Coach's Corner

One of my partners on the Husky Honk Radio Show presented a pretty good philosophy for breaking down a football team. Hugh Millen, Husky quarterback for the Orange Bowl 1985 team, says the game is really divided into 5 separate parts, 5 facets, or 5 different areas of emphasis.

1) The run offense, 2) The pass offense, 3) The run defense, 4) The pass defense, and 5) The kicking game. You don't have to win any or all parts in order to win the game. In fact, many times you only win two or three phases and still win the game. No one phase is any more important than the others. They all have to be prepared for with the same commitment. Sure, running teams tend to work harder on their run game etc, but you really need to prepare and execute a game plan for all 5 separate facets.

The problem is, should you get clobbered in any one part, it can be devastating enough to absolutely cost you the game. The first two Husky games of this season clearly emphasize this point. In their first game against Fresno State the Huskies literally won 3 phases, got a push in one, but got totally clobbered in their pass offense. It was so terrible that the game was decided in that one part. The whole team self destructed due to that one phase.

Against UCLA, it was a total destruction of the Huskies run defense that essentially cost them the game. The Huskies were very effective with their run offense and really will probably win many games if they can continue to run the ball that well. They were really solid in their pass defense, pass offense (i.e.; no interceptions, sacks, plus a beautiful post pattern for a touchdown); and they won the kicking game even though the punter still has a ways to go. However, they experienced a total breakdown of their run defense and gave up a record day to the Bruins allowing one back to run for over 300 yards himself.

Each facet or phase can be further broken down. To stop the run your defense must maintain gap control integrity. Ouch. Washington's gap fits were shaky, they got chopped, their angles of pursuit were questionable on all the TD runs, their tackling was not near as good as their first game, and they seemed to be having trouble getting off blocks. At least a couple of times there was no second layer to the defense. It wasn't just one breakdown. It was really a number of things caused not only by UCLA's blocking techniques and schemes, but by a great little back who certainly looks to be a professional someday.

The Huskies had problems in covering the cutback lanes and flat out missed a number of tackles. Wow!

So what happened? The game before, they played solid run defense against a pretty good running team. UCLA did to them what Oklahoma State did to UCLA. They gashed them. It was a defensive coaches' nightmare! But give a little credit to the offensive line of UCLA and just maybe that kid carrying the ball is a truly great one. Good backs make you miss. Good backs have an instinct to cut back, good backs break tackles, good backs have acceleration to burst thru holes, and good backs have speed to take it to the house. Last Saturday the UCLA back was not just a good back. He was a great back.

Having been a defensive coach most of my coaching years, I can totally relate to the frustration that the defensive coaches and players must have felt. It's like the levy has breeched and cracked and you try desperately to plug the holes and then the whole thing caves in on you. They were trying different schemes (contrary to those of you that thought no adjustments were being made). They also shifted personnel, trying Manase Hopoi back outside when Mike Mapu went down. They played true frosh Greyson Gunheim and Jordan White-Frisbee to try to shake things up. JWF appears to have the makings of the next great Husky defensive tackle such as a Doug Martin, a Ron Holmes, a Dennis Brown, a Steve Emtman, a DeMarco Farr, or a Larry Tripplett. There hasn't been an inside defensive player with this sort of presence and potential since those guys long left the program. This kid is going to be special and he is already proving to be a force with his tremendous bulk. He was recruited by the Gilbertson era and along with Gunheim, Dan Howell, Trenton Tuiasospo, and Darren Harris, all of whom played against the Bruins as true freshmen on Saturday.

By not recruiting safeties, enough defensive linemen and linebackers on a balanced basis every year, the program was in drastic need of an infusion of defensive personnel. Unfortunately, they have to use these kids right away and not redshirt them, but eventually they are going to make Washington much better team on defense and that starts with stopping the run.

But how long will it take?

It is important to understand that everyone in the program is committed to trying to turn this thing around. They like it even less than the fans do and it's not just the coaching, and it's not just the players, and it's not just the recruiting, and it's not just the attitude. It's everything, but don't forget that it can also be just one little phase or facet that breaks down and kills your chances of winning. The Huskies corrected their mistakes from the first game only to spring a leak in another phase.

It's pretty obvious to me that this team is getting better and really improved in some of the phases of their overall game. Their pass offense, for example, although nothing to scare anyone, was still very well conceived and there were actually a number of drops that may have made Casey Paus look even better. He made good decisions and even though they never threw any screens, flats, or bootlegs, they did what their quarterback was comfortable doing. He was effective in what they were asking him to do. Did you notice how little shotgun was used? Did you notice receiver mistakes like running a 6 yard pattern when you needed 8, or some obvious communications issues when the quarterback was throwing one route while the receiver was running another? These were sight adjusts where the receiver converted to the wrong route. These are mistakes of inexperience and can be corrected. Still, the offensive line gave Paus plenty of protection and yet was really good coming off and running the ball. It was a really good performance by the O line.

The kicking game got a whole lot better from the first game with Mike Braunstein being absolutely perfect. He obviously has limited range, and was reflected when the coaches decided to pass on a 48 yard attempt in the second half and subsequently punted inside the 20 to about the 15 yard line. That wasn't bad however, but inside the 10 would obviously have been better. But, so far in his career, Braunstein has been very accurate. Sean Douglas still kicks off really well but has yet to really start hitting his punts consistently. They gave up no blocks and limited a really good UCLA return game to almost nothing. They got an excellent kick off return from ET but unfortunately only forced UCLA to punt once. Still, every part of the kicking game was solid and there was no major breakdown through out the game.

It is important to realize that any of the five facets doesn't have to be better than your opponent's respective facet. That is, your pass offense does not have to be better than your opponent's pass offense. It's not comparative. Each facet merely has to be solid and not kill you no matter what you do in any of the others. Certainly in their first game the Huskies terribly lost the game in their pass offensive facet and this last game clearly lost it in the run defense facet. It didn't make any difference that they really won at least 3 out of 4 of the other facets in both games, but they still lost because they were so terrible in one particular phase in each of the first two games.

Time to start firing on all five facets, and quickly. Top Stories