University of Washington

UW has a Top 10 defense in every major category but this one

UW's Bierria says Huskies have 'learned and moved on' from loss to Arizona State

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Most football defenses try to be good at one thing; the Washington Huskies are seemingly good at everything.

How is UW against the run? It’s the No. 2 unit in the nation. What about defending the pass? The Huskies are sixth. Is anyone putting up points? Yes, but it’s only at 10.6 a game, which is third.

The Huskies are the nation’s No. 2 defense based off yards allowed per game. If judged off total yards allowed all season, they’re No. 1.

UW’s defense is so elite it joins Alabama when it comes to being a Top 10 unit in the aforementioned categories.

Creating turnovers, however, is one thing UW is arguably struggling with. A hallmark of last year’s defense, the Huskies have not forced opponents into turnovers this season, just 13 so far. For those wondering, UW is tied for 34th — out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams — in the nation.

“I think we gotta do a better job of that,” UW junior linebacker Tevis Bartlett said Tuesday. “I know we didn’t have any in the last game and we might have had one the game before that.

“That’s definitely something we need to improve on.”

Having a Top 10 defense with only 13 turnovers is college football’s version of a first-world problem.

UW’s run to the College Football Playoff last season was partially powered by its defense. The Huskies’ were 12th in total defense and relied upon turnovers to frustrate opponents.

The Huskies led the nation with 33 turnovers (19 interceptions, 14 fumbles).

Washington has mustered eight interceptions and five fumbles through seven games in 2017.

“Same way we emphasize it all the time,” Huskies defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said about creating more turnovers. “You do drills with it. You emphasize it during team periods and just constantly working on trying to create turnovers. It’s the only way you can do it.”

UW, as it relates to turnovers, started strong to open conference play. The Huskies came up with three interceptions in a 37-10 win at Colorado. Those numbers could have been bolstered considering the Buffaloes also had three fumbles but managed to recover all of them.

The Huskies followed up a week later by recovering two fumbles in a 42-7 win at Oregon State. In the next game against California, the defense recovered one fumble and no interceptions.

Washington’s most recent game — a 13-7 loss at Arizona State — resulted in zero turnovers.

“It really hasn’t been frustrating,” senior linebacker Keishawn Bierria said. “It plays into our close games. The game we lost, we didn’t get any turnovers. It’s going to show up, it’s going to show up.

“But I think we can just get it going.”

Bierria said there are moments when an offense can gift a turnover with poor play. Aside for seeking a miscue, he said it falls on a defense’s personnel to “attack the ball” in the hopes of creating turnovers.

UW could get the opportunity when it hosts UCLA (4-3, 2-2) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium.

Bruins junior quarterback Josh Rosen has established himself as one of the nation’s top passers and a likely first rounder in next year’s NFL Draft.

Rosen has completed 63.5 percent of his passes and has thrown for 2,620 yards and 19 touchdowns. While prolific, both he and the Bruins offense have their flaws.

He’s thrown for eight interceptions, which is tied for 12th among all FBS quarterbacks. New Mexico State’s Tyler Rogers leads the nation with 13.

UCLA is 108th with 15 total turnovers. The Bruins are one of six Pac-12 schools ranked near the bottom in turnovers. Only California (16), Oregon (17), Washington State (18), Oregon State (18) and Southern California (19) have had more turnovers.

“They made some plays,” Bierria said about UCLA’s 45-44 comeback win over Texas A&M earlier in the season. “But I remember they missed a lot of plays, too. There were a lot of opportunities for them to take the ball away in the game and they didn’t get it done.

“That goes into our defense. If you get an opportunity to get the ball, you gotta take it away.”

Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark

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