First, Taniela Tupou recounted all that went right.
Despite Washington’s 30-24 loss to California on Saturday, and despite allowing 481 total yards on 92 plays, the Huskies were encouraged by their defensive resiliency. By the way they responded after each of UW’s five turnovers. By the goal-line stand on which they stuffed Cal on four consecutive plays from UW’s 1-yard line.
But then …
“Tackling,” said Tupou, a fifth-year senior defensive lineman. “There were a lot of missed tackles.”
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There were 30 of them, to be exact, according to defensive line coach and special-teams coordinator Jeff Choate, who said after Wednesday’s practice that he dedicated that morning’s special-teams meeting to reiterating proper tackling technique.
And it will continue to be an emphasis throughout the Huskies’ bye week.
Thirty missed tackles, Choate said “is a high number for us, so we were very disappointed in that. A lot of that had to do with really where we were targeting. We were targeting too high, and that’s a huge part of the rugby concept … lowering our target level, taking the engine of the ballcarrier away, which is his legs, and doing a better job of wrapping up.”
That rugby concept, a style Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has advocated since he was the coach at USC, emphasizes a lower target zone that promotes safety by removing the head from the tackling process.
Against Cal, the Huskies got away from that, especially when trying to bring down Vic Enwere, Cal’s 6-foot-2, 230-pound running back. He was responsible for a good chunk of those 30 misses.
Choate said the Huskies analyze not only the number of tackles they miss, but also the manner in which they miss them. Then, in addition to their standard tackling drills — pit tackle, gator-roll tackle – they try to simulate the kind of plays that gave them problems.
“Sometimes, you’re almost even inventing a drill that tries to simulate what happened in the game,” he said. “But I think that’s really important as you look at, not just doing drills because they’re drills, but, ‘OK, we had two-foot takeoffs in these situations. How do we reinforce not getting that? We lost leverage on the ballcarrier in this situation. How do we simulate that so that we can maintain our leverage and own our leverage a little bit better?’”
Said Tupou: “Coach Choate and our whole defensive staff have bought into the Seahawks’ tackling, the rugby-style tackling, taking out the legs and stuff. There’s a lot of cool little drills that we’ll do, tackling on the mat, trying to simulate live situations.”
No reprimand for LB
According to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle, Cal coach Sonny Dykes submitted a report to the Pac-12 office about a hit Huskies linebacker Azeem Victor made on Bears receiver Kenny Lawler in the fourth quarter Saturday.
On a play near UW’s sideline, Lawler’s helmet came off while he was on the ground, and Victor’s elbow struck his helmetless head. No penalty was called, but Lawler reportedly needed stitches later to close a cut on his chin.
A Pac-12 spokesperson said Wednesday that “the Pac-12 has not issued a public reprimand” for Victor’s hit. But linebackers coach Bob Gregory said during an interview with Dawgman.com after Wednesday’s practice that the play was “inexcusable.”
“We’ve got to be very conscious of the head,” Gregory told Dawgman. “Azeem said he tripped and he fell on him, but you can’t brace yourself with your elbow, that’s for sure.”
Wednesday marked the first day of fall quarter classes at UW. … Lawler appeared to get away with offensive pass interference Saturday when he pushed Huskies cornerback Sidney Jones in the back before making a reception that gained 52 yards. Asked Wednesday about the play, UW defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said, “I want to keep my paycheck intact. I’m not going to say anything.” He added: “You guys saw the play. The 60,000 in attendance had their opinion about it.”
OCT. 8: UW (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) at USC (3-1, 1-1), 6 p.m., ESPN, 1000-AM, 97.7-FM