The Huskies have plenty of reasons to feel good about themselves right now. At No. 17, they have their highest ranking in the AP poll since 2003 and, with FCS Idaho State coming to town for a noon kickoff Saturday (Pac-12 Networks), the Huskies are staring down their first 3-0 start since 2001.
Yes, a lot to like.
There is, however, one obvious concern:
UW is tied for last in the Pac-12 Conference with a minus-1 turnover margin. That’s due in large part to Dwayne Washington‘s two lost fumbles on his only two carries in Saturday’s victory over Illinois.
But it’s also a signal that the UW defense hasn’t been forcing turnovers nearly as much at it would like. The Huskies have two interceptions and no fumble recovers through two games.
Last season, the UW defense forced 33 turnovers — 17 interceptions and 16 fumble recovers. The Huskies know they need to pick up the ball and the pace as they approach Pac-12 play next week against Arizona.
“Our defense,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said after practice Wednesday morning, “we’ve really made it a point this week to try get after the football, 1, for our own good; we need to get more turnovers, we need to cause more fumbles, we need the ball to come out; but 2, we need it offensively. We need them to attack our guys to get the ball out to put an emphasis on it so that we take care of it even better than we have.”
Washington, by the way, has bounced back nicely this week.
“He’s had two solid days of practice, really working hard on ball security and things like that,” UW running backs coach Johnny Nansen said Wednesday. “He’ll play a lot Saturday.”
Washington, a redshirt freshman who covered from wide receiver last year, had a nice debut for UW against Boise State, rushing 13 times for 52 yards and a touchdown.
“Dwayne Washington’s going to be fine,” Sarkisian said Monday. “I remember sitting in front of you guys after a Nebraska game a few years ago when Bishop (Sankey) dropped a kickoff and put the ball on the 1-yard line. The sky wasn’t falling on Bishop either then. He was going to be fine. We have a lot of confidence in our young players … and we’ll continually build up Dwayne. He’s going to be a good football player for us.
“It was unfortunate. They were two very close, bang-bang plays. I almost still think his knee was down on the first one, but hey, you know … and the second one he really got bent back pretty well on his right knee and I think he got a little bit scared, like probably we all would, and just kind of panicked and let go of the ball. So he’ll be OK.
Figure on Jesse Callier, Deontae Cooper and redshirt freshman Ryan McDaniel getting a lot more carries Saturday, too. Sarkisian said he’s also pleased with the progress of freshman Lavon Coleman, who’s redshirting.
“I like the position,” Sarkisian said. “I think they’re all improving and that’s what’s great about them. I don’t think any of them just got a skillset where they are what they’re going to be. I think they call can continue to improve and they’re doing that.”