Sept. 6, 2007
SEATTLE (AP) - Washington's young, still-untested defense not only has to defend against Boise State steamroller Ian Johnson and his runs this weekend, but also against the No. 22 Broncos' senior quarterback and the Idaho team's often-tricky schemes.
Beyond the Broncos' proclivity for trick plays, which they executed in classic form last January in their upset Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma, their regular offense can befuddle opponents.
The Pac-10 Huskies (1-0), who beat Syracuse 42-12 last week, host the Western Athletic Conference Broncos (1-0) Saturday afternoon at Husky Stadium. The Broncos trounced Weber State 56-7 last week for their 14th consecutive victory.
Washington defensive coordinator Kent Baer put the challenge this way, "You always prepare for the unknown and I don't know how to do that."
After watching film of the Broncos' latest victory, Baer said he's still uncertain of the full skill level of quarterback Taylor Tharp. Tharp guided seven touchdown drives but played slightly more than one half. He did most of his damage handing off to junior running back Johnson, who had 129 yards and three touchdowns.
Baer stresses how tough Johnson is carrying the ball and how deceptive the Broncos are when he's not.
"He's definitely used as a decoy to draw a lot of attention, then you give something else up," Baer said. "That's something you always coach against."
The Broncos use motion, shifts, misdirection, all designed to confuse. They may appear set to run, drawing in the linebackers or corners, then go over the top with the pass.
"They probably do more than any team since I've been here. I'm serious," Baer said. "We did a three-game (film) breakdown, like we usually do. They had 35 different formations on first down alone." He estimated a typical number would be around 10.
"It's just a lot of stuff to prepare for."
Head coach Tyrone Willingham said his team can't prepare for everything.
"That's where you have to have a firm understanding and grasp of your own rules and fundamentals," he said. "You have to rely on those. You can't practice all the looks they give you."
Complicating the Huskies' preparation is the fact that Boise State likely held back much of its playbook since the Weber State game was such a rout.
UW senior outside linebacker Dan Howell said the Huskies defenders shouldn't be frazzled by the razzle-dazzle. Their focus needs to remain simple.
"You always have to watch out for the play-actions and things like that, but it comes down to reading the keys, their tendencies, what things they like to do," Howell said. "You have to study that. If you get them into predictable situations, that stuff comes easier. If you let them have their way with one thing, then they can do whatever they want anywhere else.
"For us, we have to identify the formation, line up correctly and get to where we need to be when we need to be there."
NOTES: Cornerback Bryan Davenport, out with a hamstring injury, hit the depth chart this week. That means there's a chance he could play...running back Luke Kravitz hurt his hand against Syracuse but X-rays did not reveal a fracture. His return is uncertain.