Welcome to the Dawgtracker. This is a new feature that we will publish after each game this fall. Why a "Dawgtracker?" Well, would you believe that during last year's season, the offense set 14 all-time Husky records? Let's look at the numbers and I think you'll see where we're going on this.

Some of the 2002 records include pass attempts (621), attempts per game (47.8) pass completions (372), passing yards (4,501), passing touchdowns (28), average passing yards per game (346.2), total offensive plays (1075), total yards (5,469), average total yards per game (420.7), first downs gained by passing (207), first downs gained by penalty (39), and total first downs (324).

Whew! All that, and where did it get the Dawgs? A mediocre record of 7-6. Keep in mind that these numbers were for 13 games, while most other season's totals were for 11 games – but these records are not even close to those of previous years.

Most fans realize that it takes more to win a game than the glamorous passing yards. Three of the most disconcerting areas from last year's team were rushing yards per game (and yard-per-carry average), turnover margin, and third-down defense. Throughout this season, the Dawgtracker will keep a running total of these three categories, in comparison to last season, to see if these areas improve and hopefully add up to more victories. Let us look more in depth at these categories before the tracker begins the new season:

Rushing yards: In 2002, the Huskies rushed for a net 968 yards, averaged 74.5 yards per game, and averaged 2.1 yards per carry. The total yards for the season is the lowest since 1939, and that was for only 9 games, and the Huskies still averaged 100.7 yards per game that year. Out of 13 games last season, the Huskies had two individual 100-yard rushing efforts. Rich Alexis ran for 125 against San Jose State and 122 against Oregon.

Turnover margin: The Huskies were +1 in turnover margin last season. In their seven wins, they were +9 and in the six losses, were –8 in turnovers. That is pretty telling of the effects of turnovers. Overall, the defense did a great job in holding the opponents to 9 touchdowns, 2 field goals and 69 points off of 27 total turnovers – but 55 of those 69 points were given up in games lost. Wow, turnovers definitely kill.

Third-down defense: In 2002, opponents converted 40% of their third-down attempts, a number a little too high for most fans. Taking it one step further, 54% of opponents' successful third-down conversions came on "third and long" (6 or more yards). It is normally a good thing to force your opponent into a "third and long" situation, but not for the 2002 defense. On too many occasions, "third and long" translated into "run and gun" for the opponent. Let's take a look at how many long plays were given up in these "third and long" situations:

Yards given up      No. of times
   10-19                19
   20-29                13
   30-39                 1
   40-49                 2
Two of these were running plays (38, 14 yards), but the rest were pass plays.
Dawgtracker will also analyze a few more categories after each game, but will not keep a running comparison as in the above areas.

Here are some additional numbers to chew on from last year's season until the famous "I" is dotted, and we have a whole new ballgame!

Balance Factor: We've talked about the lack of rushing yards for last season and most fans wish for a more balanced offensive attack. The scales are too far tipped, with the offensive production being 82.3% pass compared to 17.7% run.

Game Control: Washington held the edge in time of possession throughout the season at 421:29 to the opponents' 358:30, and placed second in the Pac-10 (behind USC) in this category. But during the season, controlling the clock didn't always add to a victory. The Dawgs held the edge in TOP in their losses to Michigan, California, Arizona State, and UCLA, and only trailed by 10 seconds in the loss to USC. So, we either have a case of the offense not taking full advantage of opportunities, or the defense allowed the other team to score just too quickly.

Red Zone Scoring: In 2002, the Huskies had 57 red-zone opportunities. Even though the Dawgs scored on 80% of their opportunities, they only scored a touchdown just over half of the time. The glaring statistics in this category are the Huskies lost 3 fumbles, had one interception, and had 3 field goals blocked.

Opponents' TD Drives: To say that the Husky defense allowed their opponents to score as quickly as a lightning strike is an understatement. This is where giving up the big plays really hurt. The defense had 39 touchdowns scored against them, but 5 of these TD drives were less than 13 yards. For the remaining 34 significant drives (in terms of yardage), the Husky defense gave up a big play of at least 20-plus yards in 28 of these longer drives.

The opponents scored on touchdown passes of 67, 61, 60, 55, 45, 43, 40, 37, 28, 23, 21, 20 yards, and a 57-yard rushing TD. Score and score quickly they did – 24 of these drives were scored in less than 3 minutes.

OK, that's enough numbers from last season. Hopefully this review will help fans get an idea of which areas they would like to see improvement in during this 2003 campaign.

So watch for it after every game this fall, The Dawgtracker at Dawgman.com. I'll post the first update from the press box in Columbus.

If the Dawgs can improve on the three key areas, rushing yards, turnover margin, and third down defense, we believe you'll see a significant improvement from the 7-6 result from last season.

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