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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Huskies focus on UA running backs as Grigsby returns

Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Alan Walsh
Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Washington football team may be hoping that Arizona running back Nic Grigsby’s shoulder injury is worse than projected for tomorrow’s game. The Huskies’ (2-3, 1-1 Pacific 10 Conference) defense is ninth in the conference against the run. Through five games, Washington has allowed its opponents an average of more than 178 yards per game.

This is enough to make Grigsby begin to salivate.

However, the Huskies’ defenders are indeed aware of their blatant weakness as well as the ability of Arizona’s (3-1, 1-0) three talented running backs; Grigsby, Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko.

“”We have to be ready for all three of (Arizona’s running) backs,”” said Husky linebacker Donald Butler. “”They’re each talented in different areas — some are real fast and that third string guy (Nwoko) is a big guy who runs hard. Making sure we keep those guys contained is gonna have to be our primary concern.””

With the addition of Arizona quarterback Nick Foles into the Wildcats’ lineup as of two weeks ago, game planning will become significantly more difficult according to Butler. As opposed to Arizona’s former Matt Scott-driven offense, which centered around the running game, Foles has given the Wildcats the ability to spread the field and keep opponents guessing where the ball will go.

While Washington’s defensive struggles in pass coverage don’t nearly match those defending the run, the Huskies’ secondary is certainly not among the Pac-10 elite either.

Sitting seventh in the conference, Washington gives up over 231 yards per game through the air and has amassed just three interceptions — two of which came by Butler.

Saturday, the Huskies will face the Pac-10’s most accurate passer: Foles (69.8 completion percentage). Butler and his defense know they’re in for a tough two-headed attack.

“”From what we’ve seen in tape, (Foles) is a great athlete,”” Butler said. “”He can throw the ball very well, and also move around to make things happen with his feet.””

“”We know Arizona likes to throw the ball, and along with those talented backs, we’ll have to be ready both physically and mentally (Saturday night).””

With Arizona’s offensive attack emerging as its primary advantage over the Huskies, Washington’s offense holds the advantage over the Wildcats’ defense as well. Quarterback Jake Locker is one of the most prolific players in the Pac-10 and has led the Huskies to the top of the conference in passing offense.

In Washington’s upset win over USC three weeks ago, Locker’s air attack continuously gave the Huskies’ prominent field position while the junior’s legs carried his team into the end zone for its only touchdown of the day.

Locker will surely be a key factor in Saturday’s showdown and one that will have the Arizona defense’s attention all night long.

“”We’re very fortunate having a quarterback like (Locker),”” said Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian. “”He has great poise. I don’t think any arena is too big for him. He’s had the experience of going up against the most talented players in the conference and playing in some big venues, so he is always very confident in any situation — and that shows on the field.””

While Locker and his teammates do have experience playing against top-ranked teams as well as playing in the nation’s top venues — Washington fell on the road to Notre Dame last week in overtime — the Huskies will have the advantage of being back at home against Arizona.

Two of Washington’s three losses have come on the road in the last two weeks against Stanford and Notre Dame. At home the Huskies are 2-0 and boast the confidence to improve to 3-0 this weekend in front of their home crowd.

“”Whenever we get a home game, it’s something to be excited about,”” Butler said. “”Just being in front of your fans all riding the momentum along with you is big.

“”But Arizona is a good team and they pose a lot of threats, so we have to be ready for them.””

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