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The defense excels, so we're to think
Three long drives do not auger well for defense
Malamute, 27 April 2008

Ha! I'm not buying this malarkey, all the smoke and mirrors. Hear me out, but first the obligatory stuff.

The Gold team beat the Purple team, 10-7, at the University of Washington’s annual spring game on Saturday. The Purple squad consisted of the first string offense and second team defense, while the Gold was made up of the second team offense and first team defense. 

Coach Tyrone Willingham thought the two teams were evenly divided, and matched up well on paper. Approximately 9,000 fans were in attendance on a warm, sunny spring day at Husky Stadium. The only cheering of the day came when the Purple’s Jake Locker connected with WR D’Andre Goodwin for an 11-yard TD pass in the west end zone.

Otherwise, the cozy warmth of the day and the redolence of spring put the aged stadium to sleep. President Mark Emmert reportedly was seen in his work clothes, hack-sawing away at some exposed rebar, and the old "seaplane," with the folded up purple wings, continued to snore by the side of the lake. ;-)

In last season’s spring game, the Purple team, made up first string offensive and defensive players, beat the Gold team, which consisted mostly of backups, 44-7.

Aside: I had the gut feeling this team couldn't put last year's 51 total points on the board no matter how the coaches had divvied up the players, which, to me, is more on the offense than defense.

Other than the surprisingly good performance by backup quarterback Ronnie Fouch and the expected good performance of QB Jake Locker, the offenses looked sluggish -- not being what you would expect to see from an offense in the  Pac-10.

Now, for the real story.

So, I’ve dispensed with the obligatory who, what, when, where and why. I shall not be deceived by the coaches. Here’s the "how" of the game:

The setting: (1) This team is coming off a 4-9 season, surrendering 446.4 yards per game, the worst in school history. (2) Defensive coordinator Kent Baer was fired, and replaced by Ed Donatell. (3) Reportedly, the defense has been ahead of the offense all spring. (4) On the radio broadcast, Donatell admitted he’d gotten together with offensive coordinator Tim Lappano before the game. So,

My conspiracy theory: Both Donatell and Lapanno cooked up a scheme for the game, by which the defense excels and the offense shows potential, this being done by carefully arranging the lineups so one guy offsets the other. Tyrone was in on the rigging of the lineups by his own admission.

Aside: Tyrone is a gamer -- we all know that -- and would be tough to beat in Kriegspiel, a variant of chess. If we were to play Kriegspiel against the other, our shared conservatism would make for a boring game to watch. One way to win: Limit pawn movement, and let the other guy beat himself. But would Willingham be good in the end game, say, after taking a one-piece lead and trading pieces thereafter?

Here’s what the coaches are saying on the game: Our defense excelled; our offense was handcuffed by limited play selection and by the fact the quarterbacks couldn't run the ball since they were off limits to contact.

Here’s what I’m saying on the game: The second-team defense seemed soft up the gut. Although the first-team defense played well, the defense, as a whole, clearly feels the loss of five defense linemen from last year’s team, with the theory of addition by subtraction going out the window.  Although showing potential, the offense seemed enervated by the loss of five wide receivers from last year’s team and the graduation of RB Louis Rankin. In other words, there was too much youth and inexperience on the field on both offense and defense.

The defensive line lacks bulk, and the three long drives by the Gold against the second team defense do not auger well for the Dawgs come fall -- this, being the biggest downer of the game.

To wit: the Huskies lost seven games last season, in games they had a chance to win in the second half. In part, the games were lost because of a lack of depth on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

None of the heralded freshmen running backs and receivers showed signs of being game breakers. This was partly due to the format of the game, which limited the punting and kickoffs to "no-contact," in the interest of avoiding injuries.

On the Gold's first drive of the game, starting from the Purple 40, Fouch threw a beautiful spiral to Charles Hawkins in the end zone, and he dropped the ball in what could have been the play of the game.

The Purple rushed for just 37 yards, the total yards being diminished by some sacks and tackles for a loss.

Here’s what Willingham is saying:

For the most part, Willingham said he was pleased with the game. He thought the second team defense, however, gave up too many long drives. He also said there were too many dropped passes, too many missed field goals (3 of them) and too many penalties (10 of them).

He said the quarterbacks were handcuffed by the limited play selection and by the fact they wore yellow jerseys (off limits to contact).

Overall, he thought the defense was much improved.

Willingham said he has a solid group of runners.

He wasn’t surprised with WR D’Andre Goodwin’s splendid performance because he’s had a wonderful camp all spring.

Aside: Juan Garcia says he got some bad news yesterday, saying the doctors don’t think his foot will heal without surgery. That means he’ll likely miss next season if he undergoes surgery. There seemed to be a contradiction at the end of the interview that needs clarification.

Here's what my observations are saying:

Ronnie Fouch appears to be a mobile, most capable replacement for Jake Locker. He threw some nice balls, and has the potential to throw the long ball better than Jake. He quarterbacked the Gold team through much of the game and took over the Purple team from Locker in the fourth quarter, with Taylor Bean quarterbacking the Gold.

