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Opponent Preview: Washington’s Defense

NCAA Football: Oregon at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

​The Washington Huskies are 10-1 all time against the Utes, including two Utah losses last season where the Huskies allowed the Utah offense to score just 10 total points between the two contests. In fact, the 2018 Huskies defense was loaded with NFL talent, but fast-forward just one season and the bulk of that veteran talent is gone, and what’s left is a UW defense that’s allowing 21.5 on average per game.

​Headlined by senior defensive back, Myles Bryant, the 5’9”, 185 lb veteran is one of few remaining starters from last season’s dominant squad. Through eight games, Bryant has accumulated a team-high 51 total tackles (33 of those are registered as solo tackles), one sack, one forced fumble + recovery, and two interceptions. Bryant is joined by junior Elijah Molden (5’10”, 190) in the backfield, who has registered 24 solo tackles himself, along with two forced fumbles, and an interception, solidifying the secondary as Washington’s top defensive unit.

​Up front, senior defensive end, Benning Potaoa’e (6’3”, 290 lbs) has an impressive stat sheet to his name with four sacks, one forced fumble, and 19 total tackles, however his most impressive game came against DII rival, Eastern Washington in week one, racking up four tackles, and two of his sacks in his season debut.

​While Potaoa’e has leveled off since his debut, junior linebacker Ryan Bowman has been growing into his role week after week. The 6’0”, 277 lb product of Bellevue, WA accounted for ten total tackles and two sacks in his first four games of the season, with 13 additional tackles and two more sacks coming in his last four games, including a monster game against Stanford where Bowman lit up with five total tackles in the 23-13 loss.

​The loss of experience has undoubtedly been a hindrance for the Huskies, who have struggled to compete in the PAC-12 North, losing to each of their three division opponents they have faced so far this season (Cal, Stanford and Oregon), allowing at least 20 points in each of those losses. With Oregon surging forward, Chris Petersen’s squad is officially out of the race for the PAC-12 North, while Utah is surging towards a possible back-to-back division title coming their way. As both teams enter the final portion of their schedules with opposing trajectories, Utah’s offense will need to prove they finally have what it takes to overcome a traditionally stout UW defense.