Growing up, I always heard and saw highlights of what a ‘Husky defense’ was supposed to look like. The legend of the defense was talked about with every coach who was hired, and later fired, for the past decade. Every coach wanted to restore what ‘Husky defense’ was supposed to be. Sometimes there were glimpses. The crowd would stand up, yell louder than they would for any touchdown, and the defensive ends would fire off the ball for a sack on 3rd down. We saw glimpses but hardly ever complete games.
In 2010 the Husky defense dominated a one-dimensional Nebraska team in the Holiday Bowl. In that same year, the Husky defense kept the team in the game against Oregon State by shutting them down in the second half. In 2009, the defense played pretty well against USC, Cal, and Wazzu. We can go back farther. The 2001 Rose Bowl team had a good defense who was opportunistic and often rose to the occasion. But, as the college football game evolved, the offense has been ahead of the defense for most of the last 15 years.
Tonight the Huskies played their best defensive game since…. I don’t know. Maybe the Holiday Bowl was more impressive to you? Not to me. This effort was complete against the most physical team in the Pac-12. Stanford shoved their way to 65 yards and 6 points. Stanford didn’t score a touchdown for the first time since 2007. The Dawgs just didn’t let any plays break them. Stanford didn’t have a rush for over 7 yards. Last year, they had 10 over 15 yards.
I could throw out stats all night that show you how well the defense played but I think you get the point. This defense tackled better, pursued better, and played with more effort than I’ve ever seen. Tonight was maybe my best glimpse of what a ‘Husky defense’ is supposed to look like. Do I expect them to go into Oregon next week and shut down the Ducks. Not at all. Hardly anyone does that and it will be a different type of game. This was a giant step in the right direction though.
Later on, I (or another one of the Good Guys) will break down this game more thoroughly. Tonight is for soaking in victory though. We don’t need to think about how the offensive line can’t pass block or about the emergence of a 3rd receiver. We can focus on a defense that was nothing short of phenomenal. We can focus on a surprising running game. We can focus on the play-maker Kasen Williams is turning in to. We can focus on a quarterback who repeatedly gets taken to the ground while throwing balls on target and then gets up and smiles, no matter the outcome. Tonight we saw a team who deserved to be a top-10 team. And what do you know? They did.