BY SPNW Staff 07:30AM 09/28/2013

Huskies Turned Huge Loss Into Big Gain

Washington (3-0) has won its conference opener the last two seasons and will face undefeated Arizona in the Pac-12 lid lifter Saturday afternoon.

Kasen Williams (8), who picked up his production last week against Idaho State, and the Huskies launch their Pac-12 season Saturday, hosting Arizona. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwesst

GAME: Arizona (3-0 overall, 0-0 Pac-12) at Washington (3-0 overall, 0-0 Pac-12). WHEN: Saturday, 4 p.m., Husky Stadium. MEETING: 30th (UW leads 18-10-1). COACHES: Steve Sarkisian, Washington; Rich Rodriguez, Arizona. RANKINGS: UW 16 AP, 20 USA/Coaches; Arizona not ranked. LINE: Washington by 9½. TV: FOX. RADIO: KJR-950 AM, 102.9 FM.

Of the six losses by Washington in 2012, none — not even the overtime debacle in the Apple Cup at Pullman — stung Steve Sarkisian and the Huskies harder than their 52-17 defeat at Arizona Oct. 20. In fact, it wasn’t so much a defeat as a debacle, and a significant one, as it turned out.

That loss, in which Arizona scored 24 unanswered points in a span covering the first and second quarters and ran up 533 yards of total offense to Washington’s 380, served as the primary motivation for Sarkisian to switch to the up-tempo style of play that the Huskies successfully employ this season.

“I felt like Arizona’s tempo got us,” Sarkisian told reporters this week. “Part of the reason we’re doing what we’re doing now offensively is to prepare for this game (Saturday), so that when teams go to the up-tempo style against us, we don’t become uncomfortable on defense. We remain comfortable.

“We thought we had a really good plan (last year). But (the Wildcats) got going and we really couldn’t stop them. It felt like the field was slanted. It was 31-17 at halftime. We came out, turned the ball over to start the second half and, bang, they scored again, and again and again. That’s what happens in this style of offense. This is part of the reason we went to this style of offense.”

The change has not only been profound, but historic. The 16th-ranked Huskies rank third in the nation (behind Baylor and Oregon) with an average of 629 yards per game in total offense. With 615 yards against Illinois and 680 against Idaho State, Washington has posted consecutive 600-yard games for the first time in program history. The last time UW had back-to-back 500-yard games: 2007 vs. Arizona and Stanford.

“It’s stressful to go against an offense like that,” said Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez. “The key is preventing them from getting first downs. Keith Price will make plays on schedule, but he will make the unscheduled ones, too. He will extend the play, so you have to be disciplined in your coverage downfield and you have to keep it contained. Here’s a quarterback who has started for at least three years. The guy has played a lot of football; he’s very talented. He’s comfortable with what they’re doing now.”

“We’re starting to find our stride,” Sarkisian said. “The system is doing what I was hopeful it would do, which is emphasize our skilled athletes. And we have some really skilled, talented football players who can create big plays.”

So does Arizona (3-0), which features Ka’Deem Carey, who led the nation in rushing last year with 1,929 yards and has 299 with four touchdowns in the two games he’s played this season (missed the Wildcats’ opener due to a suspension). Carey, who ran for 172 yards and a TD against UW last year, is averaging 7.0 yards per carry while his backup, Daniel Jenkins, averages 6.8. The Wildcats run 73.2 percent of the time, by far the most in the Pac-12.

Even quarterback B.J. Denker, a lefty who completes 56.4 percent of his throws, is a capable runner, averaging 5.6 yards per attempt with five touchdowns, three more than his total of TD passes (2).

While Washington’s up-tempo offense — the Huskies are averaging 83.7 plays per game after averaging 69.5 last season — has garnered the most attention, the UW defense has made vast improvements over a year ago.

Last year, Washington ranked 106th in the nation in total defense (453.31 yard per game). This season, the Huskies are 31st (357.38). The Huskies ranked 76th in rushing defense (168.69) last year, but are 61st this year (160.08). UW has also improved from 108th in scoring defense (35.92) a year ago to 39th (24.15) this season.

Washington is looking to start a season 4-0 for the first time since 2001 and for just the second time since 1992. The Huskies will also be looking to extend to five their streak of victories in conference openers.

SERIES: Dates to Nov. 4, 1978, when the Huskies registered a 31-21 victory at Husky Stadium, a game highlighted by a rarity: tailback Joe Steele threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Tom Porras. Arizona has won four of the last six, including a 52-17 decision last season. In that game, UW scored on a six-yard pass from Keith Price to Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a one-yard run by Bishop Sankey and a 43-yard field goal by Travis Coons.

UW HEAD COACH: Steve Sarkisian (28-25-0) is in his fifth season. After a 5-7 record in 2009, Sarkisian guided the Huskies to a 7-6 record in 2010 that included a 19-7 victory over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. That marked Washington’s first postseason game since the 2002 Sun Bowl. Sarkisian coached the Huskies to subsequent 7-6 marks in 2011 and 2012, earning invitations to the Alamo (Baylor) and MAACO bowls (Boise State). Prior to joining the Huskies, Sarkisian served as a USC assistant under Pete Carroll (2001-03, 2005-08). He also worked as an Oakland Raiders assistant in 2004. Sarkisian played quarterback at Brigham Young University and later played in the Canadian Football League.

