A week ago, I wrote that the Huskies would lose their next three games. I stand to be corrected because, last night, Steve Sarkisian‘s team played its best defense of the year, showed grit and determination that seems to appear every other game, and stunned No. 24 Oregon State after two overtime periods.
I did not think the Huskies defense could stop Jacquizz Rodgers and the Beavers’ running game. I haven’t seen the Huskies defense stop a good runner all season. And Rodgers is one of the best. It just stood to reason.
But call me ecstatically surprised.
My old friend Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times wrote last night that quarterback Jake Locker was legendary, that Locker saved the season, that all the Locker hype came to tangibility. Despite a red-zone fumble and being at the helm of complete offensive stall the entire second half, Locker did shine in overtime. He also had a couple drive-extending runs on third downs that were quite impressive.
But the game ball does not go to Locker and his five touchdown passes. The game ball goes to the defense — namely defensive coordinator Nick Holt.
Holt is a fiery, wild-eyed, intense football coach. And whatever he is doing worked last night. This defense is young. The defensive line is disappointingly soft. It misses tackles (see Nebraska), makes assignment errors (thinking about BYU), and has about a seven-year engrained history of absolutely stinking.
But last night, the defense played like a group with a purpose. It played like it was inspired to do well, to prove something, to shed the history of being terrible.
It showed up in the play of Alameda Ta’amu. It showed up in the break-out performances of Victor Aiyewa and freshman Hau’oli Jamora. It showed up in the last-ditch, nothing-but-effort of linebacker Cort Dennison to break up a pass that would’ve been two points and a Beavers victory.
In the first half, the Huskies defense came out with passion. To me, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before Rodgers got going — and he did. I honestly thought that was it. I watched a three-touchdown lead disappear.
But Holt held his guys together. Almost suddenly, the Huskies were in the backfield. There were forcing punts. They were creating turnovers — hello, Sean Parker! Welcome to Montlake!
I can’t mention the defense without praising Mason Foster. Foster is the pulse of the team. He does not stop. He keeps fighting. If Holt kept the group together and is the brains of the operation, Fosters is the motor of it.
And what the operation did last night was nothing short of fabulous.
Now, back to Locker… Locker would not be doing what he is doing nearly as effectively if it weren’t for Chris Polk. The Huskies racked up nearly 500 yards last night. Polk rushed for 105 of them. He gets yards when it seems there are none to get. He drags defenders along with him. He puts his foot in the ground and propels himself forward. It is so fun to watch because he makes something that is so hard look so easy. I am thoroughly impressed with Polk.
Of course, receiver Jermaine Kearse deserves ample praise. Four touchdowns, 146 yards. What else can you say other than — he should be doing this. There is no place for drops. I understand getting drilled and not holding on to the ball, but drops for the sake of drops is ridiculous. If the ball is in his range (ala Locker’s accuracy), he should be able to bring in more than he doesn’t.
A week ago, I wrote the Huskies would lost their next three games. They pulled one out and it was awesome. They have an opportunity now, too, as they head to Arizona next Saturday to face the Wildcats, who lost quarterback Nick Foles to a sprained knee. THAT is lucky for UW.
So, what must they do? Let’s start with lose the every-other-game schizophrenia. Let’s start with striving for more. This has been a major problem. The Huskies get a big win, then fall back on their laurels. But WHAT laurels? Washington simply isn’t there yet. This is a program still in a hole. Every time this team stops digging, the dirt will fall in around it. Thus, it simply can’t stop digging. It has to keep at it — and at it with urgency and vigor.
OK, gang, the Steelers game is about to start, so I’ve got to wrap this up. But, CHEERS to Nick Holt and the Huskies. I can’t wait for Saturday. (But, PLEASE, no more overtime… the game ended at 2 a.m. … that’s too late for this ol’ woman!)