By Mike Allende / Herald Writer
SEATTLE They say that the defense is usually ahead of the offense at this time of year, and that was certainly the case during Saturday’s Washington football practice.
Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald
Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham looks to see if the Huskies made a first down in Saturday’s scrimmage at Husky “Stadium.
The practice, just the second that was open to the media this spring and the first with game-type situations, was held in nasty conditions with rain, strong wind and cold temperatures likely affecting the play of the offense.
Still, if this was an offense that had proven it could be productive, Saturday’s struggles could probably be overlooked. But the fact that the Husky offense has struggled two years in a row made Saturday’s performance somewhat disturbing.
The offensive line, looking to replace four graduated starters, was overmatched, making for an unimpressive running game. Passes were not accurate and there were several drops. Johnny DuRocher, the presumed backup to Isaiah Stanback, looked slow and seemed hesitant in making reads. And there were few big plays to create much optimism.
Head coach Tyrone Willingham did not meet with the media following the scrimmage, and players were not made available Saturday.
The team went through several scenarios, from red zone offense, to driving from the 20-yard line to going the length of the field in a two-minute offense. Overall, the offense managed 182 yards on 87 plays. Four Husky quarterbacks combined on 10-for-34 passing for 44 yards and two interceptions, and were sacked six times.
Stanback was 5-for-12 for 33 yards but ran for 45 yards and two touchdowns, including an impressive 15-yarder off a scramble. DuRocher was 3-for-14 for 12 yards, and had an interception returned 96 yards for a touchdown by Chris Hemphill. Carl Bonnell was 1-for-6.
No receiver had more than two catches. In fact, the only passing touchdown was a lob from fourth-stringer Felix Sweetman to backup tight end Michael Gottlieb.
Redshirt freshman running back J.R. Hasty had 78 yards on 12 carries, including a 43-yarder. Kenny James gained 33 yards on seven carries and Louis Rankin had 28 yards on 15 runs. Fullback Mark Palaita had a short touchdown run.
The defense was solid, though, as Greyson Gunheim had three sacks and five tackles for loss and Donny Mateaki had two sacks and knocked down a pass. Mesphin Forrester led all players with 11 tackles.
Dashon Goldson, playing his first scrimmage at cornerback, had a sack and the hit of the day, leveling receiver Chancellor Young after a 6-yard gain. Jason Wells and Trenton Tuiasosopo each had six tackles, Roy Lewis had an interception and Tahj Bomar forced a fumble.
Special teams play: Ryan Perkins kicked a 21-yard field goal but missed from 32 yards. Sean Douglas had a good day punting, but new long snapper Danny Morovick’s first snap was off the mark. Cody Ellis returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown, though the coverage wasn’t particularly motivated.
Depth charts: Willingham has said in the past not to read anything into who plays on what unit in scrimmages, but with little information to go on, it is one clear way to draw conclusions as to how the spring session is going.
The No. 1 offense Saturday seemed to be Stanback at quarterback, Louis Rankin at tailback, Mark Palaita at fullback, Corey Williams and Cody Ellis at receiver, Robert Lewis at tight end, Chad Macklin and Nathan Flowers at tackle, Juan Garcia and Stanley Daniels at guard and Clay Walker at center. The No. 2 offense was DuRocher at quarterback, Kenny James at tailback, Luke Kravitz at fullback, Charles Smith and Alex Mercier at receiver, Michael Gottlieb at tight end, Ben Ossai, Morgan Rosborough, William Kava, Casey Bulyca and Garcia on the line.
The No. 1 defense had Walt Winter, Grey Gunheim, Donny Mateaki and Wilson Afoa on the line, Tahj Bomar, Chris Stevens and Scott White at linebacker, Dashon Goldson and Roy Lewis at cornerback and Chris Hemphill and Darin Harris at safety. The No. 2 defense was Jordan Reffett, Caesar Rayford, Anthony Atkins and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim on the line, Dan Howell, Trenton Tuiasosopo and E.J. Savannah at linebacker, Matt Fountaine and Jordan Murchison at corner and Jason Wells and Mesphin Forrester at safety.
Legends on hand: Willingham invited former Husky players to attend Saturday’s practice. A little over 100 former players showed up. Among them were Warren Moon, Marques Tuiasosopo, Tony Parrish, Lawyer Milloy, Brock Huard, Leon Neal, Chad Ward and former Everett High star Chris Chandler.
Injuries: Backup offensive linemen William Kava and Robert Lukevich were both injured in the practice, with Lukevich (left leg) being carted off the field in the back of a vehicle. Stanback did not seem limited by a sore shoulder that kept him out of practice earlier this week. Erick Lobos (foot) did not play, nor did starting receivers Sonny Shackelford (ankle) and Anthony Russo (hip).