Washington’s defense victimized in loss to Nebraska

Sep 18, 2011, 9:38 PM | Updated: 9:47 pm

By Brock Huard

It was sure fun sitting in my hotel room in Tucson and watching the Huskies play offense in the first half on Saturday. Steve Sarkisian showed why he is one of the best coordinators — with the help of Doug Nussmeier — in college football. Motions, shifts, personnel groupings, route combinations and speed had the Cornhuskers on their heels. The blackshirts were befuddled, and Keith Price was showing the national television audience that though Jake Locker was drafted eighth overall to the Tennessee Titans, there was no panic at quarterback in Husky land.

The defense in the first half was hanging on by a thread, and unfortunately some of the senior leadership on the defensive line and on the back end were being victimized and not playing at a level necessary to win on the road.

AT-ET
Seniors Alameda Ta’amu (74) and Everrette Thompson (92) were largely non-factors as UW’s defense allowed 51 points and 464 yards against Nebraska. (AP)

At halftime, I made the decision to hit the workout room at the La Paloma Resort because I had the sense trouble was lurking. My gut was right, and the weight room and cardio machines were a great outlet for my frustrations.

Sarkisian is calling the second half a meltdown, and I couldn’t agree more. It was a meltdown that was most unfortunate because the Huskies had enough offense, playmakers and stout play on the offensive line to have made that game interesting deep into the second half. Unfortunately, an inept officiating crew, a freshman fumble, and an old school Nebraska power run game demoralized the Dawgs in the second half on their 51-38 loss.

Nick Holt is taking the brunt of the criticism, and that is what comes with the position when you are highly paid, highly visible and right now orchestrating a defense that is highly susceptible to the big play. Holt didn’t back away from the bullets after the game, nor should he. He is a big boy, and alongside Mason Foster last year, proved his defense can have success and shut people down.

Unfortunately, his 2011 personnel is playing nowhere near the way his 2010 crew did down the stretch. It is obvious that Foster’s engine, fire and tackling prowess are deeply missed. Nebraska’s power run attacked the inexperience and lightweight freshman linebackers. Everrette Thompson and Alameda Ta’amu were largely non-factors, and if it weren’t for Cort Dennison and Justin Glenn, it could have been a 400-yard rushing day from Big Red.

Eastern and Hawaii threw it all over the yard and Nebraska ran it down the throat of the Husky defense. The experienced players are not offsetting the weaknesses of their inexperienced teammates. The swagger that ended 2010 for the Husky defense is nowhere to be found.

Jeff Tedford and Cal have more balance offensively than any of the Huskies’ first three opponents. If Holt is to see the turnaround of his unit like he did in 2010 it must start with the same guys that got it going last year: Ta’amu, Quinton Richardson and Hau’oli Jamora. They must instill a confidence and belief in a group that is still thinking too much, hesitating too often and getting punched in the mouth with their hands at their sides.

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Washington’s defense victimized in loss to Nebraska