In the Huskies 38-6 annihilation of Boise State Saturday night, there was a lot of positives, but there was still one glaring weakness. The Huskies defense failed to sack Broncos quarterback Joe Southwick even once.
He consistently had plenty of time to do his progressions and target a receiver. Even when he was pressured, Southwick was able to scramble outside the pocket and either run – he carried the ball five times for 22 yards – or give himself enough time to find an open receiver.
I noted in my three keys to the game that if the Huskies were going to win the game, they would have to pressure Southwick. Clearly, that wasn’t true, but it is something to worry about going forward.
It was an issue last season, but on a mediocre team, weaknesses like this don’t stick out. When you beat the No. 19 team in the nation by 32 points, they do.
Junior defensive ends Josh Shirley and Andrew Hudson helped suppress the matter last season, each collecting 6.5 sacks to lead the team. Against Boise State, they combined for one tackle.
Why might that be? Probably because neither started and Shirley was the only who saw the field somewhat consistently. Instead, Hau’oli Kikaha (formerly Jamora) and converted tight end Evan Hudson started at defensive end. Hudson led linemen in tackles, with four, but that’s like being the New York Jets’ best quarterback – it’s the best of a bad group.
That’s not to say there isn’t potential on the line. Kikaha exploded onto the scene in the 2010 Holiday Bowl before tearing his ACL against Cal the next season that left him out all of 2012. Before his injury, Kikaha was one of Washington’s best pass rushers. If he can return to that form sometime this season, that will help tremendously.
Hudson was converted to defensive end in Spring Practice. While he has obviously earned his starting spot, there may still be some kinks to work out in actual gameplay. Both players are either inexperienced or recovering from injury. Chances are, both improve over the course of the season.
If Danny Shelton is able to build on his impressive sophomore campaign, and start getting pressure on the quarterback – he’s yet to record a solo sack in his career – that will take pressure off of the ends to do so.
Washington will have an extra week to work on the issue, as it has a bye before traveling to Chicago to face Illinois in Solider Field. No matter, the Huskies won’t be able to content for a Pac-12 title until they tune up the issue.