Back from a bruised shoulder and a Saturday spent watching the blowout of Idaho State, the Huskies’ middle linebacker and co-captain says “We know how to be average. That’s what we are trying to avoid.”
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE – Not only is John Timu the Huskies’ co-captain, their defensive signal caller and their leading tackler for the second consecutive season.
He also has impeccable timing.
He knows when to dial it down: Timu used last week’s game against lower-division Idaho State, which ended up being a 56-0 runaway win, as a day to rest the bruised shoulder he sustained Sept. 14 early in the victory at Illinois. He was in full uniform on the sidelines last Saturday, but he and his bruised right rotator cuff weren’t needed at all. Washington zoomed to a 42-0 lead by the second quarter en route to its first shutout victory since the 2009 Apple Cup and largest whitewash win since 1974.
And he knows when to dial it back up: Tuesday morning, Timu was back full go anchoring the middle of the defense for the 16th-ranked Huskies (3-0) during a full-pads practice.
His return is at the most opportune time for UW’s defense. Ka’Deem Carey, the 2012 national rushing leader, and unbeaten Arizona’s read-option running game come to Husky Stadium for Saturday’s Pac-12 opener (FOX television, the Washington IMG College radio network and here on GoHuskies.com with another exclusive game chat that includes free streaming audio of UW’s radio broadcast).
After months dating to before last Thanksgiving, the Apple Cup and even the Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State spent chasing around little receivers in pass-first, spread formations, Timu and the Huskies finally meet an offense that is going to run right at them. Carey is a pounding back running downhill, as the guys like to say, behind a big, up-tempo offensive line.
"(Carey), he runs hard. Like Coach says, he runs angry," Timu said. "We’ve got to make sure we push the pile back, no yards after contact. Make sure we bring him down. That’s the main thing.
"Yeah, I’m excited," Timu said. "We just have to make sure we stay disciplined. We can’t let that guy out. … Make sure everyone stays in their gaps.”
How vital is Timu to not only this week but next week when Washington plays at rugged, No. 5 Stanford and then Oct. 12 when UW hosts second-ranked, run-first Oregon? He has made 18 tackles in just over five quarters this season; he left the game at Illinois in the second quarter, after a sideline hit in the first quarter led to numbness in his shoulder.
Timu still leads the Huskies in tackles despite not playing 1¾ of the team’s three games.
Timu says his shoulder feels much better following the week of rest and ice-and-heat therapy while senior Thomas Tutogi started his place. Tutogi and the starting defense played fewer than two quarters against Idaho State before exiting.
Asked if he could have played in an absolute necessity with a championship on the line last week, Timu said: “Maybe.”
“Would I have been productive? Probably not,” he said. “It was probably the best thing for me to sit out.”
Carey has 299 yards rushing in his two games this season. He had 172 yards on 29 carries with a touchdown last October when Arizona’s supersonic pace stunned Washington into one of its worst performances in years, a 52-17 loss in Tucson.
The best way for Timu and the Dawgs to stop Carey, super-fast, first-year starting quarterback B.J. Denker and the Arizona read-option this time is for the Husky linebackers and safety Sean Parker to be free to read, react and thud into the ball carrier.
“We need to do a good job – the front line, our defensive line – of not allowing, one, to get knocked back and, two, not allowing these big O-linemen to get on our linebackers,” Sarkisian said. “We want to let our linebackers run and to play in space.
“And then the second key, which may be more important, is we have to tackle this guy. (Carey) is a very violent runner. He does a good job of running through tackles.”
The Huskies are welcoming the violence.
Asked if he was looking forward to finally having backs and linemen coming right at him after so long spent chasing little guys around turf from Pullman to Las Vegas to Chicago and back to Seattle, outside linebacker Shaq Thompson laughed.
“Yeah, we finally get to go back to our physicality and what we are good at on defense,” Thompson said.
Many of the questions the Huskies are getting this week are about what happened last October in Tucson. What happened was a Wildcats offense behind Carey and now-departed quarterback Matt Scott (more of a passer than Denker now is) overwhelming the Huskies with a relentless pace. When UW’s defense wasn’t out of position or taking the wrong assignment, it was exhausted. Timu agrees Arizona played even faster than Oregon did last season.
Timu said one Husky was often out of position or not playing his defensive assignment on a given play, “and that’s all it takes.” Arizona ended up with 277 yards rushing and 533 yards in all, the second-most yards Washington has surrendered since Sarkisian and his staff arrived for the 2009 season. An early, 3-0 lead for the Huskies became a 24-3 hole with 4 minutes still left in the second quarter.
"From us last year it was a lack of leadership," Timu said. "It was hard to get the guys going after we got behind by so much. It was kind of hard, guys that were so young being called upon to be leaders, to lift them up.
"It’s a whole different story now. We are more experienced. We are not going to allow that to happen."
That experience includes facing the Huskies’ own, hyper-speed, no-huddle offense that Sarkisian installed during spring practice. Sarkisian said Monday that part of the reason he did is to prepare for Arizona.
For Timu and the Huskies, seeking their first 4-0 start since 2001, they are done with the past — against Arizona and everyone else in the Pac-12.
They see this week’s conference opener as the time to begin being extraordinary.
"We’ve (spent) the last couple years being average. We know how to be average," Timu said.
“That’s what we are trying to avoid.”