holt have been at Washington. If the defense is regressing, it begs the question: Will Holt’s legacy prove to be a success like former UW defensive coordinator Jim Lambright? Or will be go the way of the disgraced Kent Baer?