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October 10, 2013

DSA Inside Edge: Washington

The Oregon Ducks (5-0, 2-0) take to the road again this week heading to the heart of Husky country in Seattle this Saturday to take on the Washington Huskes (4-1, 2-1) in an important Pac-12 conference game for both teams.

Oregon, ranked No. 2 in the polls, once again dominated the opponent in front of them. Despite a slow start letting the Buffaloes go up 3-0 and 10-8, the Duck defense dominated the second half against Colorado giving up less than 60 total yards en route to the 57-16 victory. The 57 points extended their school record streak to five consecutive games above the 50 point plateau.

The Huskies, meanwhile, are licking their wounds after a tough 31-28 loss to Pac-12 North contender Stanford. The Huskies had their chances outgaining the Cardinal by a 489 to 284 margin. Despite the wide margin in yards, Washington was not able to convert the yards to points frequently enough.

Penalties and two long kickoff returns, including one for a touchdown ultimately spelled too much trouble for the Huskies to overcome.

Depth Chart: Oregon vs. Washington
Players to Watch
Key Storyline
Five Questions about Washington
First Look Rewind: Washington

Despite an injury on the opening kick of the Cal game to running back De'Anthony Thomas, the Ducks were able to score at will against a Buffalo defense that was improved, but still far from Oregon's level.

This week, we continue our Inside Edge series to cover both sides of the ball in one article. We show the starting lineups for both teams and discuss our thoughts as to which team has the edge at each match-up.

Both teams will bring an explosive offense to Seattle for this key match-up. The Huskies, who have lost nine consecutive games to Northwest rival Oregon look to be improved on defense, though, having held opponents to a Pac-12 conference best 287.8 yards per game. The Huskies are also third on scoring defense allowing just 14.8 points per game. The defense looks considerably better than the one which gave up over 50 points to the Ducks last season in Eugene.

What do the match-ups look like for this game? Take a look at the latest edition of DSA Inside Edge.

Oregon QB's/WR's/TE's
Heading into the Colorado game, many had vaulted Marcus Mariota to the top of their Heisman charts believing he was now the front runner for the prestigious award. A strong performance against Colorado in just over two quarters of play did nothing to hurt his chances. Despite having not played in a fourth quarter in 2013, Mariota 76-134 passing with 1358 yards, 14 touchdowns and no interceptions. He has been just as impressive running the ball with 28 carries for 338 yards and 7 rushing touchdowns.

The wide receiver group had another strong outing with Bralon Addison notching 158 yards on 5 receptions two of which were for touchdowns. Josh Huff has been the leader of the group all season and he had another 100 yard performance against the Buffaloes. For the season Huff leads the team with 21 receptions for 445 yards and 4 touchdowns with Addison close behind at 19 catches for 345 yards and 4 touchdowns of his own. Oregon gets strong play from senior Daryle Hawkins (8-117-2) and Keanon Lowe (6-90-2) as well. More importantly, every Duck wide receiver is a strong blocker on the edge helping out the running game.

The tight end position took a depth hit with the decision of Colt Lyerla to leave the team to pursue a professional career. From an output standpoint, there won't be much of a drop off as he had accounted for just 2 catches and 26 yards on the season. The bulk of the work will now fall on Johnny Mundt, the fabulous freshman who had a break out performance against Tennessee and leads Oregon tight ends with 7 catches for 162 yards and 2 touchdowns. Last week saw the return of Pharoah Brown to the team after injury kept him from playing in the first four games. His presence should be even more important this week.

Oregon is deep and talented at all of the receiver positions with one of the best quarterbacks in the nation distributing the ball while making very few poor decisions as evidenced by zero interceptions through the first three games.
Washington DB's
Don't let the past fool you, the starters for the Washington secondary have been playing fabulous ball this season. They showed their ability last weekend holding Kevin Hogan to one of his worst outings as a collegian. The defensive backs have accounted for six of the teams seven interceptions through five games.

Sean Parker, the senior safety, is the leader of the group in tackles with 24 as well as recording 3 interceptions. Will Shamburger, the other safety, is not far behind with 21 tackles. Shamburger is the only starter without an interception. Unlike in years past, however, this years team has worked on improving their depth having played backup safeties in all five games. Tre Watson (5-9, 186) has come on to record 8 tackles in his action. Kevin King has also played in all five games, but has seen fairly limited action and recorded just 4 tackles thus far.

