University of Washington

Stanford loss? That was so last week. UW defense moves on to next challenge

There was the two-hour flight late Friday evening. Or the Saturday morning mental film study followed by a night of watching college football. And if that wasn’t enough, there was also Sunday and a large chunk of Monday.

Washington’s defensive players had plenty of time to ponder what went wrong in a 30-22 loss last Friday at Stanford. They’ve thought about the third-down collapses, what it means to be sharper against bigger receivers and how one game doesn’t necessarily define the group as a whole.

Out of respect, they addressed questions about what happened in the last game. But UW (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) was also eager to discuss what challenges Utah (5-5, 2-5) will present 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium.

“Today was our first practice since we lost and the energy was great,” Huskies linebacker Keishawn Bierria said. “We went out there with a lot of focus and lot of guys decided to get back to work and it was a great practice.”

UW entered last week with the moniker of being the No.1 defense in college football. This week, the Huskies are fourth.

The narrative was UW could put up a fight against Stanford star running back Bryce Love. UW did for a half until Love finished with 166 yards and three touchdowns.

Ranked in 14th in third-down defense, opponents were converting 30.4 percent of the time against the Huskies. The Cardinal went 10 for 18 for 55.5 percent.

Huskies senior defensive back Ezekiel Turner said the team reviewed film Sunday and was immediately ready to move on to playing the Utes.

“It was a tough game. Stanford came out and gave it their all and we gave it our all,” Turner said. “They just came out on top. We watched that film, put it away and now we’re on to the next opponent, which is Utah.”

Aside from two games this season, the Utes have manged to score more than 20 points in every contest.

Everything Utah does starts with its dynamic sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley. As a first-year starter, he’s completed nearly 65 percent of his passes for 1,953 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Huntley is also the team’s second leading rusher with 118 carries for 432 yards and three touchdowns.

“We gotta do a good job of leveraging him in the pocket when he goes back to throw,” Huskies defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said of Huntley. “We gotta try and minimize that and keeping him in the pocket and keeping him from scrambling around.”

Like any dual-threat quarterback, Huntley is prone to being sacked. Utah has allowed 27 sacks which is tied for 106th nationally. UW has 30 sacks this season which is tied for 11th.

Huntley is not the only playmaker within the Utes’ offense. Utah also has sophomore running back Zack Moss.

Moss, a former Miami commit, was a three-star prospect who Rivals rated 30th among all running back prospects in 2016.

He’s ran 151 times for 772 yards and seven touchdowns. Moss is also a capable receiver out of the backfield. He also has 25 receptions for 172 yards.

Yet the Ute who received the most praise was senior receiver Darren Carrington III. The 6-foot-3 and 205-pound Carrington has 58 receptions for 830 yards and six touchdowns.

“I think he’s hands down the best wide receiver in the Pac-12,” Huskies defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said. “Hands down. Very talented receiver. He attacks the football. He’s got tremendous size. 6-3.

“He’s fast. Very, very savvy. Excellent football player.”

OK. But here’s a quick question which goes back to a problem UW’s defense had with Stanford.

The Cardinal had size with nearly all of its receivers and tight ends. It showed when receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who is 6-3 and 222 pounds, bullied the Huskies’ secondary for five catches and 130 yards.

With Carrington’s large frame, what’s being said to the defensive backs this week about not having a repeat from last week?

“Those are challenges every single week,” Lake said. “They don’t make corners that are 6-5 and 6-6. Those are challenges every single week. We have 6-foot guys, 5-10 guys and that’s what we’ve had for years here and we’ve played really well.

“Hopefully, we just make more plays than they do this week.”

Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark