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UW defensive statistics may cause future shock, too

In losing at the Alamo Bowl, the Huskies' offense showed promise for a bright future. But the defensive failures don't bode well for next year.

Keith Price in a 2011 game

Keith Price in a 2011 game KRob2005/Flickr

Statisticians no doubt went into number-crunching overtime after the Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl. Stat rats may still be marveling at the fact that victorious Baylor and vanquished Washington combined for 18 points, and that was just from the conversion tallies.

During the second quarter, on their way to the eventual 67-56 loss, the UW Dawgs scored four consecutive touchdowns and led by 14 points. Smug observers pronounced it “advantage Huskies,” with no one knowing 67 more points would be put up by the combatants.

UW quarterback Keith Price and Baylor Heisman Trophy-winner Robert Griffin III completed a combined 47 passes, some of them going to guys with no defenders within 10 yards of them. During the second quarter Chris Polk hustled 56 yards virtually untouched for a Husky score.

A typical football game, even allowing for bowl-game halftime hoopla, takes about three hours. This one ran three hours and 41 minutes but seemed to last twice that long.

Husky coach Steve Sarkisian sized up another 7-6 season, addressing what has been an obvious deficiency of the program he’s otherwise resurrected from the 2008 0-12 season.

"Everything we do in our program will be evaluated, myself included,” he told a UW reporter after the game. “We've got to figure out some issues of why things are the way they are and how we can improve as a football team in all three phases.” He said that “we need to get better on the defensive side of the ball. And it will be addressed and addressed as quickly as possible."

This seemed to suggest that the fate of embattled defensive coordinator Nick Holt is sealed. Holt and Sark are long-time friends but it could prove true that friends don’t let friends keep running a crummy defense.

Sarkisian granted that no one in his program was surprised that Baylor put up prodigious numbers, given that “these [Baylor] guys averaged of 571 yards” on offense.

They did, anyway, until putting up a Boeing-size 777 against the Huskies, part of a bowl-game record-setting 1,397 combined yardage output. The point total of 123 also set a record for a non-overtime bowl game.

The turning point, if there could be such a thing in a spectacle of this enormity, came when Polk lost the ball within 11 yards of what could’ve given the Dawgs a 49-31 lead. Instead, Baylor quickly scored, taking the lead for good half way through the fourth quarter.

Because of a scheduling fluke another Husky men’s program simultaneously launched the Pac-12 basketball season with an easy 95-80 home win against Oregon State (the Husky women lost 60-55 in Corvallis). The men’s game provided a viewer option not just during Alamo Bowl commercial breaks. The San Antonio broadcast also featured some early screen-freeze glitches that may have become more maddening to viewers every time the game announcers apologized about it.

Going forward, the Husky football program will welcome back a wealth of young talent, particularly at offensive skill positions. After the Baylor loss Polk wouldn’t say whether he’ll return for another season or, as many expect, enter the April pro-football draft.

Staying competitive in what promises to be an improved Pac-12 will be a challenge even if Sark and company find a way to fix deficiencies on defense. The Dawgs get a soft opening Sept. 1 at “home” (CenturyLink Field) against San Diego State but things get much harder a week later when they play away against what could be defending national champion Louisiana State.

One can almost hear the statisticians the morning of Sept. 9: “Wow, LSU put up 18, and that was just the points from conversions!"

Since 1994 Senior Lecturer Mike Henderson, a veteran writer and editor for The Times, Post-Intelligencer, (Everett) Herald, Seattle Weekly and Crosscut, has been a member of the faculty of the University of Washington Department of Communication. He considers himself to be the only journalist ever to interview actor Gene Hackman inside San Quentin prison while wearing a pair of Hackman's pants. He can be reached at mikh48@hotmail.com.


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