The season’s now half over, which also means that the stats are beginning to take on a little more meaning. With all teams two or three games into conference play now, some of the early statistical disparities due to scheduling are now evening out.
So here are the key statistical numbers for UW after Saturday’s 36-33 win over Arizona taken from NCAASports.com.
The chart lists the stat category, UW’s national rank, and then either the total, the per-game average or efficiency number, depending on the stat in question:
Rushing Offense 93 120.83
Passing Offense 42 237.17
Total Offense 74 358.00
Scoring Offense 67 26.83
Rushing Defense 82 161.33
Pass Efficiency Defense 106 144.24
Total Defense 106 418.00
Scoring Defense 90 28.50
Net Punting 18 38.52
Punt Returns 8 18.50
Kickoff Returns 110 18.30
Turnover Margin T-43 .50
Pass Defense 102 256.67
Passing Efficiency 58 130.10
Sacks 105 1.00
Tackles For Loss 80 5.00
Sacks Allowed 69 2.00
On the surface, probably not the numbers you’d expect of a 3-3 team that is generally being lauded as one of the most improved in the country. To be fair, UW has played one of the stronger schedules in the country, so even if the schedule strength is beginning to even out now that we are in conference play, throw in one more Idaho State on there, as a lot of teams have, and the numbers would look better.
Still, some of the numbers — particularly being 106th in both total defense and pass efficiency defense and 105th in sacks — indicate that getting those three more wins to attain bowl eligibility won’t necessarily be all that easy. And the reality is that UW has been outgained in five of its six games this season, including in all three wins (the only team it outgained is LSU).
A stat not shown there is red-zone defense, which has probably been the biggest reason the Huskies have a winning record. UW has allowed the fourth-most drives into the red zone (meaning inside the 20) of any team in the country — 30. But opponents have scored touchdowns on just 11, being forced to kick field goals 14 times (including nine in the past two games). Incredibly, teams aren’t missing any FGs against the Huskies — opponents are 17-17 on FGs against UW this year (including three kicked from beyond the red zone) which has to be among the leading totals in the nation, though I couldn’t find that stat anywhere. UW is 9-10 on field goals this year, meaning FG kickers in Husky games are 26-27.
The question going forward is whether that red zone defensive success is really a testament to UW simply getting more stingy when teams reach the 20, or more due to bad play by the offense. Or more likely the last two weeks, it was the offensive style of the opponent coming into play. Both Notre Dame and Arizona led with the pass, and had no trouble moving between the 20s. But once they got close to the end zone and the field shortened, both had trouble sticking it in the end zone. Stanford, conversely, a better running team, didn’t have as much trouble getting into the end zone once it got close, scoring TDs on three of four possessions inside the 20 other than the last possession of the game when time ran out.
It didn’t figure going into the Arizona game that the Huskies would be able to stop UA’s run the way it did —- the ‘Cats had 77 yards on 30 carries. But each of Arizona’s top two RBs were slowed due to injuries (more than was let on during the week, obviously) and that seemed to impact how the Arizona coaches called the game, throwing passes on 53 of 83 plays.
UW was short-handed in the secondary with the injuries to both starting safeties and tried to play very conservatively to keep everything in front — something Nick Holt had mentioned during the week. It surely frustrated UW fans at times, but it helped keep the Huskies in the game as Arizona didn’t have a pass longer than 29 yards (only USC of UW opponents this year went through a game without completing a longer pass, probably not a coincidence) and UA averaged just 9.8 yards per completion (again, only USC of UW opponents this year had a lower number — even Stanford was at 14.7). The Huskies prevented the big play, and in this case, anyway, more snaps for the offense meant more chances for things to go wrong. Eventually, one really big thing did allowing the Huskies to take a game that never seemed theirs until the end.
The good news is that next week’s opponent, Arizona State, is surprisingly bad offensively for a Dennis Erickson-coached team and may have the worst O-line the Huskies have played all season (yes, including Idaho, which has two legit NFL draft prospects up front). Bend but don’t break, even if the Huskies aren’t calling it that and it doesn’t really excite anybody to hear, just might be the way to go for at least one more Saturday.