The corner backs are solid in run support with Marcus Peters recording 20 tackles and Gregory Ducre notching 12 through the first five games. Both have been solid in coverage, but not spectacular. They have been susceptible to the speedier receivers as evidenced near the end of the first half against Stanford.


Oregon RB's
Oregon boasts one of the most dynamic players in the nation at this position. After traveling with the team and dressing in full uniform last Saturday, De'Anthony Thomas did not play against the Buffaloes. He has been seen at practice without a walking boot this week and is listed as the co-starter, but his status is still up in the air. If he does play, it will be solely on offense. Thomas is one of the most dynamic players in the nation; a threat to score every time he touches the ball. It only takes a small crease and Thomas can turn that into a touchdown.

Despite the loss of Thomas' service for the past two games, the Ducks have hardly missed a beat in the rushing attack. The Ducks also boast one of the deepest running back rotation in the Pac-12 conference. Byron Marshall, a sophomore who stepped in and with 252 yards in the last two games has the frame to carry the ball plenty in a game and has shown a burst and explosion this year that was missing at times last season. For the season, Marshall leads the Ducks with 448 yards on 71 carries for a very solid 6.3 yards per carry. Marshall has four rushing touchdowns. Thomas Tyner has also proven a very capable back having carried the ball 35 times for 204 yards and 5 rushing touchdowns.

Of course, the other running threat is Marcus Mariota who has been explosive as a runner this season. The team went into their game against Colorado leading the nation in rushing and, despite exceeding their average on the season, fell to number three in the nation but still average 335.8 yards per game and 7.1 yards per carry.

Washington LB's
The Washington linebackers have been an extremely strong unit for the Huskies. The top three tacklers and three of the top four are linebackers. That is always a solid statistic and make the Huskies a very good defensive unit overall. Prince Fuimaono leads the team with 36 tackles with super sophomore Shaq Thompson not far behind with 35 tackles and John Timu right behind them notching 31 tackles. Despite the solid tackle numbers, the Washington defense does not ask the linebackers to make plays in the backfield as the starters have a total of just 2 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks on the season. They are solid in pass coverage, but it would be difficult to call them spectacular.

The Huskeis do have quality depth with sophomore Travis Feeney (6-4, 224) seeing plenty of action and recording 22 tackles of his own with 2 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. The other reserves, junior Jamal Kearse ( 6-1, 221) and senior Thomas Tutogi (6-1, 249) have seen action in all five games, much of which has been on special teams.

The Huskies have decided to use their better players on special teams this week which will change some rotations. They may find themselves using the reserves more than normal. This linebacker unit is as healthy as the Huskies have been for quite some time and have developed a little more depth than in the past. Nonetheless, the only reserve to see extensive action is Feeney.

This is another position that has seen great production. Their depth is not great and the unit has good speed but lacks ideal size at a couple of spots.


Oregon OL
The Duck offensive line, despite their lack of size against larger opponents have more than held their own. There have been struggles with inside protection. While the Ducks lead the conference in fewest sacks allowed allowing just four sacks through the first five games, a lot of that can be attributed to the athleticism of Marcus Mariota and the rush heavy attack used by the Ducks in their first two games.

On the ground, Oregon averages over 335 yards per game and 7.1 yards per carry. As always, the Duck rushing attack is one of the best in the nation. The line is anchored by third year starter Hroniss Grasu at center along with incumbent starters at both tackle positions.

Oregon has a strong two deep with experience all along the line. While the guards were new as starters entering 2013, both Hamani Stevens and Mana Greig had plenty of experience on the field as Oregon employs the use of heavy rotation along the offensive line.

This week will prove a little different for Oregon. While this will not be the most physically imposing defensive line the Ducks will see in 2013 with the starters along the line averaging 6-3 and 271 pounds, the average is heavily influenced by Danny Shelton who comes in at 6-1, 327 pounds.

They are facing one of the smaller defensive lines they will see in 2013 and should have better inside protection as well as a better inside running game. With bigger backs like Marshall and Tyner getting more action, the Ducks should be able to control the middle of the field against the Huskies.

