The difference in the Washington defense is glaringly evident in scores such as Saturday's 38-3 win over Colorado.
BOULDER, Colo. — The difference in the Washington defense is glaringly evident in scores such as Saturday’s 38-3 win over Colorado.
But players say the change is visible in more than just the results.
“It’s different even on just the sidelines,” said linebacker Travis Feeney after Washington held an opponent without a touchdown for the first time since a 30-0 win over Washington State in the 2009 Apple Cup. “The sidelines have more energy and everybody is more trusting of each other on the defense now more than last year.
“Last year, I felt like everybody kind of didn’t really have the rhythm with each other. Now I feel like we are in a rhythm and everybody believes that everybody knows what they are doing, that everybody has confidence that everybody else is going to do their assignment. Nobody at this point is trying to be a Superman and do other people’s assignments, and we are just making sure to do our own assignment and we are on point and just playing great right now.”
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Undoubtedly, a Colorado team that is now 1-10 was hardly the toughest test of the season. Still, a year ago the Huskies tended to give up yards and points in bunches to everyone they played.
Saturday’s win, meanwhile, was the fourth straight game in which the Huskies allowed 17 or fewer points, and the seventh time this season. And the 141 yards allowed were the fewest since San Jose State got 133 in 2004, and the fewest in a conference game since USC was held to 124 in 1996.
It all illustrated further the improvement of the defense in the first year under new coordinator Justin Wilcox.
UW coach Steve Sarkisian said he has seen a continuing building of confidence among the defense, and that “when you have belief in the defense, you play good defense and you are going to get those stops. And offensively, you understand you can rely and count on the defense and you don’t have to try too hard. You take care of the football a little bit better.”
Saturday, it was the defense that had to pick things up for a ragged offense in the first half as the Huskies didn’t score a point until just 1:02 was left in the second quarter.
But even with the offense scrapping, the defense hung tough, forcing two early turnovers and not allowing Colorado past its own 41 in the first half.
“I think now we’re really starting to play our best football defensively,” said senior safety Justin Glenn. “Today we just had to keep going out there and doing our job. The offense couldn’t catch a break in the first half. We knew that if we just kept battling, things would eventually go our way.”
The only points UW allowed came on a field goal that followed a 59-yard kickoff return that took the ball to the Husky 40.
Colorado had five three-and-outs, and its only drive of longer than 21 yards came on the final drive of the game, when the Huskies had deep reserves on the field.
Sarkisian had made the tough call last winter to fire defensive coordinator Nick Holt and remake the entire defensive coaching staff, hoping for performances like this. Glenn said the players immediately felt there could be improvement, a feeling that has only increased.
“Now we are starting to play our best football defensively,” he said. “And that’s how you want to be playing in November.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org