Huard: Why No. 2 Huskies’ matchup vs No. 3 Texas favors UW

Dec 13, 2023, 10:43 AM | Updated: 10:55 am

We’re now less than three weeks away from one of the biggest games in UW Huskies history, as the Dawgs will go to New Orleans on New Year’s Day to take on former Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian’s Texas Longhorns in Sugar Bowl, with a College Football Playoff national championship game appearance on the line.

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These two teams faced off last year in the Alamo Bowl, which the Huskies won 27-20, but this year has been very different for both squads.

This season, Washington is a perfect 13-0 after becoming the first team in the Pac-12 era to go undefeated. The Huskies also won the Pac-12 Championship over rival Oregon despite entering the game as heavy underdogs.

Texas, meanwhile, improved from 8-5 in 2022 to 12-1 this year, winning the Big 12 championship and recording a major non-conference win on the road in September over Alabama, another College Football Playoff team.

So how do the Huskies stack up with the Longhorns come Jan. 1? Former NFL and UW quarterback Brock Huard, who is currently a college football analyst for FOX Sports, shared his thoughts on the matchup during Tuesday’s Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports.

First, Huard reacted to something his FOX Sports colleague Joel Klatt said about the matchup.

“This is a great matchup for Washington,” Klatt said recently. “Texas’ biggest weak spot is their pass defense. We’ve seen it all year … Kansas State came in as one of the best rushing teams in the country … Texas took that away with (big defensive tackle) T’Vondre Sweat … and Kansas State was able to throw the ball and get back into the game … Now they’re going to face the best passing attack in the country.”

Huard’s reaction?

“Totally co-sign,” he said.

Defensively, Texas has an NFL-caliber defensive line that is anchored by Sweat, who is 6 foot 4 and over 360 pounds. Huard said the Longhorns roll six, seven or even eight deep at that unit.

But the Huskies’ passing attack likely has an advantage in the matchup with the Longhorns’ defense.

“I mentioned all that beef up front, and on the back end, they play a true freshman corner. On the back end, they play some safeties that are a little bit more run safeties than they are space safeties that like to come up and fill,” Huard said. “They’re a quarters defense, they’re not the most exotic defense either. … Like, ‘Hey, we’re not going to bust coverages, we’re not going to be overly exotic,’ and they are not.”

“There are vulnerabilities there. There are going to be plenty of opportunities,” Huard later added.

How can UW Huskies beat Texas?

What likely helps the Huskies in preparation for this game, Huard said, is their win over Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship.

The Ducks, like Texas, have a deep defensive line with big, NFL-caliber players across the board, Huard said.

“And what did they do to them? What did they do to that big defensive line? What did they do gameplan-wise in Vegas?” Huard asked. “They ran them. And here’s a bubble screen. And you’re gonna run, and you’re gonna run sideline to sideline and we’re gonna wear you down, and we’re going to use your size against you.”

Huard said he texted UW head coach Kalen DeBoer to congratulate him on the win, and that DeBoer responded by praising coaching staff.

“His first comment was, ‘Man, don’t congratulate me. Our staff was A-1,'” Huard said. “They put together plans on both sides of the ball against an Oregon team … that man to man are bigger, stronger, longer, faster. But when push came to shove, your plan, your people and your strengths came to light.”

Learn from Longhorns’ one loss

Texas’ lone loss this season came against rival Oklahoma. Huard said what the Huskies did against the Ducks is a lot like what the Sooners did to the Longhorns.

“Exactly what I just said. Absolutely wore them down,” Huard said. “Absolutely just moved them and RPO‘ed them and ran them and (used tempo against) them and bubble screened them, and quick RPO slants.”

Oklahoma didn’t substitute much, Huard said, which meant that Texas’ huge defensive linemen couldn’t get off the field.

“They made those big guys empty the tank and they just unfortunately could not keep up with them that day in that rivalry game,” he said.

The Sooners use far more no huddle than Washington, Huard pointed out, but the Huskies “have components” to wear down Texas’ defensive front.

“And that will absolutely be the plan three weeks from now,” he said.

The Longhorns, like the Huskies, have also played their share of close games, with three of their Big 12 wins being decided by one score and another by 10 points.

Huard said Texas nearly gave those games up.

“In every one of those games they were up by three touchdowns in the second half and then they didn’t have the closing instinct. They gave it all back,” he said. “… They were up in the second half and they just couldn’t finish the deal until they finally did over the last stretch of their couple games.”

Listen to the full third hour of Tuesday’s Brock and Salk at this link or in the player near the top of this story.

More on Washington football

Penix 2nd in Heisman voting for best finish in UW Huskies history
Huard: UW Huskies getting a new ‘force’ on defense for CFP
DeBoer named coach of the year and Penix wins Maxwell award
Texas reporter details what UW Huskies are facing in Sugar Bowl
Pac-12 Networks’ Yogi Roth: UW Huskies ‘very capable’ of winning title

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