Dawgs top defense bracing for Stanford’s Love

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Washington linebacker Joe Mathis (5) tackles Stanford quarterback Ryan Burns, right, in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Friday, Sept. 30, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

By Bill Swartz

“Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships,” is a popular saying in sports, especially college football. It is absolutely the success foundation for coach Chris Petersen’s Washington Husky program.

“If you’re going to have a really good team, it’s always going to start on defense. We’ve had good defenses for a long, long time. Everybody likes to talk about offense, or complain about offense, or brag about offense, but I think it always starts on defense,” said Petersen about one of the top defensive units in the country.

The Dawgs' 'D' is yielding just 240 yards and 11 points per game. The defense held a potent Oregon offense without a touchdown last Saturday. That hadn’t happened to the Ducks in a decade. Washington is also the only FBS team in the nation that hasn’t allowed a play over 40 yards.

Senior linebacker Keishawn Bierria says the UW defense is never convinced it has arrived.

“We understand how our defense plays and the standard we’ve set. Our type of coaching we have is the top in the country. It’s always like,"Job well done and let’s get back to it and do it again next week,' " said Bierria.

Petersen credits his assistant coaches with recruiting talented players, then putting them in the right position.

“It’s team defense. Everyone has their job ,and when you’re not having someone get out of position the next guys don’t have to try to overcompensate and do somebody else’s job. That’s when you get in trouble. When they have to run and get there they know where they’re supposed to be,” explained coach Petersen.

What the Husky defenders also do well is swarm to the football and make sure tackles in open space. You rarely see a linebacker or defensive back go for a big hit instead of wrapping up a ball carrier.

The Husky stop group has a major challenge this week. With a Friday night road game the team has less time for bodies to recover and to prepare for Stanford’s unique power running offense featuring Heisman Trophy candidate Bryce Love.

“He’s one of those guys who’s fast, strong and keeps his legs going at all times,” observed coach Petersen. “He bounces off and runs through arm tackles. Obviously he’s got really good vision. The way they put all those big offensive linemen, and you’re not sure where the crease is going to be, and he always finds it.”

Maybe it’s the harsh Pacific Northwest fall climate or the rugged outdoorsy reputation, but Washington Husky football fans have always appreciated outstanding defense. This current group of UDub defenders has a chance to be every bit as good as the 1984 or 1991 squads.

Friday Night Lights

Washington is playing its second Friday night game of the season at Stanford. Kickoff is set for 7:30 with pre-game coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. on KOMO newsradio am 1000/ fm 97.7.