Sports

Huskies concerned about ineffective running game

SEATTLE — The Oregon Ducks not only beat Washington on Saturday, but they also might have given future Huskies opponents a blueprint to follow.

Oregon pushed nine defenders up close to the line of scrimmage and asked its defensive backs to stick with the UW receivers one on one.

The strategy resulted in a 44-10 rout in which Washington’s running game was smothered while the passing attack was unable to force Oregon to back off.

“We weren’t able to run the football really in any way, shape or form,” offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said immediately after the game. “Whether we spread them or tried to play with a power set, we couldn’t run the football. … They bumped us outside and pres-sured (quarterback Jake Locker) with a lot of blitz so we couldn’t get a lot of stuff downfield. We didn’t have time to do that.”

The result was a ledger of tepid offensive numbers: 10 points, 242 yards of total offense, a 2.2-yard rushing average, a pass-completion average below 50 percent.

Such numbers are likely to encourage defensive imitators. And that could start Saturday when No. 15 Brigham Young visits, even though under normal circumstances these Cougars wouldn’t be mistaken for the Ducks.

BYU is a more physical team, using strength where Oregon favors finesse. And the Cougars lack Oregon’s lock-down corners.

“BYU is not a man cover team: They’re a zone team, they play off,” Lappano said Tuesday. “They’re very sound in what they do, but they’re two different styles. … But you never know. … If they decide, ‘Hey, that looked great, Oregon had success with it, we’re going to it do,’ we have to plan for it. But that’s not what they do.”

Brigham Young coach Bronco Mendenhall said in a conference call Tuesday that he prefers to run his offense and defense without changing much for specific opponents.

Still, UW coach Tyrone Willingham expects BYU will work within its system to attempt what Oregon did.

“It may not quite look the same, but I think they will do some things in terms of their defensive movement and their blitzes and stunts that will put that same kind of pressure on us,” Willingham said. “And it’s going to be critical for us to handle that movement, to handle those blitzes and to be able to, one, pass the football, and at the same time find avenues to run the football.”

Willingham may have listed the passing game first because it’s extremely difficult to establish the run when there are more defenders around the line of scrimmage than offensive linemen to block them.

“One time (Oregon) had almost nine or 10 guys in the box,” UW guard Jordan White-Frisbee said. “How are you going to run against that when you only have six guys blocking? When we get that outside pressure — get our wide receivers some experience where (de-fenses) can’t do that — all of a sudden now with the normal amount of people in the box we’ll be fine.”

Offensive line coach Mike Denbrock met the media Tuesday, and put all responsibility on himself and his linemen, with no finger-pointing at the receivers or runners.

However, receivers such as D’Andre Goodwin and runners such as Chris Polk also stepped forward to take their share of blame. Goodwin said the receivers have to force defenses to back off, and Polk said he missed some open holes.

“We all had a role to play in what took place, and none of us did it the way that we wanted to,” Willingham said. “And the good news is that our team has a little bit of a feeling of letting each other down and letting our fan base down. We all share that, and to me those are all positive things that allow you to drive yourself to go forward.”

Extra points: After opening its season with a 41-17 win over Northern Iowa, BYU inched up one notch into a tie with Arizona State at No. 15 in The Associated Press poll released Tuesday. … BYU quarterback Max Hall was confirmed as healthy and ready for this week. Mendenhall disputed a report that Hall had suffered a concussion in BYU’s opener, saying that Hall had merely been ill. … Lappano said that tight end Michael Gottlieb is expected to play this week after missing the opener with a hamstring injury. Gottlieb is known as UW’s best blocking tight end.

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