Thursday, December 15, 2011
Holt, Huskies eyeballing RG3
By Ted Miller
Nick Holt can laugh now. The diverse playmaking of Baylor quarterback and 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III is so impressive, a defensive coordinator can only find amusement when asked how Washington is going to stop him in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29.
Defensive coordinator Nick Holt is preparing his Huskies for the likes of Baylor QB Robert Griffin III.
"The guy is phenomenal," Holt said.
The numbers are mind-blowing. Griffin ranked No. 1 in the nation in passing efficiency, his 192 score being 10 points higher than the marks of 2010 Heisman winner Cam Newton and Heisman finalist Kellen Moore of Boise State.
He's accounted for 4,642 total yards and 45 touchdowns. He's thrown 36 TD passes and just six interceptions. He completed 72.4 percent of his throws. Oh, and he rushed for 644 yards and nine TDs. Only five Pac-12 running backs scored more than nine rushing touchdowns.
Meanwhile, there's the Huskies defense. It didn't play well this year and Holt heard plenty about that. He's the Pac-12's highest paid defensive coordinator not named Monte Kiffin, and his defense ranked 94th in the nation. Its 33.3 points per game ranked 10th in the conference.
Of course, in the name of positive spin, there's this: The Huskies will be the sixth best defense Baylor and Griffin have faced. And they've faced some really lousy ones.
Five Baylor foes rank from 99th to 120th (Kansas in last place in FBS football) in the nation in total defense. Three others ranked in the 60s. The only top-25 defense the Bears faced was No. 14 Texas.
That said, the Bears hung 48 points and 511 yards on the Longhorns.
There's other good news for the Huskies. Like the Big 12, the Pac-12 is QB-centric. Holt and the Huskies have seen plenty of good QBs of all types this season.
"He's extremely athletic and he's a great quarterback," Holt said. "He can run and throw. He's kind of the best of everybody we've played. And we've played some great quarterbacks in our conference."
The Huskies thought they would be much better on defense this year but they regressed. Losing end and top pass rusher Hau'oli Jamora in game four against California to a knee injury hurt. Youth and inconsistency at outside linebacker hurt. A lack of a consistent pass rush hurt. A tendancy to give up big plays in the passing game hurt. And poor tackling and sometimes tentative play hurt.
There is impatience among the Huskies fan base, which sees a solid offense not getting help from a porous defense.
"We're really young in a lot of key positions," Holt said. "We're getting better but we're still young. It takes time to build a great, great defense."
Holt does have something to point to that could give his team confidence: Its bowl experience in 2010.
Nebraska stomped the Huskies last year 56-21 in the regular season, rolling up 533 yards. In the Holiday Bowl, that same Cornhuskers squad produced just 189 yards in a 19-7 defeat, one of the most shocking results of the bowl season.
"It was a great turnaround," Holt said. "We played well. That's what we've got to do this game."
Of course, that Nebraska team was reeling as QB Taylor Martinez was banged up and had lost his confidence. Baylor and Griffin appear to be peaking.
Holt and the Huskies aren't going to be expected to stop Griffin and the Bears. Just slow them down. Hold them to a below-average game. Maybe force a turnover or two. And then let the Huskies offense -- QB Keith Price, RB Chris Polk and company -- get to work on the nation's 114th-ranked defense, which yields nearly 36 points per game.
Yes, most pundits expect plenty of points, see a 78 1/2-point over-under, the largest of the bowl season. Holt's charge is to make sure Baylor has at least one less than the Huskies.