Oct. 15, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
He - heck, everybody in purple and gold -- adored the Huskies' rampaging response to a week off and a big win at Utah. The four TD passes from the scintillating Price -- in the first half. The 38 points in the first half, which made this the first team in 120 seasons of UW football to score 30 or more in its first six games. Yet another 100-yard rushing day from Chris Polk.
But what the third-year coach with standards as high as Price's passing rating right now loved most came in the locker room after the game, after Washington had scored its most points in 12 years to ransack Colorado 52-24 at a sunny-all-over Husky Stadium.
His Dawgs acted as if being 3-0 in the conference for the first time since 1997, 5-1 overall for the first time since 2001 and poised to be nationally ranked is exactly where they are supposed to be.
"No, they are not surprised at all," said the former Rose Bowl-winning offensive coordinator at USC.
"We are comfortable with where we are - and where we're headed," added Colorado-native Devin Aguilar, who caught one of Price's TD throws.
And the unshakeable Price, with his characteristic smile, said this after his third game with four TD throws this season: "I think we're proving a lot of people wrong."
The highlight-packed blowout of a Colorado team (1-6, 0-3 Pac-12) that came in allowing the most passing touchdowns in the conference was the latest step in the evolution of a program that was 0-12 just 2½ seasons ago.
Was it really just 2½ seasons ago?
"We are definitely getting consistent - in all three phases, which is cool," Sarkisian said, understating 'cool' by, oh, a tad. "We aren't relying on one phase. Today was a complete win. And it's been that way now for 2½ games, if you go back to the second half of the Cal game, the Utah game and this game. We are playing consistent football in all three phases."
Nowhere more stunningly than on offense.
The Huskies' O was like a machine against the besieged Buffaloes - the way-back machine.
Washington scored its most points in a game since Sept. 22, 2001, when it beat Idaho 53-3 on its way to a 7-1 start. Price's scoring throws to Jermaine Kearse, Kevin Smith, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Aguilar came in the highest-scoring first half since Washington put up 45 against Oregon State on Oct. 9, 1999.
"Just throw the ball up, and I knew they were going to come down with it," said Price, who finished 21 of 28 for 257 yards passing before yielding to give backup Nick Montana his college debut late in the third quarter.
"Oh, man. Keith was just feeding everyone," Kearse said. "It's a lot of fun when everything is working like that."
This statement win suggests UW is getting the consistency Sarkisian has craved since arriving three years ago. The way he sees it, the Huskies have played one bad quarter in the last month - the third period at Nebraska when they let a 20-17 deficit turn into a 37-17 hole in their only loss this season, 51-38.
The complete performance sets up a nationally televised showdown next Saturday night between the Huskies and seventh-ranked Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., for first place in the Pac-12's North division.
"Yeah, I guess it's a big game," deadpanned receiver Kevin Smith, who was part of the first-half carnival of scoring.
The Huskies were already thinking about Stanford inside the locker room following their ninth win in 10 games overall.
"They are a great football team and they are highly ranked for a reason," said linebacker Cort Dennison, who again led the Huskies with six tackles.
"At the same time, we can play football, too. We've showed it so far this year. We've just got to bring it."
They brought it against Colorado.
Washington went right at the glaring weakness of Colorado: A patchwork secondary starting a converted wide receiver that was allowing a Pac-12-high 14 touchdown passes entering Saturday. That was why CU was 11th in the league in surrendering 33.3 points per game.
The Huskies scored more than that in less than 28 minutes.
Washington scored on its first six possessions. Its previous best start to a game offensively this season was scoring on its first three drives.
The Buffs' variety of what Sarkisian called exotic, NFL-like blitzes never got to Price, and the Huskies riddled the defensive backs - heck, the entire defense - for 562 total yards. That is the fourth-most yards for Washington in a decade.
Smith, lined up outside at wide receiver, even got his first career rushing touchdown in the lighting-filled opening half. He made an ankle-breaking move inside a charging Buffalo in the open field on a reverse for a 22-yard score.
Washington roared to a 38-10 lead and had 379 yards by halftime. It was UW's most first-half points since it had a 45-0 lead at the break versus Oregon St on Oct. 9, 1999.
"Obviously, one of the best first halves of football we've played since we've been here," Sarkisian said.
He said it felt like his Rose Bowl-winning days with top-10 NFL draft picks at quarterback at USC.
"That first half did," Sarkisian said. "You get going like that, and you are calling plays ... that felt today, when you get that rhythm going, pretty reminiscent, yeah."
Price is tied with his predecessor and weekly postgame chatter, Jake Locker, for fourth-most touchdown passes in an entire Huskies season. And Washington still has six more regular-season games remaining.
"He's got plays, man," Sarkisian said. "In the football world, he's a baller, if you asked our kids
"I love coaching him. It's fun. It's fun being on the field with him on game day."
Price now has 21 touchdown passes through six games, second in the nation behind Baylor's Robert Griffin III entering Saturday night.
The redshirt sophomore deflects all credit, saying he doesn't know his place among the nation's best.
"I don't even have internet at my apartment," he said.
After halftime Polk, who once ran after receiving a direct snap in Wildcat formation, romped for the rest of his 117 yards on his 16th career 100-yard rushing day. That leaves him one behind Napoleon Kaufman (1991-94) for UW's all-time record.
Polk finished with 117 yards on 18 carries. He even caught the second touchdown pass of his career, on a double move to the end zone and yet another exquisite throw by Price. That made it 28-10 midway through the second quarter.
Smith's TD run was the first by someone other than Polk or Locker since Johri Fogerson's against Idaho on Sept. 12, 2009. Then sophomore RB Jesse Callier got his first career score, on a 26-yard run that made it 45-17 late in the third quarter.
True freshman Bishop Sankey, who finished with 71 of UW's season-high 295 yards rushing, added another rushing score from 3 yards out. The first touchdown of his career with 2:32 remaining accounted for the final points.
And the improving defense continued to gain confidence. It set a season-low for yards allowed for the second consecutive game, holding Colorado to 269 total yards.
So it's on to Stanford for first place in the North. Reminded the Cardinal has physically pounded Washington in each of the last two seasons, Dennison just nodded.
"Yeah, those were tough games," the senior co-captain said. "But those were different years, too. This is a different football team that we have this year."
QUICK HITS: Washington has beaten Utah and Colorado, the league's new teams, by a combined 83-34. ... Montana completed his first collegiate pass, for 6 yards to Aguilar in the fourth quarter. But he was sacked from behind, hit in his throwing arm and lost a fumble deep in his own territory on his first college play. Asked what he said to his redshirt freshman on the sideline after that play, Sarkisian replied, "Welcome to college football." ... Kearse's 28th career touchdown in the first quarter leaves him two behind Mario Bailey (1989-91) for most in UW history. ... Freshman Seferian-Jenkins has four touchdown receptions this season. That's already 10th in Washington history for a tight end - for a career. ... Colorado lost for the 22nd consecutive time outside its home state.