UW STATS / NOTES

  • SEASON SUMMARY: Record: 3-0. Home: 2-0. Road: 1-0. Neutral: 1-0. Vs. Pac-12: 0-0. Vs. Pac-12 North: 0-0. Vs. Pac-12 South: 0-0. Vs. Non-Conference: 3-0. Points For: 128 (42.7). Rushing Yards Per Game: 303.7. Passing Yards Per Game: 325.3. Total Offense Per Game: 629.0. Points Against: 30 (10.0). Opp. Rushing Yards Per Game: 109.7. Opp. Passing Yards Per Game: 169.3. Total Defense Per Game: 279.0.
  • UW ranks No. 3 in the NCAA in total offense, No. 9 in rushing offense, No. 17 in passing offense and No. 3 in third-down conversions.
  • Washington also ranks No. 8 in scoring defense, No. 12 in total defense and No. 4 in red zone defense.
  • Bishop Sankey is ther nation’s No. 2 rusher at 148.7 yards per game. Sankey averaged 152 yards over his past seven contests.
  • Quarterback Keith Price is No. 8 in the nation in passing efficiency at 186.13. Last year, his efficiency rank was 122.38. The school single-season record is 161.9 by Price in 2011.
  • Price is averaging 293 passing yards, placing him on a pace to finish with 3,516. That would rank as the No. 2 total in UW history behind Cody Pickett’s 4,458 in 2002.
  • Price is completing 77 percent of his passes. The UW single-season record is 66.9, by Price in 2011.
  • Washington has scored 28 point off five turnovers this season. Its opponents haven’t converted a turnover into points.
  • The Huskies average 7.5 yards per offensive play. Their opponents average 3.8.
  • Middle linebacker John Timu, who sat out the Idaho State game after suffering a shoulder injury against Illinois, has been cleared to play.
  • Senior defensive back Taz Stevenson is out for the season after shoulder surgery. He is the first UW player lost to a season-ending injury.
  • Washington’s game at No. 5 Stanford Oct. 5 starts at 7:30 p.m. and be televised by ESPN.

HUSKIES 2012 OFFENSIVE LEADERS

Rushing

Player G Att. Yards TDs Long Y/G
Bishop Sankey 3 64 446 4 36 148.7
Jessie Callier 3 14 108 2 39 36.0
D. Washington 3 25 105 1 11 35.0
Cyler Miles 2 5 96 0 61 48.0
Total 3 157 911 9 61 303.7
Opponents 3 108 329 2 18 109.7

Passing

Player G Att. Cmp. Yards TDs/INT Effic.
Keith Price 3 87 67 879 7/1 186.13
Total 3 94 72 976 8/1 189.77
Opponents 3 112 58 508 1/4 85.69

Receiving

Player G Rec. Yards TD Long Y/G
Jaydon Mickens 3 20 199 1 30 66.3
Kasen Williams 3 11 204 1 43 68.0
Kevin Smith 3 11 201 0 42 67.0
A.S.-Jenkins 2 8 70 1 34 35.0
Totals 3 72 976 8 57 325.3
Opponents 3 58 508 1 72 169.3

HUSKIES 2012 DEFENSIVE LEADERS

Category Skinny
Tackles Timu 18, Fuiamono 17, Thompson 13
Sacks Shirley 3.0, Kikaha 3.0, Kearse 1.0
Interceptions Parker 2, Ducre, Wallace 1 each
Passes Defensed Four tied with two each
Forced Fumbles Kikaha 1
Fumbles Recovered Feeney

Pac-12 Standings / North

Schools Overall Conf. Next
Stanford 3-0 1-0 Sat, at Washington St.
Oregon St. 3-1 1-0 Sat, vs. Colorado
Wash. State 3-1 1-0 Sat, vs. Stanford
Oregon 3-0 0-0 Sat, vs. California
Washington 3-0 0-0 Sat, vs. Arizona
Cal 1-2 0-0 Sat, at Oregon

Pac-12 Standings / South

Schools Overall Conf. Next
UCLA 3-0 0-0 Oct. 3, at Utah
Arizona 3-0 0-0 Sat, at Washington
Colorado 2-0 0-0 Sat, at Oregon St.
Utah 3-1 0-1 Oct. 3, vs. UCLA
USC 3-1 0-1 Sat, at Arizona St.
Arizona St. 2-1 0-1 Sat, vs. USC

ARIZONA NOTES: The Wildcats (3-0) have victories over Northern Arizona (35-0), UNLV (58-13) and Texas-San Antonio  (38-13) . . . The  roster lists two players with ties to the state of Washington, including LB Sir Thomas Jackson (Seattle) and CB Justin Samuels (Camas) . . . Rich Rodriguez is in his 29th year of coaching and second as head coach at Arizona. Prior to coaching the Wildcats, he served as head coach at Michigan from 2008-10 and West Virginia (2001-07). He is a West Virginia graduate.

University of Washington 2013 Schedule/Results

Date Opponent UW Rnk Opp Rnk W/L Score Rec.
8/31/13 vs. Boise St. 19 W 38-6 1-0
9/14/13 at Illinois 19 W 34-14 2-0
9/21/13 vs. Ida. State 17 W 56-0 3-0
9/28/13 vs. Arizona 16 —–
10/5/13 at Stanford 5 —–
10/12/13 vs. Oregon 2 ——
10/19/13 at ASU ——
10/26/13 vs. Cal ——
11/9/13 vs. Colorado ——
11/15/13 at UCLA 13 ——
11/23/15 at OSU ——
11/29/13 vs. WSU ——

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