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Mailbag: Bye, Bye Desert Edition

Answering your questions about a desert escape and previewing next week’s Oregon game while the Dawgs are idle

Washington v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Why did the defense forget how to tackle? -Dawgfan12

I don’t think that’s exactly an accurate characterization of what happened in this game. Here’s the missed tackle rates through UW’s first 5 games per Pro Football Focus:

Boise State- 24.1%

Tulsa- 12.1%

Michigan State- 16.7%

California- 19.7%

Arizona- 18.5%

Unsurprisingly, Washington had their lowest missed tackle rate against Tulsa who have the worst athletes of any of the teams played so far. It was actually a little bit less than the previous week against California and much better than against Boise State.

Why did Grubb insist on passing during the last drive when the ground game with tough Johnson could have pushed it in...sometimes they pass too much! -Dna4bb

It’s not unreasonable to think that Grubb got a little too cute on that drive. Here’s how it went with the Huskies leading 31-17 and taking over just inside their own territory.

1st and 10 (4:26 on clock)- Washington lines up in 12 personnel with Jack Westover lined up as a fullback and Culp on the end of the formation. It’s a clear running situation in a running formation and so it seems reasonable to think that Arizona will be expecting the run and so Grubb decided now would be the time to try a play action shot. Penix goes on a 7-step drop and the way the Huskies have pass protected this season, Penix would normally have plenty of time to sit in the pocket and survey his options.

Instead, Troy Fautanu gets beaten on the edge and Penix has pressure in his face right as he arrives at the back of his drop. Given that Penix was falling away to his right, it’s a miracle that he actually almost completed the deep shot to Odunze who had the corner beaten but was even with the safety.

Washington was up two scores with under 4 and a half minutes and the ball. It would take a lot of things going wrong for the Huskies to lose at that point but that was the kind of play that could’ve led to that happening.

2nd and 10 (4:18 on clock)- Again, Washington lines up in a run formation with Westover starting to come across in motion then stops and goes back the other way. It looks like he is all set to block the edge on the backside of the formation as part of a run play. Instead, he lets Upshaw go and gets a free release. Penix has absolutely no pressure on him as he floats to his left and here is the window he is throwing into.

If the ball hits Westover in stride then he picks up a first down easily and the Huskies get to milk another 2+ minutes off the clock and are approaching field goal range to make it a 3 score game. Instead, Penix makes one of the worst throws of the season. This should’ve been a completion 99% of the time but this was the 1 of 100 that Penix throws it so high from 10 yards away that Westover can’t catch it even if he didn’t hit him in stride.

3rd and 10 (4:13 on clock)- Now that it’s 3rd and 10, it’s more worthwhile to try to get a first down here any way you can rather than run for 4 yards just to wind off time. Arizona only has a 4-man rush and yet again, Fautanu struggles with his block and his first read isn’t open so Penix takes the sack.

Aggression can backfire, and it did here, but Washington had two great play calls on the first two downs of the drive and the players just didn’t execute.

Is anyone else concerned about the number of penalties being committed by the Huskies? -STROH92


Was Rome Odunze injured on the on side kick? -Anonymous


Clearly Arizona sold out to stop the medium to long passing game. My brother in law Mike doesn’t think Oregon will adjust their defense in that way. What do you think? -Otis

Frankly, I’m not sure my opinion matters here since Mike seems to be on top of it.

There are shades of grey here that probably are closer to the truth. Will Oregon be very concerned about Washington’s deep passing game? Certainly. Do they probably also have more faith in their secondary to cover UW’s receivers without extra help than Arizona did? Also yes.

So I’d say I generally agree that I think Oregon by virtue of having more confidence in their talent won’t make a totally wholesale schematic shift against Washington. But I would expect Dan Lanning to certainly have a few tricks up his sleeve to try to slow down the Husky passing attack.