Washington DL
The interior of the Washington defense will be somewhat smaller than the Ducks have seen this season. Shelton is a load at 327 pounds, but the rest of the defensive line averages just 252 pounds. Despite their lack of size along the front, the defense for the Huskies did a spectacular job last week against Stanford getting to Kevin Hogan and disrupting the passing game. Nonetheless, their run defense is about middle of the conference giving up 141.4 yards per game on 3.6 yards per carry.

The line is led by Danny Shelton who has recorded 21 tackles this season through five games including one sack. The other defensive tackle in the hybrid 4-3 system run by Washington, Evan Hudson has 9 tackles through the first five games.

Hau'oli Kikaha, the junior from Hawaii who we profiled earlier this week is their leading playmaker along the line having notched 20 total tackles and leading the team in both tackles for loss (4.5) and sacks (3.5) through the first five games. Corey Littleton, the defensive end opposite Kikaha has 18 tackles this season along with 1.5 sacks.

This is one area on the defense that Washington has not been able to build much depth. Four reserves have seen action in at least three games, but most of the action has been very limited with only Connor Cree (6-4, 260) a sophomore from Sammamish having recorded other than insignificant minutes.

Despite the ability to generate some pressure in the backfield, the Washington defense has not been consistent against the run. As bad as Stanford looked last week, the still loaded up 179 rushing yards on 4.4 yards per carry. Washington was susceptible to runs inside the tackles. The Ducks should have an advantage at this position and be able to do what they want; run the ball.


Oregon DB's
Oregon, boasts one of the best cornerback tandems in the nation and possibly the best defensive backfield in the nation. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell have played very well through the first four games and figure to provide stellar coverage all season long.

As is the case at multiple positions for Oregon, the Ducks do not lose much when going to the bench for additional defensive backs. Oregon has exceptional depth in the defensive backfield with former starter Troy Hill and speedster Dior Mathis seeing plenty of action at corner back.

The safety position saw a lot of injuries in 2012, but that has made the position stronger in 2013 as the starters, Jackson and Patterson, are backed by by Erik Dargan and Reggie Daniels. There is very little drop off when the reserves enter the game for the Ducks.

Colorado has one of the best receivers in the conference in Paul Richardson and Nelson Spruce is very good as well, but there is not a lot of depth at the position leaving Oregon capable of single coverage on the outside which creates a lot of opportunity for the safeties to make plays.

Despite some early miscues in coverage against Colorado a week ago, the Ducks completely shut down the offensive for the Buffaloes giving up just 56 total yards. The Duck secondary held starter Connor Wood to just 3 of 16 passing for 20 yards in the second half. That is the kind of dominant defensive effort rarely seen in a conference game.

Washington QB's/WR's/TE's
Washington has perhaps their best receiving corps in at least ten years if not longer with three quality starters as well as a solid contributor off the bench.

Jaydon Mickens leads the squad with 30 catches for 273 yards and 2 touchdowns. Mickens has speed but has not been used much as a deep threat with his long this season of 30 yards. On the outside edges, the Huskies bring two bigger receivers that can stretch the field with Kasen Williams and Kevin Smith. Smith leads the team in receiving yards with 367 yards on his 21 receptions for a healthy 17.5 yards per reception to go along with 2 touchdown receptions. Williams also has 21 receptions for 344 yards and one touchdown.

From there the production out of the wide receiver spot drops off significantly with the next closest receiver, freshman John Ross (5-11, 173) hauling in 8 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. Ross has the longest reception of the year for the Huskies with a 57 yarder, so he does have the ability to get by defensive backs. The rest of the Husky wideouts have a total of 3 receptions for 44 yards.

The tight end position is one expected to be a strength with perhaps the highest rated tight end in the nation, Austin Sefaria-Jenkins, but his production has waned as he recovers from a hand injury. Nonetheless, he is a very good tight end and does have 14 catches for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns through five games. Joshua Perkins (6-3, 224) serves as the reserve tight end nad has 3 catches for 28 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Keith Price has seen a return to his 2011 form when he threw for over 3000 yards and 33 touchdowns on the season. He is healthier this season than he may have been since the beginning of his sophomore season which is a big reason for his early season success. He did suffer a thumb injury to his throwing hand last week against Stanford, but has practiced and looks comfortable throwing the ball. While he is not a running quarterback, he does have the ability to extend plays with effective scrambling.


