What does the University of Washington football team and a grocery store in a full panic have in common?
While the 7th-ranked Huskies (5-1 overall, 3-0 Pac-12) have won five of six games, a disturbing defensive trend has emerged, one that hasn’t noticeably hurt this team yet but needs to be fixed in a hurry if the UW has any hope of beating the No. 17 Oregon Ducks (4-1, 2-1 Pac-12) Saturday in Eugene.
Paper or plastic is not the pressing question for the Huskies at the checkout stand: It’s why can’t you guys get to the quarterback--where are the sacks?!
At the season’s halfway mark, the UW has collected just eight sacks, only two by those chiefly responsible for providing a pass rush—team-wide, that’s one for every three quarters played.
“It’s something we’re paying close attention to,” Huskies coach Chris Petersen said this week.
Most revealing, Petersen’s defenders have come up empty in two of the past three games, registering zero quarterback takedowns against Arizona State and UCLA—both resulting in closer victories than expected.
The UW defensive front consists of seniors Greg Grimes and Jaylen Johnson, and sophomore Levi Onwuzurike. They have one sack among them. They have a lot of work to do to keep up with recent team averages.
In Petersen’s previous four seasons in Seattle, the Huskies finished with 52, 34, 40 and 39 sacks. Those were truly golden days for dropping a quarterback in his tracks. UW defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha generated 19 sacks all by himself in 2014. That same year, defensive linemen Andrew Hudson and Danny Shelton backed Kikaha with 12 ½ and 9 sacks, respectively.
This current Huskies team counts four sacks by free safety Taylor Rapp, two by nickel back Myles Bryant and one each by defensive linemen Ryan Bowman and Grimes. That’s it. Grimes got his sack in the closing seconds at Utah, dropping quarterback Tyler Huntley for a 9-yard loss. Bowman picked up his sack against Auburn by knocking down Jarrett Stidham for a five-yard loss and creating a fumble that the SEC team recovered. Otherwise, they can get into the backfield.
The Huskies have registered just one sack in the first quarter of any game this season, when Rapp rushed through on third-and-six to drop North Dakota quarterback Nate Ketteringham for a 6-yard loss. Rapp had another sack in the third quarter of that outing, upending Ketteringham for another 6-yard loss deep in North Dakota territory.
Rapp came up with the UW’s most recent sack, a 7-yard upending of BYU’s Tanner Mangum right after halftime—that was nearly six quarters ago.
If this bothersome trend persists, the Ducks and their strong-armed quarterback Justin Herbert will have their way with the Huskies.
“We always want more,” Petersen said of pressure on the passer. “But it’s a cat-and-mouse game.”
Yes, but it will be much better for him and his UW team if it’s a dog-and-retriever show this Saturday.