Through seven games, the Huskies have a total of nine sacks, and their average of 1.29 sacks per game ranks 11th in the Pac-12. Also, six of UW's nine sacks this season have come from defensive backs.
Officially, Washington’s defense had only one sack, by Tevis Bartlett, in last Saturday’s overtime loss at Oregon.
The Huskies did have another sack of Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert in the fourth quarter, but that was wiped away on a targeting penalty against senior defensive lineman Jaylen Johnson.
So through seven games, the Huskies have a total of nine sacks, and their average of 1.29 sacks per game ranks 11th in the Pac-12 (and 114th in the nation).
“Not good enough,” co-defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said Tuesday. “We’d like to have more production there.”
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And yet, while the pass rush obviously remains a work in progress, Kwiatkowski is quick to point out that sacks aren’t everything when it comes to pressuring a quarterback. Yes, the Huskies want more sacks — need more sacks — but the priority for UW coaches remains keeping opponents out of the end zone, and the Huskies (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) still lead the Pac-12 in scoring defense (tied with Utah) at 16.0 points per game.
“You don’t want to start chasing stats in the sack category just because you’re not getting sacks,” Kwiatkowski said. “We need them, and they help get us off the field sooner, but if you start chasing that — the name of the game is keeping them out of the end zone. That’s always going to be the first and foremost priority. We know we’ve got to get better, the guys know we’ve got to get better; we’ve got to finish when we get the opportunities, and we’ve got to do a better job on first and second down so we can get them in third-and-long. It’s all intertwined.”
Of the Huskies’ nine sacks this season, it’s telling that six of them have come from defensive backs (a team-high four from Taylor Rapp, and two from Myles Bryant). Bartlett’s fourth-quarter sack of Herbert was the first of the season by a UW outside linebacker or defensive end.
“That’s always been a deal,” co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said. “Every year, every team is always talking about that: ‘Don’t get enough sacks, don’t get enough that …’ We’ve just got to continue to go to practice … and continue to get better every single day. And it’s not just on one position group; it’s on all (of the) 11 defenders who is out there. We’ve all got to get better.”
A ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’ loss
The Huskies’ response to the loss the past three days has been “awesome,” Lake said.
“Guys are getting back to work,” he said. “It was an awesome college football game. It was an awesome environment. It was two great teams going at each other, and we know one (different) play here and we’re all talking about how great we played. One play doesn’t go our way, and now we’re not happy, obviously, with the outcome. But it was awesome effort by both teams.”
Before its game-winning touchdown run in overtime, Oregon called a timeout to reset its play. The Huskies were expecting a pass play, and Lake called a blitz — leaving the middle of the UW defense exposed.
“We weren’t expecting them to run and we had a blitz call and it took our linebackers out of the box, so it was rough,” senior defensive tackle Greg Gaines said. “I was thinking about that play, even before watching the film, I was thinking about that play over and over again.
“I thought it was interesting we stayed with the same play (after Oregon’s timeout). Usually we don’t do that. If we show it, we usually change out of it, but we stuck with it and it didn’t work out for us.”
The Huskies held Oregon’s offense to season lows in points (30), yards (379) and yards per play (4.7).
“I think we played a pretty good game,” Gaines said. “There were a lot of things that didn’t go our way and there was a lot of ‘coulda, shoulda, wouldas’ in that game. It was kinda tough watching it on film.”