Oregon LB's
The Duck linebackers came into 2013 season as the biggest question mark on this team replacing three super star type players in Kiko Alonso, Dion Jordan and Michael Clay. Derrick Malone has filled Clays shows more than admirably and leads the team with 42 tackles through the first five games. Makone has one tackle for loss as well. Tony Washington has been the best pass rusher for the Ducks while also ranking third on the team with 24 total tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. To put it mildly, while in the game, he has terrorized opposing offenses. His numbers are more impressive given how little game time he sees in the second half of games.

Boseko Lokombo has been steady as well at his outside linebacker spot all season long. Without needing the spectacular, he has provided leadership and attitude that have helped the younger players develop. Lokombo is mixed in with a large group of players with 21 total tackles. Rodney Hardrick has improved in his run support, and showed much improvement in his pass coverage with an athletic interception against Virginia. He has followed that up with even stronger play the last three weeks.

Backups Tyson Coleman, Joe Walker, Rahim Cassell and freshman Torrodney Prevot have seen plenty of action through the first three games which should provide quality depth for this game. Prevot has been especially impressive during his time on the field and is seeing earlier playing time each week.
Washington RB's
Running back is a position that has seen improvement simply because Jesse Callier is back healthy again this season taking some of the load off of Bishop Sankey. Make no mistake, though as Sankey is the workhorse for this team, with nearly 51% of the carries and 56% of the rushing yards. Sankey is averaging just over 26 carries per game and has732 rushing yards with 7 touchdowns on his 131 carries. Callier has picked up some slack with 26 carries for 163 yards and 3 touchdowns. This season the Huskies have a little more depth as well with redshirt freshman Dwayne Washington also coming in for 27 carries and 116 yards in five appearances.

The Huskies are averaging 258.8 yards per game on the ground and 5.0 yards per carry. These numbers are significantly better than a season ago. The depth and health of the Husky running backs make this group very good.

A week ago, against one of the better running defenses in the nation, Washington carried the ball 40 times for 139 yards, a 3.5 yards per carry average.


Oregon DL
The Oregon defensive line has looked very dominant through the first five games of the season; especially the starting unit which has been one of the best defensive lines in the conference. Despite the massive size by the Tennessee offensive line, the Duck defensive line, especially the first unit, was unblockable most of the game and it proved costly to the Volunteers as the Duck defensive line was able to contain the running game and force the Volunteers to throw the ball into one of the best defensive backfields around.

Against a less stellar and banged up California offensive line allowed the Oregon defensive line penetration and disruption. The Oregon line showed what they can do against a smaller less athletic offense. The second half of Colorado showed what an outmanned offensive line faced against the Ducks

The combination of Armstead, Kelikiipi and Hart have been extremely active in both the run and pass defense. The height of Armstead and Hart proves to be very difficult, especially when they are able to get their hands into passing lanes even more frequently than in prior seasons. Oregon's biggest advantage comes with their depth as the defense loses virtually nothing when the back-up defensive linemen enter the game. In addition, Havili-Heimuli, Keliikipi and Buckner have been very active over the past couple of games.

The offensive line for Washington is not big and was tested last week giving up 11 tackles for loss and 5 sacks under the relentless pressure of the Stanford Cardinal. The Oregon defensive line is bigger and more athletic. However, there won't be a lot of sacks or tackles from this group as they are frequently using a two gape scheme to set up the linebackers to make plays and provide pressure. Nonetheless, Hart leads the group with 20 total tackles with Ricky Havili Hemuili second amongst the group notching 12 tackles. Keliikipi and Buckner have 10 tackles each in their action.
Washington OL
The Washington offensive line had provided better protection to Price through the first four games; then along came Stanford. The Cardinal pounded the Husky offensiv line with constant pressure recording 11 tackles for loss and 5 sacks in the hard fought contest.

Micah Hatchie and Dexter Charles were the only two linemen to start all of last season and return for 2013.

Ben Riva missed five games in the middle of 2012 to injury, but has looked good early in the season. Colin Tanigawa missed the last couple of games in 2011 with injury only to miss the final 11 games of last season with a different injury. To say that the team was battered last season is an understatement. What it did for Washington, though, is help develop a little depth at the group with James Atoe and Shane Brostek receiving extensive action a year ago. Beyond those two players, though, Washington still lacks experienced depth along the offensive line.

