Here's my story in today's paper about the matchup between the Washington receivers going up against the Nebraska secondary.
Lost in the poor passing performances by Jake Locker in both games against Nebraska last year were the struggles of Washington receivers to deal with the press coverage played by Nebraska cornerbacks Prince Amukamaura and Alfonzo Dennard. And it wasn't just the corners, the Huskers safeties led by Eric Hagg were also pretty physical in coverage over the top.
It's not rocket science -- when a receiver struggles to get off the line of scrimmage because he's bumped and jostled by the defensive back, the entire timing of the play can be thrown off. In the previous two meetings, the Husky receivers were admittedly manhandled. They are expecting to see it again.
“It worked well for them before, so why would they change?” Kearse said.
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It will help that the Huskies have made a point to get better at getting out of press coverage.
So what do the Washington receivers do as a counter measure? Well, they must fight their way through the defenders’ pushes and tugs and get into their pass routes as soon as possible.
“It’s scheme, first of all,” Sarkisian said. “It’s technique second – you’ve got to use proper technique. And third is mentally, you’ve got to believe; you’ve got to know you are going to beat the guy. So when you can bring all three of those things together, you’ve got a great chance.”
The strategy is something that has been emphasized well before this week.
“We’ve been doing it all summer,” said senior receiver Devin Aguilar. “It’s just trusting our techniques. We work one-on-ones every day. It’s going out there being physical and with (a) chip on your shoulder.”
It helps if the shoulders underneath those chips are bigger too. Kearse and Kevin Smith – and Aguilar to some extent – have come back much stronger than last season. Smith and freshman Kasen Williams have the size and strength to counter Nebraska’s defensive backs.
“We’re much improved from where we were last year to where we are now,” Sarkisian said. “It’s been a big point of emphasis for us this offseason and all the way into training camp and again into this week. We are fortunate we’ve got good press corners that can help our receivers get prepared for it.’’It also may help if Alfonzo Dennard doesn't play on Saturday. The Huskers lone returning defensive back has been sidelined with a pulled muscle in his leg. His status is still uncertain. He has yet to practice this week, but we may know more today.
The Huskers defensive backs didn't exactly play well last week in the win over Fresno State, but they believe they will play better with or without Dennard.
The Huskers have relied on youngsters at the corner positions the first two weeks. Sophomore Ciante Evans had one start under his belt heading into this year and sophomore Andrew Green had played three snaps.
No excuses, Evans said.
"I know we're young, but we're out there. We've got to step up."
Evans was his own worst critic after Saturday night's Fresno State game. The Huskers won 42-29, but Derek Carr threw for 254 yards. The Bulldogs completed several key third downs — going 9-of-20 for the game in that category — including a few in front of Evans.
"First game, we did all right," Evans said. "Second game, I think we did terrible."
Evans said he played with poor technique. "Thinking too much out there. Didn't let the game come to me."