Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt accepted responsibility for not having Huskies ready to play first time they met Nebraska this season, a 56-21 loss in September.
A few days after Nebraska beat Washington 56-21 in September — tying the record for most points scored by an opponent in Husky Stadium — defensive coordinator Nick Holt said the UW defense would love to play the game over.
Little did he know he’d get a chance so quickly with the two teams set for a rematch in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 30. The teams are also scheduled to play next year in Lincoln.
The bowl pairing means endless reviewing of a game that ranked as the worst of the season for the UW defense as the Huskies also allowed season highs in total yards (533) and rushing yards (383).
And three months later, Holt said the buck for the first game stopped on his desk.
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He said some players missed assignments at times but that “really comes back to coaching, quite honestly, because we are responsible for the kids,” Holt said. “And when that happens, it really comes back to me, and so you have to look at yourself and find out what went wrong, why we played so inefficiently.
“And it comes back to us probably not stressing some of the stuff. So I’m not sure it’s because of a player being out or not, it was just us as a staff — and starting with me, and more than anybody else, me — didn’t get them ready to play.”
As Holt noted, UW wasn’t at full strength defensively for that game as starting middle linebacker Cort Dennison didn’t play after suffering a concussion during practice that week.
But Holt said while that was a factor, “I think there were some other guys who just weren’t ready to play, quite honestly.”
Two specific areas where UW’s defense suffered in the first game were tackling and gap containment, letting Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Roy Helu Jr. outside for big gains.
Both are obvious areas of emphasis this time around.
“They’ve got a lot of things they can do, but we can’t make it so taxing on us,” Holt said. “We’ve got to play our stuff and play it really well and do the little things really well, attacking our guys and getting off blocks. (And) we’ve got to tackle. If you look, there were a lot of missed tackles in that game, too. On third down and long we missed a couple of tackles, they got first downs … and they ended up scoring, and that was key. So we’ve got to do a good job of tackling.”
That included what might have been the defining play of the game, an 80-yard run by Martinez on Nebraska’s first snap of the second half when he bounced off linebacker Victor Aiyewa and down the sideline.
“We had a shot at him,” Holt said. “It might have been a tough tackle and we were in a defense where our outside backer has to hold the edge and he probably got outmuscled there by a little bigger body, and you hope it doesn’t happen, but it did happen. The problem was we didn’t have a lot of guys around the ball rallying, so a 15-yard, 10-yard play went for 80.”
While the results didn’t show it, Holt said the Huskies went into the first game with a plan to stop the run and force Martinez — a redshirt freshman whose passing acumen remains a work in progress — to throw.
“We were trying to play the run,” Holt said. “But I think we got a little too infatuated with the quarterback running the ball, even though he had some nice runs we didn’t take care of the running backs. So we’ve got to do a better job of playing the running back and then the quarterback.”
• UW practiced Friday in the Dempsey Indoor facility in full pads and is scheduled to practice again Saturday morning. No new injuries were apparent.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org