Since the Gaskin Ahmed era, Huskies have not had a RB with multiple greats seasons, and none to land in the top 20 UW career rushing stats all time. Taulapapa had an outstanding one and done season and averaged 6 yards a carry. Is this is the future with NIL?? Who on the current team is the next Gaskin/Polk/Lewis type RB? Or will we have another one and done like Taulapapa? -Oregondawg

I don’t think I’d call it a byproduct of NIL as much as a consequence of misses on the recruiting trail. Here’s what happened to Washington’s running back recruiting over a 4-year period:

2018- Richard Newton

2019- Cameron Davis

2020- Sam Adams II, Jayveon Sunday

2021- Caleb Berry, Emeka Megwa

Newton looked like he would have a chance to be a featured guy as a freshman but has battled injuries throughout his career and fallen out of favor with the new coaching staff. Cam Davis struggled in the JonDon/Lake scheme but was set to take over as the starting back this year before getting hurt in preseason camp. Sam Adams II has gotten reps over the last couple years but hasn’t risen above a few of the transfers that have been brought in via the portal. Finally, all of Sunday, Berry, and Megwa transferred out as they were all bruising backs to run into 8-man boxes for JonDon and didn’t fit the DeBoer/Grubb system.

Several of those guys were highly rated coming out of high school but the combination of injuries and scheme fit meant that none of them have had anywhere close to a season like Washington was accustomed to for about a decade.

If you’re talking about the next guy, then you have to put forth Tybo Rogers. He has come in as a true freshman and seemingly now gotten the 3rd back role despite being suspended for most of preseason camp. There’s no running back currently slated to join the team as part of the class of 2024. If someone becomes the guy for multiple years, Rogers is the likely candidate.

I am concerned that our Defense is not getting enough pressure on the Quarterback and this will lead to uncomfortable result against Oregon. Am I justified with my concern? -Luvhippo

Washington fans should be concerned about the Oregon game getting uncomfortable but I don’t know that I’d say that’s solely due to the stunted pass rush. A much bigger concern in my eye is how Washington is going to stop the Ducks’ run game. The Huskies were largely helpless to slow down Oregon on the ground last year and I don’t know that I think things have gotten that much better this season. Particularly if Tuli Letuligasenoa is unable to come back in time from his injury.

It’s still a major issue though. Per Bill Connelly, Washington is 121st in stuff rate and 129th in sack rate. It has certainly helped that Washington’s secondary is improved over last year and is able to get the occasional interception but it’s not a good sign that the Huskies are getting dominated on the line of scrimmage against the easiest part of their schedule.

Why do I have a feeling that Ryan Grubb is looking at the Arizona film and preparing schemes and packages for use on any team that wants to try that rush three, drop eight defense again? -GU1966

Why do you have the feeling that Washington’s offensive coordinator is going to look at how opposing teams have slowed down his offense and then try to scheme up ways to get around those defenses should they come up in the future? Probably because you believe that the Huskies have a competent offensive coordinator.

But to more directly talk about how the Huskies deal with a defense that only rushes 3 players. Here’s what Washington’s stats looked like against 3 or fewer rushers against Arizona versus the other 3 games so far per Sports Info Solutions:

3 games before Arizona: 8/13 (61.5%), 121 yards (9.3 YPA), 1 TD, 1 INT

Arizona game: 13/17 (76%), 186 yards (10.9 YPA), 0 TD, 0 INT

The Huskies saw more of rush 3, drop 8 coverage against Arizona than they had in their previous 3 games combined. Washington also threw for a higher completion percentage and for more yards per attempt than they had in those situations in prior weeks. So I don’t know if I would say that Grubb has a ton he needs to work on to beat those coverages. If the Huskies moving forward complete 76% of those passes for almost 11 yards per attempt, it’ll be pretty reasonable to think that defenses will try something else.

What do you think the line will be for the Oregon game? How much will Washington be favored by? -Anonymous

Fortunately, we don’t actually have to wait as there was a line up on this game from DraftKings pretty soon after Washington’s game against Arizona ended. The Huskies are starting out as 2-point favorites which suggests that Oregon is considered a brief favorite on a neutral field. That seems about right since most of the advanced metrics are pretty evenly split between the two teams but Oregon is pretty clearly a more well-balanced team between O and D and pass and run. I won’t be surprised though if the line continues to shift in Oregon’s favor and ends up closer to a pick’em by the time we get to kickoff.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.