There are things in the numbers world of football – or any sport, for that matter – that make perfect sense in judging a team's performance, and ultimately, its win-loss record.
And then there are the statistics that virtually hold no rhyme or reason to how a team is doing. One of those is the University of Washington's red-zone defense so far in 2009.
The Huskies are tied for 70th in total red-zone defense nationally – how often a team scores inside the UW's 20-yard line (83-percent success rate).
And opponents are getting there often – 30 times, to be exact, which is tied for fourth for most opportunities in the country behind UTEP's 34.
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So how are the Huskies surviving, and at 3-3? For all those opportunities, they're not giving up a whole lot of touchdowns.
In fact, the UW is one of six NCAA programs that is has given up more field goals than touchdowns in those red-zone scoring chances, ranking fifth in the country at 44 percent (14 of opponents' 25 scores have been field goals).
The others include Ole Miss (28.6 percent TD-conversion rate), Southern California (33.3), Florida (33.3), Virginia Tech (35.3) and UConn (44.4).
That's almost unbelievable given the amount of opportunities they're giving other offenses.
"It comes down to execution. In the red zone, they are really locked into the calls we're making," Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said. "For us, it's something to grow on. We need to transition that out to the middle of the field now. The belief in doing what we're supposed to be doing and the effort they play with in the red zone is the same. It shouldn't change when we're out in the field. I think they are understanding that."
Look at what other programs are doing under similar circumstances, and how it's impacted their record:
• UTEP, 34 red-zone scores given up. 22 are TDs. Their record is 2-4 in Conference USA.
• Toledo, 33 red-zone scores given up. 24 are TDs. Their record is 3-3 in the Mid-American Conference.
• Rice, 32 red-zone scores given up. 24 are TDs. Their record is 0-6 in Conference USA.
• New Mexico, 30 red-zone scores given up. 17 are TDs. Their record is 0-6 in the Mountain West.
"Defensive coordinators, I think, always have a different approach of how they handle you when you get into the red zone. A lot of people just start pressuring you a little more," UW quarterback Jake Locker said. "But yeah, our defense has been really successful when they've gotten into the red zone, holding teams to field goals, getting turnovers and getting the ball back. (They've) done a great job of keeping teams from scoring seven points when they get down there. That's a big advantage I think for the football team, not only from the standpoint of the scoreboard, but for momentum and confidence that those other teams have going into the red zone."
Other early-week notes:
• Not only did left guard Gregory Christine suffer a season-ending leg injury – he broke the fibula in his right leg with 31 seconds to go before halftime – he also tore ligaments in his ankle, just like safety Justin Glenn did the prior week at Notre Dame.
Christine is set to have surgery later this week.
"Nick Wood will elevate (into the starting role), and we've got to be able to do some things, whether it's with Mykenna Ikehara or Drew Schaefer, so that we have enough depth in there to get guys in," Sarkisian said.
• A couple of weeks ago, Sarkisian was asked whether Chris Polk's heavy workload was a concern. Yeah, he said.
And on Saturday, he added to it, making Polk the primary returner on kickoffs in place of Quinton Richardson (and Jordan Polk before him). That is where he'll stay, too, for the time being.
"In a perfect world, you don't want your starting tailback returning kickoffs for you, but we just haven't had another guy step up and seize an opportunity to take that role," the first-year UW coach said. "We've tried different guys, and we'll try again this week to look at some guys to give them opportunities, but it just hasn't happened for us yet."
Speaking of Polk, and the shoulder ailment that kept him out a series in the first half Saturday, the initial thought was that it had popped out. But it's just "sore," Sarkisian said, adding the team had to put Polk's shoulder in a harness to finish the game.
• The degenerative neck injury that had plagued defensive tackle Cameron Elisara for a good portion of fall camp is what took him out of the game Saturday with 10:13 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Elisara said he lost feeling and strength in the neck and shoulder area, and could not return. He'll have to wear protective padding around his neck for the rest of the season.
• Sarkisian said his team, in all three phases in the third quarter Saturday in the win against Arizona, wasn't "anything to write home about."
Special teams were the biggest culprits, ranging from giving up a long kickoff return to Travis Cobb to start the half, to punter Will Mahan dropping a snap, to Richardson fielding a kickoff off his facemask.
"I was (surprised), to be honest with you, especially in the third quarter. That's now us. That's not who we are. We've got to find out why that occurred," Sarkisian said. "Will Mahan is having a fantastic year for us, and to drop the snap was obviously very odd. To not be able to catch the kickoff all the sudden was odd."
• More reunion stuff. This time, it's Sarkisian's staff, many of whom have worked under Dennis Erickson, the Arizona State coach who has spent time at Idaho, Wyoming, Washington State, Oregon State and at Miami of Florida in the college ranks.
"It's kind of similar to when we were playing (USC). I think there are some great friendships there. The guys have tremendous memories with him. But at the end of the day, Dennis is a great competitor, and so is his entire staff and football team, and I feel the same way about our staff," Sarkisian said. "So we’ll go out and compete really well. I'm sure there will be some good smiles and laughs about it afterward."
• The frantic pace true freshman James Johnson has slowed considerably in the past two weeks. He had two receptions for 59 yards against Notre Dame a week ago, and then had his lowest output Saturday with his one reception – a 10-yarder late in the fourth quarter.
Johnson was only targeted two other times, including a drop to start that final offense-scoring drive with 4:16 remaining.
"It's going to be a challenge for me. 'How do I respond?' – that's a question that a lot of people are asking me right now. 'Am I going to be a freshman and keep that stuff in the back of my mind, or am I just going to let it go?'" Johnson said. "My plan is to really let it go, and just try to keep making plays, get back in the grind this week. … The balls I dropped, we'll run those routes extra, you know."
• Quick-hit stuff: The UW-Oregon kickoff Oct. 24 at Husky Stadium is set for 12:30 p.m., and will be televised live on ABC. … Junior linebacker Mason Foster, who had the game-winning interception return for a TD on Saturday, was named the Pacific-10 Conference's defensive player of the week. He also led the Huskies with 11 tackles. Others who were nominated included Locker. … Sarkisian was asked if Erickson ever recruited him coming out of El Camino College. The coach chuckled. "I didn’t have a big enough arm for Dennis. He likes those guys with strong arms," Sarkisian said. … Locker has an addition to the fan base – a chocolate-colored lab puppy who is 8 months old. His parents and girlfriend care for it before games. The dog wears a Husky jersey, too. Its name? "Ten," said Locker, referring to his jersey number.
** QUICK MONDAY PRACTICE REPORT: Other than it was clearly the coldest practice of the regular season (temperatures dipped in the mid-40s … not great preparation for a game Saturday that is expected to kick off near 100 degrees), not much happened.
All the hobbled players returned to full participation, including strong safety Nate Williams (concussion), receiver D'Andre Goodwin (concussion) and running back Johri Fogerson (flu), who looked spry and fit working with the No. 1 offensive unit.
Nate Fellner was working with the No. 1 defense at free safety.
Darrion Jones was working exclusively with the first-string defense at defensive end.
Jake Locker showed no ill effects from a minor back bruise.
As mentioned earlier, Wood ran with the No. 1 offense at left guard, in place of Christine.