UW pass rush is making progress
Young players are making a difference on the defensive line for Washington.
Seattle Times staff reporter
SATURDAY, Nov. 9
Colorado at Washington, 5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
Joe Mathis bull-rushed from the left edge. Marcus Farria sped around the right edge. Washington’s freshman defensive linemen met at the quarterback, piling on during the fourth quarter of UW’s blowout victory over California on Saturday night.
Three plays later, Farria and sophomores Cory Littleton and Connor Cree combined for another takedown of Cal quarterback Jared Goff. It was the last of five sacks for the Huskies, and it offered a glimpse at both the Huskies’ improving pass rush and their improving young depth along the defensive line.
“They’re all getting better,” junior defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha said. “It’s good to see those guys get to play and get production out there.”
The Huskies (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12), with a bye this week ahead of their Nov. 9 home game against Colorado (3-4, 0-4), gave more reps to young players during Tuesday’s practice; if all goes well, the Huskies hope to see more of those youngsters on Saturdays in the final month of the season.
Farria, in particular, has made the most of limited opportunities. The 6-foot, 235-pound end had 1.5 sacks against Cal, bringing his season total to 2.5 in four games.
“He’s getting more and more comfortable,” UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said. “He plays really hard; he’s a physical kid, and I think he’s going to continue to develop.”
In all eight games this season, UW has used a starting D-line of Kikaha and Littleton at the rush/drop-end spots, with Evan Hudson and Danny Shelton inside. Josh Banks, Andrew Hudson, Josh Shirley, Damion Turpin, Taniela Tupou and Cree, along with the two true freshmen, have provided sporadic production. (Shirley, a third-down pass-rush specialist, sat out the Cal game with a calf strain.)
The Huskies have 24 sacks, tied for 11th-most in the nation. Kikaha, coming off two major knee injuries the past two years, has a team-high six sacks.
“It’s been decent, I’d say,” Kikaha said of UW’s pass rush. “I got a lot to work on; our guys got a lot to work on. We’re working a lot better lately, in our games figuring out where we need to be so we can make the rush better for the next person. Just better rushes in harmony.”
Hudson, the tight end turned starting defensive tackle, had his second sack of the season against Cal.
“It’s amazing how well he’s doing,” Kikaha said.
Overall, Wilcox said UW’s pass rush is improved. He’s hoping it improves even more during the bye week.
“It can always be better,” Wilcox said. “Sometimes pass rush is sacks, sometimes it’s hurries, sometimes pass rush is keeping a cage on the quarterback. So there’s definitely still areas in which we can improve in.”
Junior running back Bishop Sankey was named one of 16 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award, given to the national player of the year as bestowed by the Maxwell Football Club.
Sankey is second in the nation with 1,162 yards and is tied for the national lead with 12 rushing touchdowns.
Other Pac-12 players on the list are Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks and Sean Mannion and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.
Three finalists for the Maxwell will be announced Nov. 25.
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @a_jude