This has been such a crummy year for college football for reasons that have nothing to do with activity on the field. Oregon, Miami, Auburn, Ohio State, the list goes on. That has all been summed up by the firing of Penn State coach Joe Paterno in a scandal that requires no more coverage in this corner of the blogosphere. FACE PALM.
In our own neck of the woods, layers of pointed comments by coaches Steve Sarkisian, Lane Kiffin, and Nick Holt have detracted from the fact that the past two UW/USC games have been really exciting. Before last week's game against Oregon, I felt that both coaches did a great job of keeping the focus on the football game and the finale at Husky Stadium. This week, not so much. FACE PALM.
So...can we get back to football?
Harry thinks so!
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I know it's a tired joke. Trojans. Protective...stuff. We get it. But it highlights a key difference between Washington's offensive success and failures. Keith Price's
ability to settle in the pocket has been the key component to the offense's success; dare I say, more so than even Chris Polk's success running the ball.
In both of our conference losses to Oregon and Stanford, we expected Keith Price to pull the trigger in expected shootouts. Instead, Keith Price delivered two of his worst performances with 6.9 and 4.1 yards per attempt respectively (ESPN). While I give the Duck and Cardinal secondaries credit, the real tip of the cap goes to the defensive lines' efforts.
When defenses apply pressure, the idea is to force a quarterback to use his check downs and hot reads. When a quarterback has to throw a ball early, his receivers do not have the opportunity to influence the secondary and create space for those check downs. How many of you watching the Stanford and Oregon games saw Polk or Callier get tackled after a 4 yard pass and said to yourself, "Damn! They are fast!"?
The issue isn't the speed of the defense. The issue is the fact that defensive pressure is forcing Price into early check down situations where the safeties and linebackers haven't even fully dropped back to cover the receivers. There is no space for neither Polk nor Callier to catch a pass and make a play. In both the Oregon and Stanford losses, running backs caught 11 passes for 48 yards; 4.4 yards per catch (ESPN).
Against USC, join me in keeping tabs on the performance of the offensive line. Let's hope that they step it up after a torrid effort against Oregon. One could argue that the USC defense is just as physical and athletic as Stanford and Oregon's defenses. If the Husky offensive line plans to yield similar results to last week, prepare to talk about how fast the USC defense looks. FACE PALM.