Coach Rod Carey said the secondary was going to be the strength of the Huskies’ defense at the beginning of the 2013 football
The Huskies’ secondary has struggled in some areas, to say the least. They have given up an average of 305 yards per game through the air, as well as 15 passing touchdowns on the season.
Going off that, the Huskies’ defense has thrived in one particular area: interceptions. As a team, the Huskies are tied for ninth in the nation with 10 interceptions.
The play of the Huskies’ safeties, senior Jimmie Ward and red shirt junior Dechane Durante, has been a big part of the Huskies’ success.
As a duo, they have recorded eight of the Huskies’ 10 interceptions this season.
“I think they’ve done a great job of understanding the defense and where they fit in the scheme of things, what their responsibilities are,” said safeties coach Jay Niemann. “And when you get yourself in the right spot because those fundamentals are correct, then that’s when you have a chance to make plays.”
This has been a season to remember for Ward, who is tied for first in the nation with five interceptions. In his first three seasons, Ward only made four total interceptions.
“They’ve seen I can tackle, they’ve seen I can block punts, they haven’t seen interceptions,” Ward said. “They’ve seen pass breakups — 14 last year — and I dropped a couple of interceptions last year, but they haven’t seen interceptions, so that’s something I emphasized on going into this season.”
Ward has had a knack for the football in big moments this season, seemingly picking off passes whenever the Huskies need a big play. In week one against Iowa, Ward made the interception to set up the game-winning field goal. In week four against Purdue, he recorded his first interception for a touchdown, and he came away with the only takeaway in the game against Akron when he picked off quarterback Kyle Pohl.
“It’s a matter of him having a thorough understanding of his job and being fundamentally sound,” Niemann said. “Which puts him in a position to make those plays, and then just having the experience to know when it’s time to step in front of somebody or when it’s not, and pulling the trigger right time. That’s just a result of experience.”
Durante’s play has been just as strong. He is second on the Huskies with three interceptions, which ties him for second in the MAC behind only Ward. Durante’s biggest game of the season came against Purdue when he picked off quarterback Rob Henry twice.
The key for the duo’s success has been their chemistry on the field, as they have played together for the last three seasons.
“More than anything we can just count on each other,” Durante said. “I know he’s going to do his job; he know’s I’m going to do mine. So with that, I don’t have to make up for him in any other coverages, he can go make plays, and I can go make plays and that’s why you see the eight interceptions we have.”