Locker was 13 of 17 for 159 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and a passing efficiency rating of 161.69 -- which of course doesn't mean a thing, other than being a nice stat to note. The tough defensive teams the Dawgs played last season played havoc with Locker's disappointing PE on the year. (See "Two armed Jake")

Locker's splendid PE on the game could be partly attributed to a soft defense, in light of the referenced article and UW's pathetic defense last season. But people have been saying he's been throwing more accurately all spring, and he was on target yesterday. In last year's spring game, Locker posted a PE of 106.15, which was close to the season's final number of 105.

Is the competition with Fouch making Ferndale Jake a better passer? Answer: probably. Fouch is a typical California quarterback, which is why so many teams in the nation import California quarterbacks, as if they were bottles of the finest vintage wines to be. (See Notre Dame, et al).

Locker’s long throws were disappointing, although there were some good defensive plays made on his receivers. One long throw was intercepted by Quinton Richardson, who, on the runback, was tackled by a bulling Locker who ran through Mason Foster to get to him. 

Fouch was 16-33 for 154 yards and one touchdown, and an efficiency rating of 97.68. Some dropped balls hurt Fouch’s rating. I thought he was given too much time to throw by the second team defense.

Goodwin caught 7 passes for 109 yards.

A pesky Willie Griffin led all rushers with 71 yards on 20 carries. Chris Polk, playing running back and receiver, led the Purple with 20 yards on five carries and had 25 yards on four receptions.

Chris Izbicki looked good at tight end, making two nice catches.

Brandon Johnson (75% ready to go), Chris Polk, Brandon Yakabowski and Willie Griffin all looked good running the ball.

Here's what the possessions in the game are saying:. (The three long drives by the Gold do not auger well for the defense, those drives being the real downer of the game).

-- Starting from its own 30, the Purple worked the ball to the Gold 43, where Locker lost a fumbled snap back the Purple 40. Highlight: Locker's 18-yard pass completion to Alvin Logan.

-- From Purple 40, Gold goes three and out. Rasp punts ball to Purple 11.

-- From Purple 11, Purple works ball to Purple 48, from where Jarad Ballman punts to Gold 11. Highlight: Locker's 28-yard completion to Goodwin.

-- From Gold 11, Gold drives to the Purple 22, aided by a penalty. Cory Rutkowski boots 39-yard field goal. Gold 3, Purple 0. (Drive 1). Highlight: Fouch 17-yard pass to Charles Hawkins.

-- From Purple 30, Purple drives to Gold 34, where Locker is intercepted by Richardson.

-- From Gold 10, Gold goes three and out. Rasp punts to Purple.

-- From Gold 43, Purple ends up on Gold 48 after 2 incomplete passes, a procedure call and a sack.

End of first half, Gold 3, Purple 0

-- From Gold 30, Gold drives to Purple 12, from where a 5-yard penalty moves the ball back to the 17. Erik Folk misses a 34-yard field goal try wide left. (Drive 2).

-- From Purple 17, Purple drives to Gold 11, from where Locker connects with Goodwin on a TD pass. Ryan Perkins' PAT is good. Purple 7, Gold 3.

-- From Gold 30, Gold drives to Purple 13, from where Fouch connects with Devin Aguilar on a TD pass. Gold 10, Purple 7. (Drive 3)

-- From Purple 30, Locker tries a long pass, which goes incomplete. Brandon Yakabowski runs for six yards, and Ronnie Fouch takes over at quarterback for the Purple team. Fouch works the ball to the Gold 33, from where a field goal attempt is blocked by Johnie Kirton.

- From Gold 33. Taylor Bean assumes QB role from Fouch for the Gold. After going 3 and out, Gold punts to Purple.

-- From Purple 48, Fouch and the Purple go to the Gold 28. Perkins misses a 45-yard field goal wide right.

-- From Gold 28. Griffin runs to the Gold 32, where the game ends, with Gold winning, 10-7.

Here were the starting lineups, as listed on Molly Yanity’s blog:

LT Mark Armelin
LG Scott Shugert
C Greg Christine
RG Morgan Rosborough
RT Skyler Fancher
TE Walt Winter
QB Ronnie Fouch
FB Luke Kravitz
TB Willie Griffin
WR Devin Aguilar
WR Charles Hawkins

DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim
DT De'Shon Matthews
DT Cameron Elisara
DE Darrion Jones
OLB Josh Gage
ILB Donald Butler
OLB Mason Foster
FS Nate Williams
SS Victor Aiyewa
CB Mesphin Forrester
CB Quinton Richardson

P Kiel Rasp
PK Erik Folk
SNP Brendan Lopez

LT Ben Ossai
LG Jordan White-Frisbee
C Matt Sedillo
RG Casey Bulyca
RT Cody Habben
TE Michael Gottlieb
QB Jake Locker
FB Paul Homer
TB Brandon Johnson
WR Chris Polk
WR D'Andre Goodwin

DE Kalani Aldrich
DT Nick Wood
DT Johnie Kirton
DE Tyrone Duncan
OLB Brandon Huppert
ILB Trenton Tuiasosopo
OLB E.J. Savannah
FS Tripper Johnson
SS Darin Harris
CB Byron Davenport
CB Matt Mosley

P Jared Ballman
PK Ryan Perkins
SNP Danny Morovick

Here's Bob Condotta's post-spring depth chart:

Post-spring chart:


Malamute can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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