Huskies Still a Work in Progress

As impressive as their win over Utah was, the Huskies cannot take the Colorado Buffaloes lightly, otherwise they will waste their fine effort in Salt Lake City. CU, at 1-5, is a must-win for this surging Husky team. The Huskies will need to fire in all three phases and continue to improve their own run offense and porous pass defense to remain contenders in the conference championship race.

Right now they are still undefeated in league play, and going to 3-0 would be critical for their seasonal run. You just want to stay in the hunt, and so far they are doing exactly that.

There was considerable improvement shown against Utah, and the Dawgs need to build on those things and get better at others. The offensive line made great halftime adjustments in both their mental and physical aspects of the game. They did a good job of getting to the second level of the Utes' defense and essentially took their linebackers out of play. Center Drew Schafer got into their middle linebacker a number of times to help Chris Polk dominate in the second half. It will be the running game that will determine how good this team can be. The very threat of Polk will allow Keith Price to continue his magic off play-action and scramble plays where he is at his best.

Defensively, the Huskies improved on the back end in terms of run fits and fills, but still gave up a number of long passes - including a 63-yarder and other completions of 17, 16, 19, 18, 12, and 13 yards. Only two were for touchdowns, and one of those was on the last play of the game. The defense also held Utah to 17 total yards rushing on 23 carries, for a 0.7 yard average. That is a tremendous improvement, and they will need to stop the run against the Buffs to win this game as well. Having Semisi Tokolahi back to team up with Alameda Ta'amu inside makes this a very formidable front against the run, especially with Everrette Thompson moving outside to overpower tight ends.

The Huskies are growing with each game at linebacker and now have 4-5 younger kids ready to play alongside Cort Dennison, who is having the kind of year you would expect from a senior middle linebacker. He is second in the conference in tackles and obviously is the leader of the defense.

Colorado's program is going through the same transitional chaos that Washington did when they went through five coaches in 10 years. Buffaloes coach Jon Embree is in his first year as the head man, and he just indefinitely suspended five kids for violation of team rules (they could be gone for the whole season). Even though none were starters, all were defenders and four of them were corners. It doesn't matter what level you play at, you can't lose that many kids at one position and even begin to practice efficiently. Any mass suspension on a team also creates a ripple effect.

Coach Embree is obviously laying down the law and trying to reshape the culture of the program. He has also moved a few receivers over to defense and that is the side of the ball where Colorado has played their best. They are already starting a freshman corner in Greg Henderson. Henderson, who is No. 20, is a pretty good looking young player who reminds me of a lot of the Huskies' Marcus Peters.

Offensively, Colorado has another small back for the Huskies to try and contain. Similar in quickness to both Cal's Isi Sofele and Utah's John White, this guy is a real Mighty Mouse at 5-foot-6 and 175 pounds. Rodney Stewart is his name, and he is their go-to guy. Stewart is really, really quick and a fearless little player. On one play, I saw him cut down a blitzing linebacker and get up and go cut down another. He returns kickoffs and punts and is dangerous on screen passes, which Colorado likes to run. Stewart leads his team in rushing and is second in receiving.

The Huskies will need to wrap Stewart up because he literally bounces of tacklers. Washington is getting better and better at attacking their gaps and getting upfield, and this will be critical in stopping the Buffs.

You can't understate the importance of this game against Colorado. If the Huskies can get to 5-1 at the half-way point of the season, it would put them in an excellent position heading into the meat of their schedule. One step at a time will get them there.

The Huskies will no doubt continue to try and gain an advantage in the kicking game. Washington State blocked a Colorado field goal, and the Buffaloes' punter, first-year player Darragh O'Neill, who kicks on the run with either foot, has had two blocked so far this season. It's been nearly three years since the Huskies blocked a punt, so could this be a game for a block? Maybe, but the most important thing is to continue to be solid themselves by having good coverage and solid protection first, and then trying to see if they can return either a punt or a kickoff for a big gain or touchdown.

Gregory Ducre seems to have cemented himself on the corner opposite of Desmond Trufant and safeties Justin Glenn and Sean Parker will only get better with the return of Nathan Fellner.

Utah had chances in the first half that would have completely changed the tempo of the game, and Washington was lucky to have a 10-7 lead at halftime. They then played their best half of football and dominated the second half. Obviously, you can't count on getting five turnovers every week, but if the Huskies can average at least three then they will be hard to beat. Winning the turnover battle is a planned thing to do, and the Huskies were at their best in their last game. They need to continue their ball-hawking.

Another area of improvement that will go a long way towards field position is to reduce their penalties to about three per game, rather than their six for 59 yards versus Utah and their nine for 90 yards versus Nebraska. If they can do this, they will really help their cause.

Coach Sarkisian gave his players this last weekend off in hopes of refreshing their minds, but hopefully every Husky took advantage of watching Colorado versus Stanford on television Saturday night. Stanford and Washington are similar in a lot of ways and how they attacked Colorado can obviously be related to how the Huskies can defeat CU. Top Stories