The line had played strong against the pass rush heading into Stanford, but struggled with the physicality of the Cardinal. Tehy have provided a good rushing attack this season paving the way for the Husky football team to average nearly 260 yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry through five games.


Oregon Special Teams
Oregon lost its best playmaker on kickoffs with the injury to Thomas, but that does not hurt the opportunities for Oregon on the kickoff return unit. Keanon Lowe and Troy Hill have shown capability in the past. Though they are not the same caliber playmaker as Thomas, they are more than capable return men. The Ducks may also consider using Thomas Tyner in a return capacity as they flirted with the concept near the end of the Cal game.

The punt return unit now has the nations top punt returner after Bralon Addison put on a show against the Cal team returning two punts for touchdowns last week.

The kicking game was a mixed bag last week with the weather creating some difficulties with Matt Wogan's kickoffs. Nonetheless, with his leg, the kickoff coverage team has been strong for most of the season. They will get a challenge this week with Paul Richardson, though, so the Ducks must stay disciplined in their kickoff coverage.

If Oregon is forced to punt, Alejandro Maldonado has been very good this season. Despite on poor punt against Cal, he otherwise had a spectacular day. In fact, Oregon has the best net punt team in the Pac-12 conference as Maldonado's punts have been virtually unreturnable all season long.
Washington Special Teams
The Huskies struggled mightily against Stanford in the kickoff return game allowing two very long returns one of which went for a touchdown. Those two returns were the difference int eh game for Washington. As a response, head coach Steve Sarkisian has added his best players to special teams squads looking to contain the issue quickly before it becomes even worse.

The kickoff return team allows nearly 26 yards per return and was torched last weekend. Sarkisian said it was partly about mental errors in pursuit lanes and expects that to be cleaned up with the enw personnel. Experience dictates, though, that whilesale changes from game-to-game are often a cause for bigger concern.

The punt team has been solid. Punter Travis Coons has had just 4 punts returned for 34 yards so far in the 2013 season. The punt return team has not provided much spark for the Huskies with 8 returns for 27 yards.

The placekicking is solid with Coons making all four of his attempts in 2013 with a long of 42 yards.



This is a different Washington team that last season; they are full of confidence and are built to play the same style of game as Oregon. The Huskies are going to do what they do which is run the ball and use the run to set up some passes. They will use quick outs as extensions of the running game. The Husky offense likes to run stacked receivers to get free releases and players in space.

The Huskies will pick up yards early in the game and they will have some success. The question is how much success? There has been a lot of chatter about the Washington pass defense which is allowing just 146 yards per game passing. Lost in that chatter is the fact that the average NCAA rank of the four BCS level opponents is just 70.5 in those games. Arizona is ranked 118th while Stanford is ranked 97th. Oregon has actually been more impressive in their pass defense than they have been give credit through five games. The Ducks have the 7th best pass efficiency defense in the nation and a lot of depth in the defensive back field. Oregon will look to stop the run early in order to force Washington into known passing situations so that defensive coordinator Nick Allioti can turn up the pressure on Price. This is where the offensive lines inability to protect Price could be a problem once again.

The Ducks running game is significantly better than anything Washington has seen. Though their pass defense has been stellar early this season, their run defense average at best. Last week against a Stanford team which lacked depth or explosiveness at running back, the Huskies still allowed 4.4 yards per carry giving Stanford 179 rushing yards. Oregon's rushing attack is considerably better.

The Huskies have significantly upgraded their linebacker play. The group is exceptional in pursuit and have the speed to contain the edge running very well. How do you neutralize great pursuit? Run right at them rather than trying to run around them. Expect Oregon to attack the immobile Shelton and the smallish defensive line with some early inside zone reads. This will lead to the Huskies looking to spy on the inside run leaving the middle of the field open.

The Ducks should be able to move the ball against a Husky defense that is much improved, but probably not 21 point improved over a season ago.

This game will likely be decided by special teams and which team gets the bigger stops at critical junctions of the game. While the Washington defense is definitely improved, they still lack playmakers outside of Shaq Thompson on that side of the ball. They also lack quality depth at the linebacker and defensive line spots. These facts should provide a tough road win and a new level of national respect for the Ducks.

If the Huskies start to get predictable or fall behind early and Price starts to press to make plays, it could get ugly, but this Husky team does not look like that is in their new genetic makeup.

DSA Predicted Score: Oregon 42- Washington 31

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