The fifth-ranked Huskies have scored 66 points from takeaways, which accounts for 22.2 percent of their scoring this season.
The evolution of Pete Kwiatkowski’s defense – which is in its third year at Washington – can best be charted by its ability to create turnovers.
“We’re always talking about creating turnovers, but we’re not unique in that sense,” said the Huskies’ co-defensive coordinator who implemented the ballhawking 3-4 scheme in 2014 when he arrived along with coach Chris Petersen.
“Every football team in America says they want to win the turnover battle, and we’re no different,” Kwiatkowski said. “So you start with that. You create drills, teach good habits, diagram schemes and stress the importance of getting the ball out. … Then you kind of have to wait and see what happens.”
Midway through their third season with Kwiatkowski, the fifth-ranked Huskies have fully embraced their coach’s philosophy.
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Washington has forced 19 fumbles and recovered 12, which leads all 128 NCAA Division I FBS teams. Including five interceptions, UW has forced 17 turnovers and leads the nation in turnover margin at plus-13.
The Huskies have scored 66 points from takeaways, which accounts for 22 percent of their scoring.
“As your team gets more experienced and older, they know what they’re doing,” Kwiatkowski said. “They’re not thinking as much about where do I got to line up and what do I have to do?
“They know that, so now as the play is going on, they’re just more ball aware. They’re coming in and instead of worrying about getting there and tackling them, they know they can do that. Now they’re a little bit more aware about getting the ball out – punching it out (or) putting their hat on it or whatever.”
Washington (6-0 overall, 3-0 Pac-12), which averaged 2.2 turnovers over the first two seasons and finished with 30 in 2015 and 29 in 2014, averages 2.8 turnovers this year.
The Huskies are on pace to finish with 36 takeaways for a 13-game season.
Junior linebacker Keishawn Bierria, who tied a UW record and leads the FBS with five fumble recoveries, believes turnovers are a byproduct of preparation, hustle and fortune.
“A lot of my fumbles were on broken plays when one of my teammates made a great effort play and I just backed them up and made sure I was putting out as much as I could,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s anything special. It’s just us doing what we do and playing how we play, which is all out.”
Kwiatkowski added: “Fifty percent is effort and running to the ball and 50 percent is being in the right place at the right time. But if you don’t run to the ball, you have zero opportunity for anything.
“Running to the ball with good leverage and putting yourself in good position so when that ball is on the ground or it gets batted up or tipped, you got more guys there to recover it or make the play.”
With the exception of Bierria, no UW defender has more than one fumble recovery or interception. Senior outside linebacker Joe Mathis leads the team with two forced fumbles.
“Our goal is to either score or get the ball back,” Bierria said. “That’s it. That’s how we play. Obviously, you never want to give up big plays … but if you ask me, our style is just going all out and getting after that ball.”
Oregon State will start third-string quarterback Marcus McMaryion on Saturday at Husky Stadium against Washington because starter Darell Garretson is out for the season after breaking his ankle last week and backup Conor Blount (knee) is unavailable.
The Beavers had hoped to redshirt true freshman Mason Moran, but he has been elevated to the backup behind McMaryion.
Last year’s starter, Seth Collins, who has been moved to receiver this season, is also an emergency option at quarterback.
Even when healthy, Oregon State has struggled in the passing game. The Beavers rank 123rd among the 128 FBS teams while averaging 146 passing yards per game.
“We all know and it’s not a secret we are horrible at throwing the football,” Oregon State coach Gary Andersen said Monday. “That starts with me.
“I’m a horrible coach when it comes to throwing the football this year with those kids. So I need to try to help them and every coach does and every player also.”
• In a bit of gamesmanship, Washington broke from routine and released its two-deep depth chart Tuesday – one day later than normal – because Oregon State traditionally waits until Tuesday to announce its starters and backups.