September 9, 2008

Huskies Hope to get Offensive

Last week against Brigham Young, the Washington Husky's offense made great strides, gaining 337 yards of total offense compared with 224 a week prior. However, this Saturday they will need to improve even more as the third ranked Oklahoma Sooners come to town. Oklahoma's defense has only given up 362 yards of total offense in their first two games, while putting up over a 1,000 yards of their own. Their high powered offense has outscored their first two opponents 41-0 in the first quarter and the Huskies understand they will need to be at their best in order to keep up.

"We are going to have to match their offense," said offensive coordinator Tim Lappano. "The biggest thing is that we left 14 or 21 points out there on the field against BYU. We will work on that this week."

Oklahoma's defense is loaded with talent and was ranked No. 26 in the nation last season and they should be even better this year.

"Their whole defense is fast and athletic," said running backs coach Steve Gervais. "They are very physical and they run to the ball well. Our kids upfront know there is a challenge ahead of them. Both of their defensive ends run very well similar to Nick Reed out of Oregon. Their two defensive tackles are big, strong, physical kids and their linebackers all run very well. W are going to have to play very physical back with them and there is no doubt about that."

The Huskies should be better prepared for the Sooners after playing two quality teams in No. 16 Oregon and No. 18 BYU the past two weeks.

"They [Husky offensive line] know how physical they are going to be because they have went up against Oregon and BYU," explained Gervais. "That will help because it's hard to simulate game speed. You don't have to say much because they watch the film and notice right away what Oklahoma has to offer. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how physical they are and how well they run."

After spending Monday reviewing film, starting fullback Paul Homer has a good understanding of what Oklahoma will try to do and he thinks it could play into Washington's strengths.

"They are real fast and some of their defensive line is very big. They are going to be physical and they're not just going to sit there and play at the line of scrimmage, they like to change the line of scrimmage. They're going to bring some linebackers up and try to confuse the offensive line a bit. Ohio State was like that last year, and I thought we did pretty good running the ball. I think it could help us because our offensive line likes to play physical and we will be alright."

Both Lappano and Gervais expect Oklahoma to blitz early and often. Because of this Lappano wants to run the ball more effectively out of the two back formations, something the Huskies have yet to do. He hopes this will take some of the pressure off of quarterback Jake Locker who has 34 rushing attempts in the first two games. That number is not ideal since he has been struggling with a pulled hamstring he suffered at the beginning of Fall Practices. Lappano understands this and only game planned against BYU with on designed Locker run.

"It was hard in the BYU game because I only had one quarterback run," explained Lappano. "I had to improvise once we got to the goalline because I just wanted to get the ball into his hands. I only called two draws for him last week and everything else was a scramble. I think he is running too much but he has to do what he has to do. When we spread the field out and he sees a crease he needs to take off. He doesn't get hurt when he's running the ball, he gets hurt when he gets sacked and he can't see it coming."

The responsibility to protect Locker falls on the offensive line, running backs and tight ends. Lappano has seen improvement in their play but knows they need to step it up even more.

"I thought their overall effort was better but they are still not playing up to their full potential. Everything was a lot better going in week two compared to Oregon."

It is because of this improvement that Lappano has opened up the playbook and will continue to do so.

"We probably opened the playbook up 25 percent more then we did against Oregon. There were was only a few assignment mistakes by the youngsters but it was pretty good considering we added so much. We will open it up a little bit more this week."

With the playbook opened up against BYU, the Huskies saw more opportunities to strike for big gains. Unfortainlity some of the opportunities were missed and Washington will need to improve their killer instinct when those opportunities present themselves.

"You are not going to hit every deep throw - they are called low percentage passes for a reason," explained Lappano. "I think Jake is throwing the short and intermediate stuff better then a year ago but he is still struggling with the deep throws. It is hard to get past the free safety and the strong safety at this level and when you do - you have to cash in."

A couple of the young players who have consistently beaten opposing defenses this season are former Lakes High School standouts Jermaine Kearse and Kavario Middleton. Both true freshmen are playing up to their lofty expectations and have given Locker legitimate threats in the passing game.

"All I know is that they are both good players," said Lappano. "Jermaine is getting better, he's getting more physical and he's going to get better when people bump him on the line. He catches the ball well, is a good route runner and a competitive kid. Kavario - the skies the limit for him and I think he could be the best I have ever been around and I have been around a few good ones. He still needs to get stronger and needs to be more proficient in his run blocking and footwork. He brings so much to the table offensively with his wingspan, his size and his soft hands. He is so talented athletically that we put him out there on a corner and he runs great routes like a receiver."

Even with the drastic improvements from this young but talented Washington team, they are still a big time long shot to beat Oklahoma this Saturday. Despite the grueling schedule against three top-20 teams to begin the season, the players and coaches think it will pay off greatly in the end.

"You can really grow as a team playing Oklahoma, Oregon and playing BYU," explained Homer. "We showed last week that we can play with the guys in the top 25. It's good to play against the best teams in the country to show we can match up with them and we can match up with anyone in our conference too. It's just how your team reacts to it. I think losing to Oregon helped us prepare for BYU. Losing to BYU this weekend the way we did will help us grow even more mentally and give us more to play for against Oklahoma who is another good team. Playing against players like this shows the young guys on this team that they are good enough to play with anyone in the country."

Last week this young Husky team did show they are good enough to play with some of the top teams in the nation. This week can they prove they can beat them?







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