The UW scored touchdowns on its first five possessions and became the first team in school history to score 30+ in its first six games in routing Colorado at Husky Stadium Saturday.
STEVE: Saturday at Husky Stadium is what Damon Runyon used to describe as a “scoreboard orgy.” First team in Washington football history to score 30 or more points in the first six games of a season. Most points scored in a game by UW in more than a decade, including 38 in the first half. Four more TD passes from Keith Price to four receivers. Another 100-yard gambol (117) by Chris Polk. Exceptional run defense (62 yards allowed). One win away from bowl eligibility.
The Huskies are on the cusp of a Top 25 ranking. Wow Stat of the day had to be that the Huskies rushed for more yards (295) than Colorado had total yards (269). Now please give me at least 15 minutes before I have to think about Stanford and Andrew Luck.
ART: The biggest feat for head coach Steve Sarkisian in beating Colorado 52-24? “The 295 yards rushing,” he said. “Then holding Colorado to 62 yards rushing. Establish the run and stop the run: That’s a winning formula that works better later in the season.” What caught my eye was seven TDs by seven players. Lots of weapons.
STEVE: Three years ago, the UW didn’t have seven players who could even score a touchdown, much less seven in the same game. The only negative I could see was UW’s pass defense. Of course, that’s been a negative all year, but the offense has come through every week, evidenced by a school-record 30-plus points in six consecutive games. Not even the co-national champs in 1991 did that.
ART: Sarkisian was worried about a letdown after a big road win in Utah, followed by a bye week and a home game against a weak opponent. But by scoring five TDs in the first five possessions, it demonstrated a maturity and focus that a team lightly populated by seniors rarely shows. Apparently the lesson was learned after the lackluster opener against Eastern Washington.
STEVE: I sort of expected an Eastern Washington-type letdown for exactly the reasons you mentioned. But you’re right, apparently the lesson was learned. It’s now hard to believe UW even played Eastern Washington. I think a big reason for the surge is Sarkisian’s play calling, the up-tempo approach to offense, and the manner in which Price executes it.
ART: Here was Sarkisian’s post-game comparison: Asked whether the offensive domination was a little similar to his days coaching at USC, he said, “When you get that rhythm going, it’s pretty reminiscent. I’ve been on both sides, where every play looks good on the call sheet, like it did there for awhile, then when you’re struggling, none of them look good.” He wasn’t exaggerating — that was an old USC-style domination.
STEVE: If I’d told you in early September that by mid-season the Huskies would be averaging 37 points per game and the focus of their offense would be a first-year starting quarterback, how much would you have fined me?
ART: More than the NFL fines for a hit to the head. Plus a suspension. Clearly there was going to be an uptick with a better line as well as superstud TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. But Price was so good again Saturday (21 for 28 for 257 yards, four TDs and no picks) that for the first time, the H-phrase — Heisman Trophy — trickled into the post-game conversation. Sarkisian: “I don’t think it’s preposterous. First you have to win, then the stats are the stats.” Asked about it, Price offered the inevitable grin and said, “I can’t worry about that. I worry about winning games.” Well, there’s plenty of people ready to worry about it for him.
STEVE: Price probably can’t generate enough hype in the last six weeks for a sniff from Heisman voters across the country, most of whom are comotose, anyway. Still, the stats are what they are. Price became just the sixth UW quarterback to exceed 20 TD passes in a season (21 after throwing four). He’s tied for fourth on the UW single-season list behind Cody Pickett (28, 2002), Brock Huard (25, 1997), Billy Joe Hobert (24, 1991) and with Jake Locker (21, 2009). And in only six games! Next time you see him, please remind Hugh Millen that he threw 12 TD passes in his 20-game UW career.
ART: Since Millen once said on KJR he would be willing to have Locker’s baby, he better be prepared to have Price’s twins. All those former Huskies QBs had way more attempts per game than Price, especially Pickett. What was so impressive Saturday was that the Huskies (including relief pitcher Nick Montana) averaged 8.9 yards per passing attempt and 7.4 yards per rushing attempt. That is tremendous efficiency.
But it must be said that Colorado, which already lost to WSU, is way down in talent from its national championship days in 1990 under coach Bill McCartney. Much like the Huskies, NCAA scandal has taken them down — down to where the Huskies were three years ago at 0-12. Said head coach Jon Embree: “We got beat in every phase. We didn’t stop them running. We didn’t stop them throwing. We got maybe two pressures on the quarterback.”
STEVE: Just twins? Hugh probably needs to be prepared to become the football equivalent of “Octo-Mom.” But you’re right about Colorado’s Great Depression, which sets up a discourse about the next three UW games: at Stanford Saturday, vs. Arizona (Oct. 29), and vs. Oregon (Nov. 5). I see only one win in there (Arizona), which would make the Huskies 6-3 heading into road games at USC (Nov. 12) and at Oregon State (Nov. 19).
ART: The last two games, the Huskies feasted on the Pac-12 newbies. Utah and Colorado are still in baby booties, not boots. Stanford and Oregon obviously are magnitudes greater. The Washington offense can run with both, but the defensive secondary, as you mentioned, is still the weak link. The D-line has become better with the return of junior DT Semisi Tokolahi. Its play against the Stanford O-line, and the pursuit of the Seahawks . . .er, the Cardinal quarterback, Luck, will be the ballgame.