Eight different Huskies score the eight touchdowns. Keith Price accounts for four – and plays only the first 23 minutes. And two TDs get called back by two of UW’s 16 flags as 17th-ranked Washington moves to 3-0 for the first time since 2001.
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE – Friday night, Steve Sarkisian gave his rising Huskies an impassioned, impactful talk at their team hotel about honoring ailing “Dawgfather” Don James in a way the Hall of Fame coach would appreciate most.
“I talked to the team about Coach James and playing a brand of football that he’d be proud of. And I think we’re getting really close to doing it,” Sarkisian said. “We’re almost there. We are a physical team. We run the football first. We stop the run. We play fast. We play hard.”
And they obliterate teams they are supposed to.
Eight different Huskies scored their eight touchdowns against lower-division Idaho State on Saturday. Keith Price accounted for four himself – while playing only the first 23 minutes.
Deontae Cooper got mobbed in the end zone by the second-string offense – then by the starting O-line, starting defensive backs, quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo and everyone else in purple on the sideline. That was in celebration of the resilient, universally loved running back’s long-awaited first career touchdown run early in the fourth quarter of his ongoing comeback from three knee reconstructions in as many years.
Hau’oli Kikaha had three sacks in the first half – his first three since the 2011 opener and two subsequent knee reconstructions – and was called “a freak of nature out there” by safety Sean Parker, who got his ninth career interception.
“It was good to just party out there,” Parker said.
It was a Don James-era-like domination by 17th-ranked Washington, which moved to 3-0 for the first time since 2001 with a 56-0 wipeout of the bamboozled Bengals before 67,093 at sunny Husky Stadium.
It was the largest Huskies’ shutout win since Gerald Ford was president: Oct. 26, 1974, a 66-0 rout of Oregon.
“So many cool things,” Sarkisian said. “We took care of business the way I thought we were capable of doing.”
Except for all the flags. The 80-year-old Coach James, at home in suburban Kirkland, Wash., preparing to begin chemotherapy Monday for his fight against pancreatic cancer, would not be proud of those.
Eight were in the first quarter – five on pre-snap fouls that drive Sarkisian and every other football guy with a whistle nuts. Washington was penalized 16 times in all, two short of the UW record for a game set in 1998. This, after 12 flags marred last week’s 34-24 win over Illinois.
So when looking for what the Huskies got out of this tune up for next week’s Pac-12 opener versus Arizona and then tests against Stanford and Oregon – a game in which the starters began departing in the second quarter -- the Dawgs don’t need to look any further than the need to decrease their many penalties.
Everything else is rolling along just fine, thank you.
“Now, the final piece is we’ve got to clean up these penalties. And we’ll get that done,” said Sarkisian, who has Washington poised to move up Sunday from its highest national ranking since the start of the 2003 season.
“We’ve fixed a lot of things in this program over the last five years. And we’ll fix the penalties, believe me.”
After this performance, believers abound.
This runaway was even done with the tact for which James, who went 153-57-2 and won a share of the 1991 national championship until his retirement following the ‘92 season, remains renowned.
“I’ve been coaching a long time,” Idaho State’s Mike Kramer said, “but the way Coach Sarkisian and staff treated us knowing that we were wounded was one of the most outstanding examples of sportsmanship and care of another team that I have ever seen.”
Every eligible player Sarkisian isn’t trying to redshirt played. The offense gained 370 yards rushing with nine different ball carriers. It had 680 yards in all.
And that’s with 130 yards of penalties holding them back from far more. That’s with UW’s starters beginning to exit midway through the second quarter. With Bishop Sankey, the nation’s leading rusher at 184.5 yards per game coming in following a career-high 208 yards last week, leaving after two series, four carries and 77 yards – then looking antsy on the sidelines while watching for so long.
“Bishop’s fine. He kind of landed on his shoulder. It’s not serious,” Sarkisian said. “The game going in the direction it was going in, I just didn’t feel the need to put him back in there. He had 35 carries last week. He had four today, which is good. I want him fresh and healthy for Pac-12 play.”
The 680 yards from the high-speed, no-huddle offense makes this season the first time since at least 1947, when UW began keeping such statistics has gained at least 500 yards in three consecutive games.
“That's awesome,” said sophomore wide receiver Jaydon Mickens, Washington’s leading receiver coming in who had three catches for 39 yards before leaving before halftime.
“But we feel like we should be putting up 800 yards per game.”
Such are the sky-high standards and expectation for 2013 Husky football.
It could have and should have been 70-0, which would have been the largest shutout win in 124 years of Husky football.
A holding penalty on Greg Ducre wiped out Ducre’s interception and return for a touchdown in the second quarter. Another holding penalty, on offense, took away Dwayne Washington’s long touchdown sprint down the UW sideline in the third quarter.
Washington scored earlier, on a 5-yard touchdown flip from Price. That made it 42-0 with 8:33 gone in the second quarter.
Price left the game after that improv play. He was denied his third consecutive 300-yard passing day only because it would have been rude to keep him in the game for more than the 20 minutes he played.
“Yeah, it was different,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever sat out 2 ½ quarters of a game I started.”
The fifth-year senior, enjoying pass protection from a resurgent offensive that he last had in his record-setting 2011 season, is completing 77 percent of his passes (67 of 87) for 879 yards and seven touchdowns through three games. His only true mistake has been a forced-pass interception on his first pass of the 38-6 win over Boise State in the opener.
Yet he said with a mostly straight face (this being Price, he managed a small smile): “I think I’ve done a decent job – take away my first pass of the season.”
Price’s latest scoring throws came after the Huskies got an 3-yard TD run by Sankey, an 8-yard scoring run by Jesse Callier and 1-yard run by Price on an option keeper in the first quarter.
Idaho State (2-1, with both wins over Division-II teams) of the Big Sky Conference had no time to throw. The Bengals had no holes to run into — and no size up front defensively to withstand the Huskies’ running game and pass protection. Huskies right tackle Ben Riva, for instance, outweighed the Bengal he was blocking most by 59 pounds.
The total yards at halftime were indicative of the disparity in talent and size: Washington 397, Idaho State 20.
Idaho State was in negative total yardage until the final 6 minutes of the half and finished with just 164 yards – 144 came against UW’s third-stringers after halftime. The only whiffs the Bengals had of potentially scoring ended with two of Washington’s seven sacks. Idaho State then two missed field goals right after those.
“We shut them down. We shut them out. Great game for the defense,” Sarkisian said. “They kind of did everything right.”
The best moment came after backup quarterback Cyler Miles broke free for a 61-yard run to end the third quarter. With the ball on the Idaho State 4, Sarkisian called Cooper, who ended up with 14 carries for 59 yards, off the sideline into the game specifically so he could score.
He did. He following behind guard James Atoe and high-stepping for a score that had been motivating him through all the lonely, interminable, four-a-day sessions in the UW training and rehabilitation room.
The Huskies’ mobbed him. Price said he almost cried.
He wasn’t alone.
“I knew it was going to be a special moment,” Cooper said. “They saw me put in all the time, all the work to get back.
“I trained my butt off. And when I got the chance, I was stoked. There was no way I was going to go down. I saw the “HUSKIES” written in the end zone and said, ‘I’m getting this.’”