Sacks ‘change the mentality’ for Washington defense

The eight interceptions are nice, as are the two that the Washington defense has returned for touchdowns. The five fumble recoveries, too, are certainly not something Husky coach Chris Petersen is going to complain about. Turns out, he’s quite satisfied with his Washington defense, which ranks third in the country in points allowed (10.2) and second in total defense (228.8 yards allowed).

But his satisfaction is not due to the picks or the fumble recoveries. Petersen, rather, is thrilled with his team’s ability to sack the opposing quarterback.

“I keep saying this about every other week, I think sacks – they aren’t probably as significant as turnovers, but they’re one of the next most important things,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said. “I know from our side when it happens to us how it puts us in such a hole. Not that you can’t get out of it, but it’s really, really significant. And then if you can get a bunch of them? I just think it changes the mentality on both sides of the ball.”

What’s surprising is that this year was supposed to be a down year for the Huskies. The 2017 NFL Draft dipped heavily into the Washington secondary, as the Packers took cornerback Kevin King with the 33rd pick, the Cardinals snagged safety Budda Baker three picks after that, and the Eagles signed cornerback Sidney Jones IV at 46.

Not only is Washington simply keeping up with the 2016 defense that led it to a College Football Playoff berth — its actually out-performing it. Through six games, Washington has yet to allow a team to score 20 points, something Arizona did in Week 4 of 2016.

Is it a significant improvement? No. But the fact that this year’s team is an improvement at all upon such a stout unit is as pleasant a surprise as any.

“It starts on that (defensive) line,” Petersen said after Saturday’s 38-7 win over Cal. “If you can make somebody one dimensional it really changes the game.”

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