SEATTLE (AP) — The offense for No. 10 Washington may still have some things to figure out.
Defensively, the Huskies are doing just fine.
The immense talent Washington has on the defensive side was on full display in Saturday’s 21-7 win at Utah. The Huskies held the Utes scoreless for the final three quarters, including a pair of stops after Utah twice took possession inside the Washington 30 in the fourth quarter. They limited Utah to 261 total yards and forced three turnovers. And they thumped the Utes — legally — at every opportunity.
“We’ve been working on it really, really hard and I think it showed up,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said Monday. “It’s hard to play like that but it shows it can be done and we’ll keep working on it. We’re by no means saying we’re always going to be able to stay like that but we work hard on it.”
Coming into the season, Washington (2-1, 1-0 Pac-12) knew it had the pieces to put together another dominant defense. But concerns about where the pass rush would come from and whether its secondary could live up to the hype were heightened by the 21-16 season-opening loss to Auburn. The Tigers rolled up 420 yards and had 27 first downs.
The way Washington has responded in the past two games was more indicative of what was expected. Overwhelming North Dakota of the FBS was a given. The Huskies held the Fighting Hawks to 262 total yards and three points.
Handling Utah on the road — despite the Utes’ own offensive issues — was impressive.
“Our defense played really well and just proud we could go over there in game three and played physical and all the things that we’re trying to be about,” Petersen said.
What stood out about the way Washington’s defense played was how the Huskies’ big hits came without any flags. While Utah was flagged for a pair of targeting penalties — both of which Petersen agreed with — Washington never drew a flag for any of its hits.
Petersen said the physical nature of the game against Utah was not abnormal, although he said he was unaware so many of those big hits came against Utah wide receiver Britain Covey. It was the number of hits that came in the open field that made them more noticeable.
“To not get penalties on them is more impressive because usually when you’re seeing that there’s a flag coming somewhere,” Petersen said. “But I do think our guys played pretty physical football. I talk about that Auburn game. It didn’t turn out like we wanted to, but my hat was off to everybody. That was physical football out there. I thought it was every bit as physical as Utah, it was just maybe more where everybody could see it.”
After passing their first true road test, the Huskies get the next two games at home, beginning with Arizona State on Saturday night. The ugliest performance of the 2017 season for Washington came in the desert in a 13-7 loss to the Sun Devils last October that also saw the Huskies lose left tackle Trey Adams and cornerback Jordan Miller for the season because of injuries.
“I think from a coaching standpoint, I know that can happen every single week. That’s why I’m always worried,” Petersen said. “We were doing really good and, I think at the time, Arizona State was coming on a little bit, but we were a big favorite and all that, and we go down there and just don’t do anything on offense.”