Coach's Corner

In the last home game of their collegiate careers, three Husky seniors; Mason Foster, Nate Williams, and Victor Aiyewa, collectively led their team to its finest defensive hour in almost a decade. They held UCLA scoreless for three quarters and gave up only one touchdown. They had also held the Bruins to 163 total yards and decisively won the game with their defensive unit.

Those three Huskies accounted for 33 tackles - 14 by Foster, 13 by Williams, and 6 by Aiyewa. Four of the tackles were for losses. They all played wonderful games and clearly had their best team effort defensively in the last four years. They have been waiting for this kind of game and all three parts - the front, the linebackers, and the secondary - worked so well together that they simply dominated the game.

They were playing on the Bruins' side of the line of scrimmage much of the evening and it started right off the bat. The depth of the pistol seemed to worked against the Bruins because the Huskies were getting penetration. They were playing attack football and they brought the battle right to the Bruins. After giving up 93 yards on an early drive first quarter drive, the Husky defense settled in and held the Bruins to an unbelievable total of 70 yards for the remainder of the game. Wow! That's good defense.

Foster set the tone for the whole game on the opening kickoff when he rocked the UCLA kick returner, Josh Smith, with a jarring tackle. On first down, Aiyewa dropped the running back in the backfield for a one-yard loss. Williams filled quickly on second down, holding Jonathan Franklin to one yard. An incomplete pass results in a three-and-out on the first series of the game. Great start! Shutting them out in the second half was an even better finish.

Nate Williams has been a leader from the minute he came into this program. He clearly has the presence now of a physical player at this point of his career. His penalty for using his head in tackling UCLA quarterback Richard Brehaut was ridiculous. He was trying to use his shoulder and Brehaut ducked into him. Same as the week before when he was penalized against the Ducks. I loved it both times. The man was simply doing his job and bringing the force. It's not his fault the game is being made soft. What I appreciate is how hard Nate has worked on his tackling throughout his career. It shows now that he is a senior, and that hit was absolutely perfect.

That is what is so cool about these three seniors: They all play as a force in the game. They force things to happen, even though they are defenders. They read and react with great quickness and that only comes from experience. They are the seniors and they should be the best players and they are. That's how it works at both the high school and college football level - you win with your seniors.

It's really too bad that they didn't red-shirt Aiyewa his first year at Washington. The way he has developed in one season - and considering he didn't even play spring ball - is amazing. It's just another example of playing kids before they are ready, rather than saving that year of eligibility. Aiyewa would have been an honors candidate if he were coming back next year.

Foster and Williams had to play when they were freshmen. There wasn't anyone else. Mason was physically ready the day he stepped on the campus but he'd be the first to admit he is a totally different man and player now. He is certain to make money playing this game. He has a special motor to him and, in this his senior year, he has become one of the best linebackers in America.

Williams was a great high school running back and went through the conversion to defense his first couple of years. Now he gets it. He has responded really well to his position coach, Jeff Mills, and he has became a completely different player over the past two season. The NFL scouts were asking me about Nate at practice last week, so he has obviously opened some other eyes.

The three seniors have shown their teammates the way. They are playing their best football right now at the end of their final year. They will be leaving their legacy on the field and in the example they set for the younger defenders. These three have endured. These three have earned the right to a bowl game and beating Cal is a must to do just that.

Now they have to go on the road and prove that their effort against UCLA was not a one-hit wonder. They face two real good match-ups to end the season. Cal has been much better playing at home and the Cougs will be laying in wait for three weeks. Forget about the Cougs, because beating California is now the biggest game of the past two seasons and certainly the biggest one since these guys have been Huskies.

For Foster, it also takes him home to play in front of his family and friends. You can bet he will be ready for this one, and you can also bet Aiyewa and Williams will be right there with him.


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