Five Things We Learned ... Utah Edition
This might be the best time for Washington to approach the bye week. Off to a 4-1 start, the Huskies have positioned themselves in the upper-echelon of teams in the Pac-12 and now can use the weekend off to rest weary bodies. With that in mind, we'll revisit the game at Utah, where the Dawgs shook off (by their own standards) a lethargic first 30 minutes of football to stun the Utes in Salt Lake City.
Coming off that performance, here's a five things we learned about the Huskies.
The Dawgs Are Road Warriors: For the first time since the 2000 season the Huskies have won three straight road games within the conference. With last Saturday's 31-14 win at Utah, the Huskies have piggybacked off last season's dramatic close, which saw the Dawgs pick up victories at California and at Washington State. For Coach Sarkisian, this comes down to a tried-and-true philosophy of defense and ball control, as the Utes rushed the ball for just 17 yards and faced a steady diet of Chris Polk in the second half. This took a lot of the steam out of a boisterous crowd at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Defense Continues To Improve: Utah piled up 305 yards through the air, but did so by completely abandoning their run-game. By making the Utes one-dimensional, the Huskies were able to pin their ears back on defense, play fast, and force turnovers. All in all, Washington had five takeaways (two interceptions and three fumble recoveries), including one that it took back for a score. Utes running back John White found zero room to run, thanks to some stellar play from defensive tackles Alameda Ta'Amu and Semisi Tokolahi.
Chris Polk Is A Bell Cow: When all else fails, the Huskies know they can hand the ball off to their junior TB and find yards. Polk rushed for 189 yards, and although he didn't have a touchdown he was able to soften up the Utes defense and open throwing lanes for Keith Price. The highlight of the evening was a 49-yard scamper down the left sideline, a gashing run that put Utah right on its heels to start the second half. Polk is averaging 122 yards per game on the ground, second in the Pac-12 and 10th nationally.
Keith Price Embraces A Challenge: Much was made after the game about how Coach Sarkisian playfully challenged his sophomore quarterback during halftime. Whatever the tenor of the discussion was, the message hit home. Price threw three touchdowns in the second half, and performed surgery on the Utes secondary by spreading the ball to a variety of receivers. And there's the problem for opposing defenses. Key in too much on one player, and Price will coolly distribute it to someone else. He hit eight different receivers during the Utah game, completing 22-of-30 passes in the process. Another note: with 17 TD passes on the season, Price has already moved into a tie for seventh in single-season TD tosses. The record is 28 (set by Cody Pickett).
Offensive Line Responds As Well: The success of Price and Polk wouldn't be possible without the improved play of the O-line, which shrugged off a sluggish first-half performance to wear down the Utes late. During his weekly meeting with reporters, Sarkisian credited the work of offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto in making some halftime adjustments, which shored up the protection of Price and opened holes for Polk.
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