NCAA FB

Fri, Nov 23, 2012 - 3:30 PM ET
Game Preview
 

Washington-Washington St. Preview

Share This Story

   
 

SEATTLE (AP)

Maligned for much of last year when it was among the worst units in the country, Washington's defense is now the reason for the Huskies' longest regular-season win streak in more than a decade.

Heading into Friday's Apple Cup against rival Washington State, the Huskies' defense has become a stout unit that doesn't give up points very easily.

After getting routed by Arizona last month and giving up 52 points for the second time this season, Washington looked like the same leaky defense from the past.

But the recent surge of four straight wins, potentially an eight-win season and likely a return to the rankings is thanks to the defense.

"It just took us a little time to mature on offense. But the end result is, (the defense) gained confidence by us playing that way," coach Steve Sarkisian said. "Knowing that we were going to lean on them, sometimes that's empowering. They felt that, and they've really responded. The way they've been playing this last month of the season has been tremendous."

Washington (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) will head to Pullman to face the Cougars (2-9, 0-8) not having allowed more than 17 points in any of its last four games. It hasn't been against the toughest competition, but the improvement of the Huskies' defense under first-year defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has been startling.

A year ago, the Huskies gave up nearly 36 points and more than 450 yards per game. This year, they are allowing just 23 points and 350 yards per game.

The biggest improvement is with Washington's pass defense, which ranks ninth in the country and second in the Pac-12 and is giving up just 174 yards per game. While cornerback Desmond Trufant has remained the steady leader of the secondary, the emergence of Marcus Peters as the cornerback opposite Trufant and the athleticism of freshmen Travis Feeney and Shaq Thompson have allowed the Huskies to stay in their base defense while continuing to play strong pass defense.

"It's been good to us that way," Sarkisian said. "We still go to some of our nickel stuff which has been good to us as well. ... But all in all, our base defense is something that is pretty well-versed to play against anything."

That improved pass defense will get possibly its strongest test from Washington State. While the Cougars' pass game has yet to match the vaunted productivity coach Mike Leach had while at Texas Tech, it's still a unique style and Washington has struggled facing unique offenses. The Huskies gave up 52 points each to Arizona and Oregon, which run unconventional spread offenses.

"I think at the end of the day the statistics are just a matter of execution," Wilcox said. "You execute well, the statistics are going to be better."

The Huskies will need to prepare for two quarterbacks this week, as Leach said he's not yet ready to make a decision about whether Jeff Tuel or Connor Halliday will get the nod.

"They both have done some good things. They both have a level of inconsistency. Some of it has been musical quarterbacks and some of it has been my fault," Leach said. "But by the same token we try to get on the guy that is hot and that has been tough to identify."

Tuel and Halliday played in a 46-7 loss to Arizona State last Saturday, the Cougars' eighth straight defeat.

Tuel completed 8 of 16 passes for 63 yards, while Halliday was 13 of 33 for 173 yards. Both threw interceptions and Halliday had the only touchdown with a 54-yard pass to Kristoff Williams in the final minute of the game.

Washington State needs a victory over the rival Huskies to avoid going winless in conference play for the second time in the last four seasons and to avoid yet another nine-game skid to close out a season. The Cougars lost their final nine games of 2009, also the last time they were winless in conference play.

While beating Washington wouldn't provide a remedy for all the problems the Cougars have faced in Leach's first year, it would give at least some solace of optimism heading into the offseason.

"I'm kind of looking forward to it," Leach said. "... I think they're already motivated. I think the biggest thing need to focus on is our effort, our work, our development."

While a bowl berth is already secured for the Huskies, entering the postseason on a five-game win streak could make Washington even more appealing when the selections are finally made. Washington last won five straight regular-season games in 2000, when it won its last seven conference games on its way to a Rose Bowl berth.

The Huskies' offense has finally awakened the past two weeks, scoring 34 points against Utah and 38 last Saturday in a blowout win over lowly Colorado. After scuffling through most of the season, Keith Price now has three straight games with at least 230 yards passing and his eight touchdowns the last three weeks matched his entire total for the first eight games.

"The rapport with the receiving corps, the anticipation and understanding coverages and where guys are going to go has just really improved in the last month," Sarkisian said. "Again, that's a sign of a guy willing to work, willing to try and get better, and taking to coaching."

Tagged: Arizona, Washington, Washington State, Jeff Tuel, Connor Halliday

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by

College Football Pick'em on FOX


NCAA FB Videos

Sumlin annoyed by media's Manziel questions Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Kevin Sumlin responds to questions about life after Johnny Football by toying wi...

AJ Pasquale's journey back to UCLA Posted: Jun 17, 2014
UCLA football ops intern AJ Pasquale describes his own personal journey after th...

Winston issued adult civil citation Posted: Apr 30, 2014
Get the latest news surrounding Jameis Winston's recent shoplifting fiasco.

Get Inside the Locker Room with Scout.com

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Florida_Gators/browse/featuredproduct/759777/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_759000/ff_759777_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Michigan_State_Spartans/browse/featuredproduct/760171/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_760000/ff_760171_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White
    Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_USC_Trojans/browse/featuredproduct/761373/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_761000/ff_761373_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/829709/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829709_xl.jpg&w=100 64.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimso..
    Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_LSU_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/829740/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829740_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple
    Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_Sooners/browse/featuredproduct/830935/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_830000/ff_830935_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish/browse/featuredproduct/861243/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861243_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue
    adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Nebraska_Cornhuskers/browse/featuredproduct/861247/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861247_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapback Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1087345/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1087000/ff_1087345_xl.jpg&w=100 29.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapba..
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1093431/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1093000/ff_1093431_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash