Huskies Insider Blog

Day after: Never understood why 'D' target of outrage

Greetings. What a night. What a morning for UW fans whom I'm sure slept in their purple-colored garb and restarted dreams of going to a bowl game (Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego all preferred place ... so fancy those sites specifically).

A very uneven UW performance - VERY GOOD at the start, a struggle in the middle but when the Huskies needed to turn on the jets in overtime, the fuel was there:

* Jake Locker, a career-high five touchdown passes.* Jermaine Kearse, a school-record four TD receptions (and now has nine for the season, which is a career best).* Chris Polk, another 100-yard game. More important, he had 27 touches, including 25 carries.

And yet, to a man, when all the offensive stars, as well as UW coach Steve Sarkisian, were pressed to talk about the game - the defining moments - they all spoke glowingly of the defense.

Which, in my estimation, was the real star of the show.

"The effort they gave, and the opportunity they gave us to go out and win that game was awesome," Locker said. "It was fitting that they were the ones on the field when the game ended."

Let's divide this up into two parts:

THE FINAL PLAY: Oregon State's two-point conversion

Honestly, one of the aspects I think Beavers coach Mike Riley took into consideration when he signaled for timeout after Jacquizz Rodgers' 2-yard touchdown scamper in the second overtime was how difficult it was becoming for Oregon State's offense to keep going.

Rodgers had 32 carries, was the only running back the Beavers utilized the entire game and likely was wearing down. Quarterback Ryan Katz saw lots of pressure, and took a few big hits, in the final quarter and extra sessions.

So, Riley went for the win. Bold. Didn't work out.

Oregon State came out for the play spreading the UW's defense out. Katz was in shotgun.

The Huskies countered by playing what linebacker Mason Foster dubbed an "over zone" - which I think was sort of a zone shell.

"Nick (Holt) assured me what they were in, and what we were in was a good matchup," Sarkisian said.

Katz sat back there, surveyed the field and fired a low bullet to tight end Joe Halahuni on a go-route along the right seam - right in front of linebacker Cort Dennison. Halahuni had the ball, but once he hit the ground, it squirted out for an incompletion.

"I kind of had a feeling they were going to run the route, and Cort made a great play. That was probably one of the weak spots of our defense on that call, but it was people making plays," Foster said.

"They hadn’t really thrown to him (Halahuni) all day, but he’s a great athlete. You know they were going to go him in clutch times."

Dennison said afterward it was his responsibility to play the middle part of the field. At first, he admitted he thought Katz might run for the end zone, and played it initially as such. When he realized Katz was looking at Halahuni, he reacted toward the passing lane.

"I thought I did (knock the ball out)," Dennison said, keeping a straight face.


"I don’t know. All that matters is we won. I really don't care if I got my hand on the ball," the junior said. "(Halahuni) dropped it."

REGULATION: Some ups-and-downs

For the second consecutive week, the UW held on Oregon State's first drive. Desmond Trufant got a first-quarter interception, which ended up being the first of three picks of Katz (other two were by safeties Nate Fellner and Sean Parker).

Disconcerning was what happened on Oregon State's drive afer the UW took a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.

The Beavers started feeding Rodgers the ball more often. And when they got into UW territory, Rodgers have three consecutive carries:

* First one went for 15 yards. Fellner missed a tackle near the line of scrimmage.* Second one went for 13 yards. Cameron Elisara as nearby, and couldn't make the tackle.* Third one went for 6 yards. Again, Fellner whiffed.

The biggest concern all season has been tackling. At that point, old habits resurfaced.

"We were playing hard, initially. Then for whatever reason, assignment-wise we broke down a little bit – our gap integrity broke down in the run game, and they started getting some runs on us by us just falling out of our assignment," Sarkisian said.

Fast-forward to the final quarter.

The UW offense was floundering a bit. Sarkisian again went for it on fourth down, and missed. All the Beavers needed was one big play to get in scoring position to win the game.

They only got one first down.

Oregon State had four offensive series in that quarter, with its worst starting field position at the UW 28. The Huskies held the Beavers to 31 yards in the quarter.

"Credit to our defensive staff, they got our guys locked back into their assignments in the run game, and our run fits," Sarkisian said. "Once we got back into their mode, our pass rushing got going, and our coverage was tighter. We made it a little bit hard on them."

For the game, the UW defense held Oregon State to 353 total yards. The UW forced three turnovers. The UW had three sacks of Katz.

Which leads me to an overview point - why was the Huskies defense so heavily-criticized through the first five games?

Everybody knows, they're not a shutdown unit. They never were. This team is built by offensive firepower, and the BIGGEST reason the UW entered the game Saturday at 2-3 was because its offense hadn't held up its end - not the other side of the ball.

And for those critics who declared the UW defense as being incapable of the super-human effort of bailing out the offense and leading the Huskies to a victory - well, that was certainly on display in the critical moments Saturday.

Because, in the end, Foster, Dennison and company made the biggest play.