Nov. 16, 2012
|WASHINGTON at COLORADO
Saturday, Nov. 17 | 10:30 am (PT) | Boulder, Colo.
Gameday Central | TV: FX (Channel Finder) | Radio: KJR (Affiliates)
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
BOULDER, Colo. - The Huskies landed here a mile high into the Rocky Mountains wearing dress shirts, slacks and ties. Again.
Andrew Hudson took best-dressed honors Friday. Again. It's the same honor quarterback Keith Price gave the defensive end two weeks ago, when the Dawgs were dressed up for the first time on the road in four seasons under Steve Sarkisian.
It worked then, at California, this fashionable reminder that UW is on a "business trip."
Now the business for Washington (6-4, 4-3 Pac-12) isn't angling for a better bowl status when it plays Colorado (1-9, 1-6) in a rare morning kickoff Saturday at Folsom Field.
It's not (yet) the eight-win season, something UW hasn't had in 11 years but is still there for the taking this year.
No, the Huskies' visit here is simply about the quest to make this another successful trip.
"It's to see if we can put two road wins together in a row," coach Steve Sarkisian said following last week's 34-15 domination of Utah in Seattle. "That hasn't happened in a while."
In fact it's happened just once for Washington since 2002. That was at the end of 2010, Sarkisian's second season at UW. That year ended with must wins at Cal and at Washington State to secure six victories and the first bowl game for the program in eight years.
The Huskies have made 53 trips, including postseason ones, in the last decade. Only once have they been happy on consecutive rides home.
Justin Wilcox has been around for just four those treks, all this season.
"Is it really the road? Is it the trip? Is it all that?" the Huskies' first-year defensive coordinator said this week. "Whatever we have to do to make us believe. Wear suits? Hey, again, whatever works.
"It's like `Hoosiers.' I'm going to take the tape measure and measure their field (at Colorado) - see, it's the exact same," he joked.
"But, I mean, I would hope at the end of the day you would look at, `Here's what you have to do to win.' The crowd, the road, none of that matters. It's all about us and how we prepare and how we execute on game day. When you do that, when you execute on game day, you win. Then if you play at home, away, out in the middle of Lake Washington, it doesn't matter."
"It's just focusing on that -- instead of whether we have to wear suits."
Speaking of wardrobes, Wilcox threw his head back and laughed when told of the questions Sarkisian has been getting about UW's three-game winning streak coinciding with the head man wearing a W cap instead of his usual visor on the sideline.
"The things you guys come up with," Wilcox said, adding he just wears whatever team hoodie that happens to be hanging in the locker room just before taking the field. "It's not a lot of thought going into that.
"More thought is going into practice, and the defenses we are going to run and how we are going to stop Colorado."
Wilcox is trying to mix and match along his battered defensive line that is likely to again be without defensive ends Talia Crichton and Pio Vatuvei Saturday. Athletic freshman Shane Brostek has moved from guard on offense to the D-line. And if Colorado gets in third-and-long situations, look for Austin Seferian-Jenkins, named this week as a semifinalist for the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end, to be a pass-rush end. He was that for the first time last week against Utah. That would again push Hudson inside and leave the 6-6, 260-pound ASJ opposite Josh Shirley in a suped-up, three-defensive end pass rush.
The Buffaloes have been in a lot of steep holes lately.
They have lost six straight after rallying late to win at Washington State on Sept. 22. They have been outscored 317-82 in those six defeats.
They are last in the conference in scoring (17.6 points per game) and total offense (307 yards per game). Coach John Embree has replaced Kansas transfer Jordan Webb as starting quarterback with Nick Hirschman. But Hirschman got a concussion last week in Colorado's 56-31 loss at Arizona. Connor Wood is now likely to make his first career start Saturday, and Embree said this week more than one QB is likely to play against the Huskies.
With all that flux, CU will likely try to control the game with the running of freshman Christian Powell, who has rushed for more than 120 yards twice in three games. Yet he averages only 10 carries per game, indicative of how many long-yardage situations the Buffs have been stuck in. Colorado's conversion rate on third downs is 30 percent, the lowest in the league.
Offensively, the Huskies have surprising, 1,000-yard sophomore back Bishop Sankey to run against the league's most scored-upon (47 points per game) and rushed on (228 yards allowed on the ground per week) defense. Sankey last week became the 11th Husky to rush for 1,000 yards in a season when he bolted for 156 against Utah's touted defensive line.
Sankey's romps behind UW's growing offensive line of four first-year starters flanking senior center Drew Schaefer have lately set up Price for more time to throw downfield. The result last week was a season-high 277 yards passing against Utah. It was Price's first game with three total touchdowns against a team from the Football Bowl Subdivision since his record-setting seven against Baylor in last December's Alamo Bowl.
Price is also running far more decisively up field when pressured than he did earlier this fall. His first rushing touchdown of the season last week came after he felt pressure outside. He took off up the middle then leaped over the goal line head first.
Asked if that decisive running is a function of Price being healthier than he was when he played through sprained knees in 2011, Sarkisian said: "If anything I think he's getting healthy mentally. He's getting back to being the Keith Price I know."
Price acknowledged he's now taking advantage of opponents' scouting reports from earlier in the season, ones that weren't exactly cautioning defenders to beware of No. 17 taking off running.
"I don't think I'd have respected my running ability earlier in the year," the redshirt junior said, laughing.
As for those dress shirts and ties, Price said they aren't as comfortable as the team sweats suits the players had been wearing on trips. Then he laughed again.
"If winning is going to be the result of it," he said, "I don't mind."