Washington Huskies freshman free safety Budda Baker has played well enough during his first college football season to elicit constant praise from the UW coaching staff.
But he’s done little enough in the turnover department to get constant text messages from defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake.
“I’ll shoot him a text when I think about it around 10:30 at night: ‘Budda, you have no interceptions,’ ” Lake said earlier this week.
Indeed, Baker does not yet have an interception. As a team, the Huskies have five, and junior cornerback Marcus Peters is the only member of UW’s secondary to intercept a pass this season. He has three.
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Still, Baker, a former Bellevue High star who was once committed to Oregon – the Huskies visit the Ducks for a 5 p.m. Saturday game in Eugene – has done more right than wrong. His 35 tackles are fourth-most on the team.
“What I really love is his effort,” Lake said. “And that shows up every day in practice. He’s always flying to the football. He’s just a great example for everybody on defense – ‘This is how you play football.’ You run to the football as fast as you can, you play physical, you hit what’s in front of you, and you get ready for the next play.
“And that’s what Budda does. The plays are going to come. If he just keeps playing at that level with that effort, the interceptions will come.”
Huskies coach Chris Petersen was asked Thursday to evaluate the difference between his defense earlier this season (when it allowed 52 points and 475 passing yards to Eastern Washington and quarterback Vernon Adams) and now, coming off an impressive game against a high-scoring California offense.
Saturday’s game at Oregon, which ranks first nationally in passing efficiency, 13th in total offense and seventh in scoring offense, presents more opportunity for struggle. The Huskies rank 93rd in pass efficiency defense, though they bottled up Cal quarterback Jared Goff pretty well in a 31-7 victory last week.
A steady pass rush helped. But UW’s young defensive backfield hasn’t seen anything like Oregon.
“I just think that they maybe understand a little bit more,” Petersen said of his team’s defense. “We’ve got a lot of banked reps in the vault, and they kind of understand a little bit more. I think each week I’m always curious to see, ‘Well, we’ll see how we hold up this week.’ This week is no different. With this offense, we’ll be challenged like we haven’t been challenged yet, so we’ll see.”
PERKINS TO SIT
Huskies tight end Josh Perkins, who caught a 25-yard touchdown pass last week against Cal, won’t be available to play against Oregon until the start of the third quarter due to his ejection from last week’s game following a targeting penalty, and that could impact UW’s offensive gameplan.
Petersen earlier this week looked into whether the Pac-12 office might be able to overturn the automatic one-half suspension upon review – the call appeared questionable – but that attempt was futile.
“It’s an NCAA rule,” Petersen said Thursday. “If they review it (during the game) and they say it’s targeting, then you can’t go back and overturn it later.”
Huskies offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith said Perkins’ absence could affect the plays he calls, “because there’s some things we like to get in two tight ends, with Josh, particularly, in the game. So you might have to hold that until the second half, so it’s disappointing.”
For Perkins, too.
“You feel bad for anybody who has to sit out,” Petersen said. “You work all year long and you only get so many opportunities, and to miss a half is hard.”
RIVA LIKELY OUT
Petersen said earlier this week that if fifth-year senior right tackle Ben Riva didn’t have bad luck, he wouldn’t have any luck at all.
That luck hasn’t changed.
Petersen said Riva, who has battled a knee injury all season and injured his ankle after just three plays against Cal last week, is again unlikely to play this week at Oregon.
“Same ol’ luck he’s been having,” Petersen said.
Redshirt freshman Coleman Shelton will likely make his fifth start of the season in Riva’s place.