Washington’s defensive coordinator takes the blame for the defensive failings in the first game against Nebraska.
Not sure if Seattle Metro was able to pick up an extra fare, but a bus drove through Dempsey Indoor after Huskies practice on Friday night.
Defensive coordinator Nick Holt was omnipresent, the driver of and underneath the rolling ride.
Holt pointed two fingers in opposite directions for responsibility of 56 points allowed the first time against Nebraska. One at his players, a bigger one at himself.
“I think there were some guys that weren’t ready to play,” Holt said. “Didn’t do what they were supposed to do and really that comes back to coaching because we’re responsible for the kids. When that happens, it really comes back to me.
“You look at yourself and find out what went wrong and find out why you played so inefficiently. It comes back to us probably not stressing some of the stuff. I’m not sure it’s because of a player being out or not, I think we as a staff, starting with me, and more than anybody else with me, didn’t get them ready to play.”
So, there’s that.
A significant part of the defense will be ready to play this time. Middle linebacker Cort Dennison, who aligns the troops and calls the plays, missed the first Nebraska game because of a concussion. Dennison suffered it midweek, failed the necessary clearance tests, and watched true freshman Garret Gilliland shoved around in his place.
“It’s the worst feeling in the world having to sit on the sidelines,” Dennison said.
The Huskies’ third-leading tackler watched the team miss numerous tackles. Many on third-and-long early in the game, then two crucial ones late. The first when Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez ran for an 80-yard touchdown around the left side and second when running back Roy Helu Jr. ran for a 65-yard touchdown around the right side. Once those initial tackles were missed, there was no help.
“It might have been a tough tackle and we were in a defense where our outside backer has to hold the edge,” Holt said. “(Victor Aiyewa) probably got outmuscled there and you hope it doesn’t happen but it did happen. The problem was we didn’t have a lot of guys around the ball rallying so a 15-yard, 10-yard play went for 80.”
Dennison attributed many of the issues to players trying to do too much, a cryptic explanation he elaborated on.
“Just not doing your assignment,” Dennison said. “You’re inside and you’re supposed to be playing an outside gap or vice versa. You’re trying to help out the team as much as you can, but sometimes that can hurt you.”
Nebraska runs a lot of read option and veer schemes, angling the backs and hiding the ball well. Instantly in the first game, Washington developed a detrimental obsession with tracking Martinez. That began to open things for Helu and the passing game.
Martinez has been slowed. An ankle injury coupled with under-performance caused his effectiveness to dwindle toward the end of the season. Quality defenses like Texas A&M (15th nationally against the run) helped.
Holt assumes Nebraska’s backs, Helu and Rex Burkhead, will receive more carries. Each ran for more than 100 yards in the first game, despite combining for just 23 carries. Martinez had 19.
He also anticipates Dennison’s return to have an emotional influence.
“Everybody else feels more relaxed,” Holt said. “Mason (Foster) doesn’t have to call the defense and get guys lined up. (Cort) is a coach out there. I think that helps us the most, just having his presence out there.”
Every little bit counts when trying to redeem 56-21.