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Statistics illustrate coaching philosophy
Dawgs more cerebral, offensive and single minded
By: Malamute, Posted 19 January 2003

Since Rick Neuheisel (33-16) assumed the head coaching duties at Washington, the Huskies have become more cerebral, more offensive minded and more daring than they were in his first season. Incurring penalties and turnovers are down, while total offense and handing out sacks are up. During his tenure, there has been an erosion in the Dawgs' running game and red-zone defense.

During his four years as a Dawg, Neuheisel has recruited for speed, bringing in a cadre of nimble receivers and swift cornerbacks, something that was lacking in Jim Lambright's last year at Washington. At the same time, Neuheisel has brought in a pair of strong-armed quarterbacks, Isaiah Stanback and Casey Paus, and capitalized on quarterback Cody Pickett's throwing abilities. The upward trend in passing statistics, shown by Table 1 below, is highlighted by an average of 346.2 passing yards per game this season, which is fourth best in Division 1A. .

However, the Dawgs have become more single-minded on offense, seemingly eschewing the run for the pass. In rushing offense, Neuheisel's team finished 113th in Division 1A this season, an historical low for the Dawgs.

An effort to bring in a talented running back to replace Willie Hurst never materialized. That running back was to have been Paul Arnold, who Neu recruited in the 1999 season. A congenital back problem forced the coaches to play him in a pass catching role the past two seasons rather than use him as a running back.

As a partial consequence, the 2002 rushing offense fell off from the preceding years, falling from a high of 211.7 yards per game in 2000 to 74.5 yards per game this year.

Also, Marques Tuiasopo's execution of the option empowered the running game in Neuheisel's first two seasons; in his last two seasons, Neuheisel abandoned the option because of the shoulder injury Cody Pickett suffered in the fourth game of the 2001 season.

Hurst's bursts were sorely missed this season.

Hurst netted 607 total yards on the ground in 2001, while averaging 4.4 yards per carry. In the same season, Rich Alexis rushed for 391 yards, averaging 3.1 yards per carry, and both combined for a rushing average of 96.2 yards per game. This season, Rich Alexis netted 688 yards rushing, averaging 3.4 yards per carry, but there was no one behind him to contribute in a significant way.

Arnold's and Pickett's injuries notwithstanding, not having a capable replacement for Willie Hurst in 2002 can be blamed on the coaching staff, along with Hurst's relegation to slot receiver in the spring of 2000, which nibbled away at the morale of the team. The self-sanctions that restricted recruiting in the 2000-2001 season may have affected the recruitment of a highly-rated running back and a couple of punishing wide bodies.

The offensive line woes that continued this season were exacerbated by youth, inexperience, injuries and the failure of OL Francisco Tipoti to reach his potential. Incoming OL Nathan Rhodes, a much heralded freshman, failed to contribute because of a congenital back problem.

Despite the lack of a consistent running game the last two years, the Dawgs have finished near the top of the conference in ball control during the four-year span.

During the coach's tenure, the Huskies' rushing defense made significant improvement, allowing just 97.7 yards per game this season, compared to a 146 yard average in his first three years at Washington. In the 2000 championship season, the Huskies allowed 141.2 rushing yards per game, finishing sixth in the conference. During the 1999 season, the Dawgs allowed an average of 140.7 rushing yards per game.

In 2002, the Huskies were penalized less than they were in the three preceding years and improved on their turnover margin.

Under the Nueheisel reign, the punting game has been mediocre, which has adversely affected field position over the four-year span. Kick-off and punt returns were something less than scintillating this season, and five punts were blocked last season. As a result of pedestrian field position, Neuheisel's increased reliance on the strong leg of John Anderson, providing him with tougher angles and longer kicks, has negatively affected field-goal percentage during Neu's four years.

Even though the Dawgs have become more cerebral--incurring penalties and turnovers on the wane--not one Dawg made the Pac-10, first-team all-academic list this season. Is there a connection? Obviously not. :)

The trends shown in Table 1. illustrate Neuheisel's coaching philosophy, wherein those statistics highlighted in purple indicate an upward trend and those stats highlighted in red, a downward trend; stats in black are a push

Table 1. Four-year stats under Rick Neuheisel.

Category  1999 2000 2001 2002
1. BALL CONTROL        
Time of Possession 32:57 31:47 30:53 32:35
Rushing Offense 189.7 211.7 111.7 74.5
Passing Offense 206.9 196.2 279.5 346.2
Rushing Defense 140.7 141.5 162.6 97.7
Passing Defense 248.6 207.9 220.0 259.5
Pass Efficiency Defense 118.1 111.9 135.2 129.2
Pass Efficiency Offense 126.9 115.8 125.9 131.2
Total Offense 396.6 407.9 391.2 420.7
Total Defense 389.4 349.5 382.6 357.2
Sacks By 13 34 20 36
Sacks Against 25 25 25 37
3. MISTAKES        
Penalties 68.1 65 69.7 52.8
Turnover Margin -0.09 -0.27 -0.27 0.08
Kickoff Returns 17.9 21.2 23.6 18.6
Punt Returns 7.1 7.3 14.1 7.4
Punting (Net Per Punt) 35.4 33.3 33.4 34.3
Field Goals 72.2% 70.6% 63.6% 64.7%
Red Zone Offense 82.4% 88% 71.2% 80.4%
Red Zone Defense 75.0% 81% 72.5% 82.6%
Points For 28.3 32.1 28.2 30.6
Points Against 25.3 22.4 29.4 26.3
Overall Record 7-5 11-1 8-4 7-6



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