Huskies have had more luck this season defending teams — like Oregon State — that run a prostyle offense. Washington allowed 52 points each against spread teams Oregon and Arizona.
A week after allowing 52 points to Arizona, a team that was previously winless in Pac-12 play, the Huskies host undefeated, No. 7 Oregon State.
Oddly, though, the game might be a better matchup for the Washington defense.
In the first year under new coordinator Justin Wilcox, the UW defense has generally been a bright spot, looking vastly improved.
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Two notable exceptions were blowout losses to Oregon and Arizona, each of which scored 52 points against the Huskies.
Each of those teams runs a version of the no-huddle, up-tempo, spread offense. The Huskies fared better against USC and Stanford, which run more prostyle attacks, as do the Beavers, who will challenge UW at 7:15 p.m. Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
Wilcox counted 19 missed tackles against Arizona, “by far the most this season. When you do that, no matter what front or coverage you play, it’s going to be hard to stop anybody.”
Wilcox said missed tackles were also a significant problem against Oregon. Arizona and Oregon each run an offense that tries to create one-on-one matchups and gives quarterbacks options to run.
“We’ve got to execute and make the play, no matter if it’s tackling, knocking a ball down, affecting the quarterback — whatever it is, we’ve got to finish those plays,” Wilcox said. “And we didn’t do a good enough job, obviously.”
Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian has said he has made an effort to recruit athletic players in an attempt to defend spread teams.
Monday, he said if asked before the season what types of offense UW would defend better, he would have said offenses of the type run by Oregon and Arizona, “just because of the personnel that we have in place. But for whatever reason we haven’t performed against those teams that have gone up-tempo and spread us across the field. We haven’t played disciplined enough against those teams.”
Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant theorized the defense plays better against prostyle teams because that’s what the Huskies run, “and we see that every day in practice. … maybe that’s a reason we are accustomed to those types of plays. But we’ve got to be ready for whatever a team runs.”
And as Wilcox said, Oregon State will present plenty of matchup problems, especially with a passing attack that is third in the conference in yards per game at 310.7. Sophomore Sean Mannion will be back at quarterback for the Beavers after missing two games with a knee injury, contests in which backup Cody Vaz played well, leading OSU to wins over Brigham Young and Utah.
OSU has two of the top three receivers in the conference in terms of yards per game, Brandin Cooks (111.2) and Markus Wheaton (109). The Beavers look for opportunities to throw deep — probably more than any team UW has played.
That will put a lot of stress on a UW secondary that had its worst game against Arizona. The Wildcats threw for 256 yards on just 14 completions. That included touchdown passes of 53, 33 and 27 yards.
Wilcox said the major issue for the secondary against Arizona was “eye discipline. Maybe guys guessing to try and make a play when it’s just (about) playing with good eye discipline.”
Wilcox said every week is “back to the basics” at practice. But the Huskies are dipping a little deeper into that bag this week with more physical tackling drills often reserved for spring and fall camp to help solve the tackling issues.
Trufant said after Tuesday’s practice he thought the drills had the desired effect.
“Coming off a loss, you just want to come out here and play and compete and get everybody’s confidence where it needs to be,” he said. “We just want to carry that into Saturday.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @bcondotta