Joe Newbury from the Arizona Desert Swarm Blog on SBN exchanged some questions with me this week concerning the upcoming game.
Joe- What did Stanford do that worked so well against the Huskies?
John- Stanford was better and more physical than Washington was on both the offensive and defensive line. The Cardinal ran the ball up the gut all night featuring Toby Gerhart who had a career rushing high of 200 yards on 27 carries. The entire team shredded the Husky defense for 321 rushing yards. Defensively the Cardinal were able to force Washington into committing three key turnovers which took the Huskies out key potential scoring drives. Stanford also picked up a cheap seven to open the game when the Washington kicker Erik Folk mis-hit the opening kickoff to Chris Owusu who returned it 94 yards.
Joe- How do you contain Jake Locker? Blitz everyone? Zone defenses? Rush 3, drop 8?
John- Jake is going to get most of his yards through the air. He isn't running much this year because the coaching staff wants to keep him healthy the entire season. He will run on key third down plays to keep drives alive but the days of him running 12-15 designed running plays are over.That being said he has become the most dangerous passer in the Pac 10 and will be the best QB the Wildcats face this season. The key to containing the Washington passing game is to jam the Husky WR's at the line and take them out of their routes which would ruin their timing with Locker. Putting pressure on Jake and containing him inside the pocket with your defensive ends will also limit his options. If Jake has time all night he can make the plays that will beat you.
Joe- Chris Polk tore up Notre Dame. Do you think he is capable of doing this every game?
John- Chris has done it every game. He is a punishing runner with breakaway speed who carries players with him after he makes contact. You can't stop Chris Polk but you can contain the damage he is capable of by limiting the big play. Chris has become a good North/South type of runner who doesn't need much of a hole inside. He turns plays that look like four yard losses into eight yard gains. We are really happy with the way he has performed so far this season.
Joe- Your D-Line had trouble getting pressure on Claussen. How scared of Nick Foles are you?
John- We know Nick Foles is a good QB. He carved up Oregon State extremely well. Are we scared of Nick Foles? I would say the answer would be no. He isn't the best QB we have faced yet this season or the best we will face all season. As for the defensive line we have had trouble getting pressure on QB's all season and that will continue on Saturday. Nick will have time to make plays on Saturday. They key is he will be doing it in the loudest stadium in the country. Nick is promising but he lacks experience. Husky Stadium can be a nightmare for the most experienced starting QB. Our two starting safeties may be out for this game so I imagine Nick will get his yards at times. Turnovers are key in a loud stadium. Washington has been good at getting the opposition to turn over the ball this season.
Joe- How has your team evolved since the beating of USC at home and the loss at Stanford?
We have evolved into a team that doesn't have as much depth as when we played USC. The season is now at the mid point and after playing the toughest schedule in the country we have been nicked up here and there. Washington is balanced on offense and the emergence of Chris Polk as a power back has taken the pressure of Jake Locker to run the ball. Defensively the team is challenged right now. A great running team like Stanford walked all over us. A great passing team like Notre Dame burned us through the air. Both teams had career days in both categories against Washington. Despite that the Huskies have shown they can beat anyone in the country right now even though they are only 2-3. This team does not give up and should not be taken lightly.
John- How have injuries affected the Wildcat offense this season?
Joe- Arizona hasn't really been hit with too many injuries this year. We lost Rob Gronkowski for the year which was teh worst of it for the year. Grigsby and Antolin were out against OSU, but other than that, we have been lucky. Fortunately, Washington comes to us after an off week which means Arizona will be the healthiest they have been all year.
John- Who should we watch on the Arizona defense? Who are the play makers?
Joe- Arizona's defense is grounded by their pressure on opposing QB's. Ricky Elmore is a beast at DE and should be our key to getting to Locker. He just does not stop. Vuna Tuihalamaka is our MLB and is always in position. He will never miss an assignment and is solid at taking on blockers and dropping into the secondary. Trevin Wade has definitely been the star of the season racking up 25 tackles, 4 pass breakups and 4 interceptions in 4 games. If Locker is going to challenge someone, it shouldn't be Wade.
John- How will Arizona try to contain Jake Locker?
Joe- The simple answer is I don't know. I am hoping that Stoops (defensive coordinator Stoops) will try a mix of defenses to confuse him. Elmore should apply pressure on the outside, which should help. We are going to have to blitz with our outside backers speed and mix in some zone blitzes as well. C.J. Parish has been our rover back all year and when he comes in the game, it opens up the defensive play book for Stoops because of his speed. Pressure is key.
John- Tell us a little bit about the Arizona running game. Will Nic Grigsby be able to play on Saturday? If not who will the Wildcats turn to to get productivity on the ground?
Joe- Grigsby is slated to return to Washington this Saturday and should start. He is an absolute beast. In case your readers weren't sure, he has racked up 415 yards on 50 carries for a 8.1 yard average per carry. Oh yeah, that was in 3 games. He hardly played against OSU because of an injury. Look for him to return strong in Seattle. His backup is Keola Antolin and is more of a slasher. He brings a great change in tempo and is definitely able to fill the shoes. The real shocker this year is our 3rd string tailback Greg Nwoko who came in against OSU and did a magnificent job. There are more things to worry about in life than having 3 outstanding RB's, but Stoops will have to try and figure this one out on his own.
John- We have heard from Coach Stoops that Arizona will use both QB's in the game on Saturday. Which one do you prefer and do you think that is a good idea?
Joe- I Prefer Foles. Always have and always will. Scott is hasty, inaccurate, AND makes bad decisions. Not a good combo in my book. Foles is poised, has a HUGE arm and can make reads at the line with the arm to back it up. He also is agile enought to side step pressure and create on his own. I hope that Stoops doesn't do 2 QB's. This would be a blessing for Washington.