For my main story today , I took a little look at what was an obvious topic emerging from the loss to Oregon — UW’s special teams.
As noted in the story, UW had a rough day Saturday with four long returns that helped lead to three touchdowns.
But it’s been a season-long issue in many areas, as well. UW ranks last in the Pac-10 in kickoff coverage, kickoff returns and punt returns (with a long of just 13 — everybody else in the conference has at least one twice as long) and also having allowed more punt return yardage than any other team in the Pac-10. Consider the difference in UW’s punt return yards this season — the Huskies have allowed 346 while gaining just 50. That’s a lot of hidden yardage going the way of the opponent.
I talked with UW special teams coach Johnny Nansen for the story, and here are some of his more expanded quotes:
On the coverage units against Oregon: “After watching the film, what we saw is we are in position to make plays we just have to make our plays and obviously I’ve got to do a better job of putting our kids in a better situation to help them out. Obviously we had starters that were playing on special teams and our depth really showed there. One time when we scored we had to pull out five guys on kickoff cover and you could see we got exposed there and that led to a big return, but at the same time I’ve got to do a better job of helping out maybe pop over a little squib or something like that.”
On having to take out some of the regulars on the kickoff coverage team against Oregon: “(It was) because of tempo of Oregon’s offense. Look at the total number Mason (Foster) played and Nate (Williams) and Cort (Dennison) — Mason played 95 snaps. I mean come on now, sooner or later they are going to break down and we needed to get the other young guys in. Obviously that was our problem early in the year that we had a lot of young guys and you see seven or eight guys on special teams that we are counting on. They are starting to come but at a critical time playing the No. 1 team you hope they can make the nplays for us and they will, they will, they are coming along.”
On going back to front-line players regularly on coverage units the rest of the way: “We are going to have our regulars. We’ve got to go with the best guys and the best personnel and those are the guys that are going to give us a chance to win and that’s what we are looking at right now. … we’ve just got to assess it and obviously this week are working on our coverage.”
On whether the issues are more personnel or scheme: “I don’t think it’s so much schematically, it’s more the technique and guys understanding where they need to be, and that’s obviously me as a coach need to make sure they totally understand. Obviously watching the film they are like ‘oh, coach you are totally right — that’s exactly what we needed to get done.’ And we got exposed (against Oregon). They’ve got great talent and great speed, and we’ve got to be in position to help our kids out and obviously we are out of position and we got exposed on the outside with our contain.”
On getting more out of the return games: “It was there, there were a couple of returns there. With our punt return they did a nice job with their hang time and we tried to be aggressive and come after some of them but couldn’t get there. We’ve just got to keep developing with Kevin (Smith) and just give him a chance, and that’s what we are working on tomorrow and getting ready for UCLA.”
IN OTHER NEWS. …
— Bud Withers writes in his weekly Pac-10 notebook that Oregon is making history.
— Ted Miller has a good overview of Cal, UW’s opponent in two weeks.
— The Orange County Register reports that Rick Neuheisel says he doesn’t expect his second return to UW to be as big a deal as it was two years ago.
— The LA Times has a UCLA injury report.
— ESPN.com has a UCLA practice report, as well.
— The 710 ESPN Seattle blog has links to interviews with former Huskies Chuck Nelson and Dane Looker, as well as former WSU QB Jason Gesser saying he was “surprised” Jake Locker didn’t play against Oregon.
— The Arizona Daily Star looks at all the Pete Carroll connections throughout the Pac-10 and also looks at this week’s games
All for now.