In this installment of Washington vs. Oregon, how can the Huskies beat the quarterback NFL scouts are drooling over?
Washington vs. Oregon. Arguably the biggest rivalry in the Pac 12 has another installment in its historic chapter on Saturday. Both teams are ranked inside the top 20, and a win puts that team in the driver’s seat for the Pac-12 North title. But there’s a potential top 5 pick standing in the Huskies’ way, and his name is Justin Herbert.
Ask any NFL scout and they’ll start talking about how much they love Justin Herbert. The size, the arm strength, the accuracy, and athleticism, he’s the full package. We know the Husky defense needs to bounce back after a tough game against UCLA, but what specifically do they need to do to contain Herbert?
The Huskies need to put pressure on Herbert, it sounds simple but its been anything but for the Huskies this year. They’ve only racked up eight sacks this season (for reference, the lowest sack total for a Husky team coached by Chris Petersen is 34) and five of them have come from defensive backs. Taylor Rapp has three and Myles Bryant has two. To add insult to injury, no sacks have been recorded by a Husky outside linebacker. That number can’t fly on Sunday, especially against an Oregon line that has only allowed seven sacks this season. Herbert, who is a great athlete, needs to be flushed out of the pocket and forced to make throws on the run. If Washington can do that, especially with just bringing four rushers, they should be ok.
Play Man to Man
The Husky secondary is the best in the country. And if there’s any time to prove it, it’s this week. Byron Murphy and Jordan Miller have the talent to man up and show the Oregon receivers what this Husky defense is all about. Murphy has nine pass breakups this season, and Miller has one of Washington’s two interceptions. This corner pairing strikes fear into quarterbacks, but Herbert might try to attack them early. If he fails, Oregon will resort to their run game.
Stack the Box
If the secondary can stay strong, and Oregon tries to beat the Husky defense on the ground, they’ll be ready for it. JoJo McIntosh can play closer to the line of scrimmage, and Ben Burr-Kirven will have more support around him to make plays. The Oregon offense averages 216 yards per game on the ground, and the Huskies can’t let them establish the ground game if they want to get out of Autzen with a victory.