Washington Football: Will Defensive Coordinator Nick Holt be the next Jim Lambright… or Kent Baer?

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?


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PODCAST: Matt Rogers Bets his House that UW will Beat Nebraska

Matt Rogers takes no prisoners in predicting a Washington win over favored Nebraska. Not only that, he implies that Derek and Kyle are traitors to the cause for their predictions.

To listen to the latest show, click this link for Mevio version, or click the iTunes logo on the right side of the page for downloading to your MP3 player.

Go Dawgs!

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Washington Football: Huskies Must Find Answers Quickly to Avoid a Losing Season

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.


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Huskies Knock off Hawaii Warriors

We’ll be recording a new podcast Tuesday night to give our reactions…

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