The Washington Huskies, who had climbed to the top of the mountain in upsetting 24th-ranked Oregon State 35-34 in double overtime two weeks ago, fell off the side of the mountain against 15th-ranked Arizona.
The Wildcats started fast and just drilled the Huskies 44-14 in a no-contest game at Tuscon, rolling up a 30-14 halftime score and then adding another 14 points in the second half while holding Washington's finest scoreless.
Some fans and football pundits thought the Huskies had a chance to win this one since the Wildcats had lost their starting quarterback, Nick Foles, widely regarded by many as a top NFL prospect.
Foles, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound junior, had completed 75% of his passes for 1,600 yards, 9 touchdowns and 5 picks before going down with a knee injury. His replacement, junior Matt Scott, had started the first three games for Arizona last year before losing his job to Foles.
So what was the big difference between Foles and Scott against the Washington Huskies? Glad you asked. The answer – absolutely nothing.
The Wildcats ranked 5th in scoring offense at 43 points. They won 44-14. They averaged 429 yards of total offense and gained 467 against Washington. Scott was 18-for-22 passing (81%) for 233 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Scott, a scrambler like the Huskies Jake Locker, picked up another 65 yards rushing on 7 carries (9.29 yards per carry), and Scott made it look easy thanks to the Husky tacklers.
Scott marched the Wildcats up and down the field like they were in practice against a second-team defense. The problem for Washington was exactly that – the Huskies are a second-string defense to the point of actual embarrassment.
Washington is ranked 97th in scoring defense nationally, giving up 31+ points a game, a figure that will now rise since they gave up 44 to Arizona. The Huskies are ranked 98th in total defense, giving up 416+ yards a game, a figure that will rise again since they gave up 467 yards to Arizona.
So what exactly is the problem? How about everything. Blown assignments, untimely penalties, lack of speed, lack of size, lack of talent, and missed tackles to name a few. The Huskies, like so many college players with inflated opinions of their ability, tend to throw themselves at opponents like scaredy-cats rather than actually tackle them the old-fashioned way.
The Washington Husky defense could learn a thing or two from one of the NFL's all-time great free safeties – Larry Wilson.
Wilson was a 7th-round draft pick by the St. Louis Cardinals as a cornerback after being a two-way starter at the University of Utah. He became a free safety, was an 8-time Pro-Bowl and 8-time All-Pro Selection who was also selected on the NFL's All Decade Team for both the 1960s and 1970s.
He was the first NFL player to do a safety blitz, and was tougher than a railroad spike – once intercepting a pass with casts on both hands due to broken wrists. He also had an interception in 7 consecutive games, and finished his career with 52 interceptions for 800 return yards and 5 touchdowns.
Someone once asked Larry Wilson how he was able to be such a good open field tackler? Wilson responded by saying, "Heck, I just grab them good by one leg and lift, they aren't going far carrying me while hopping around on one leg."
Wilson was arguably the only NFL player who could stop the great Jimmy Brown at full speed, head on in an open field.
So what does Larry Wilson have to do with the Washington Husky defenders? Well, nothing, really. But if you want to be a great defender and tackler, try channeling Larry Wilson. You could do a lot worse, and are, so think about tackling for real rather than throwing yourself at a player and hoping he will fall down.
Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley