|Can Washington slow down Brennan, No. 11 Hawaii passing attack?|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 29 November 2007 12:20|
Now comes this challenge: Slow down Colt Brennan and No. 11 Hawaii's potent offense, playing the most important game in Warriors athletic history with a shot at a BCS bowl game at stake.
Easy, right? Especially considering Hawaii leads the nation in scoring (47.2) and is third in total yards (539.6).
``It is a chance for us to prove a lot of people wrong. For the whole year people have questioned the secondary and that's been something that we've always tried to do is prove all the critics wrong,'' Washington freshman safety Nate Williams said. ``This is a good week for us to do that.''
To want and to accomplish are two entirely different beasts for the Huskies. No one has questioned their effort this year. But game plans and execution have been highly scrutinized, and the numbers are likely to end up saying this is the worst defense in school history.
The Huskies (4-8) are allowing 438.8 yards per game, second-worst in the Pac-10 and 98th nationally. Should Hawaii gain more than 400 total yards, it would be the first time in Washington history the Huskies had allowed 400 or more yards to eight opponents in one season.
While the run defense has struggled - most notably the 465 yards rushing allowed to Oregon - it's been the vulnerability of Washington's pass defense most apparent in recent weeks.
The Huskies allowed a school-record 510 yards passing to Arizona's Willie Tuitama, and last week, Washington State's Alex Brink set an Apple Cup record by throwing for 399 yards.
Perhaps the defining moment of the Huskies' season, Washington State scored the winning touchdown on a 35-yard pass from Brink to an uncovered Brandon Gibson.
The reason Gibson was open? A communication breakdown between the defensive coaches and players. Some thought a blitz was called, others thought they were supposed to be in a zone.
The result was a disheartening loss that has reignited the debate over coach Tyrone Willingham's future with the Huskies.
``We don't have anything to celebrate on this football team right now,'' defensive tackle Jordan Reffett said. ``This is not a vacation. This is business.''
Stopping Brennan and the Warriors' wide-open passing attack won't be simple. First, the Huskies must pressure Brennan and make the Heisman Trophy candidate rush his decisions. That's not easy, with the Warriors' offense regularly running short, quick screens.
Perhaps as important as getting pressure on Brennan is corralling his talented group of receivers once they catch the ball.
``That is a lot of their strength,'' Williams said. ``Their receivers are very physical and very fast and they like to catch and turn right up field and get as many yards as they can.''
Arguably, the best defense for Washington could be the ability of the offense to keep the ball away from Brennan's crew. Time of possession and sustaining drives hasn't been a strength for Washington.
But last week against Washington State, the Huskies produced a 16-play touchdown drive that ate up more than 7 minutes. Most impressive, 15 of the 16 plays were runs.
A similar game plan might be the only way the Huskies can stay close with Hawaii.
``We're really set on going over and ending our season the right way,'' quarterback Jake Locker said, ``and do everything we can to make that happen.''