Super Sophs! UW's ASJ, Sankey Bull Thru Cal
Nov. 2, 2012
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
BERKELEY, Calif. - Keith Price is right. It really isn't fair, a man dominating among boys.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins is 6-feet-6 inches, 260 pounds, six inches taller and truck loads heavier than any of the seven defensive backs on California's roster. So how's a team supposed to defend against a behemoth rising up like the nearby Golden Gate Bridge above the fog of littles below him to simply pluck the ball from the sky?
Cal found out: You don't.
Limping, leaping Seferian-Jenkins bulled through pain and defenders for eight huge catches with a career-high 154 yards - including an astounding, tap-to-himself touchdown on third and goal from the 29 that put Washington back ahead late in the third quarter. Bishop Sankey capped his career-best 189-yard rushing night with his second score late. And the Huskies' defense forced four turnovers and turned away Cal in the final 90 seconds as Washington got an ugly-yet-beautiful, 21-13 victory at Memorial Stadium Friday night.
"Oh, man, it's almost not fair to have a big body that is so athletic," Price said after he chucked the ball up twice on the same drive to put UW ahead for good 14-13 in the final minute of the third quarter.
"If you just give him a shot, all you have to do is put it in the vicinity."
Seferian-Jenkins said he'd gone up to Price on the sideline and told his quarterback, "Just throw it up high. Just give me a chance."
California native Shaq Thompson intercepted Zach Maynard and returned the game's eighth turnover 33 yards to set up Sankey's second 1-yard touchdown run. Then after Cal got to the UW 25 down by one score with 90 seconds left, Greg Ducre broke up a third-down pass. On fourth and 5 defensive end Josh Shirley, more used to chasing quarterbacks, stayed with running back C.J. Anderson to force an errant throw by backup Allan Bridgford. That sealed UW's first win in seven tries away from Seattle dating to Oct. 1, 2011.
Keith Price endured more pressure yet persevered to complete 16 of 29 throws for 237 yards for Washington (5-4, 3-3 Pac-12), which won for the second time in six days following a three-game losing streak.
"It was hard. It was ugly," said Steve Sarkisian, who had his players in shirts and ties for Thursday's flight down and Friday's entrance into the stadium for the first time in his four years as UW's coach.
"But, you know, all wins are awesome." The Bears (3-7, 2-5) led 13-7 late in the third quarter before Price threw a jump ball for Seferian-Jenkins in man-to-man coverage. The Huskies' part-time basketball power forward boxed out the poor, little defensive back as if he was a point guard and made a 43-yard reception to the Cal 9.
After Price was sacked for a 16-yard loss it was third and goal at the 29. There aren't too many plays on Sarkisian's call sheet for that - except the good ol', chuck-it-up-to-88 play.
Price did eluded the rush long enough to throw high in the end zone to ASJ. And again the tight end walled off his defender, leaped, and tapped the ball to himself with one hand into his chest while a Bears DB grasped in vain at his lower legs.
Washington led 14-13.
Seferian-Jenkins passed Dave Williams as Washington's all-time leader in yards receiving for a tight end. ASJ now has 1,170 yards in just 22 career games.
"It's an honor to even be mentioned with those great tight ends," he said outside the visiting locker room.
Then the sophomore limped off, dragging his foot behind him like it was another hapless defender. Danny Shelton, the 330-plus-pound defensive tackle who almost swallowed the ball whole while recovering it in the open field on one of Cal's three lost fumbles, had a bulbous ice pack on his right shoulder. Justin Glenn had one on his left. Desmond Trufant was hampered by a hamstring that knocked him out for most of the game but appears to not be serious.
The Huskies' afterglow looked like their main event. Except in the ultimate result.
"It wasn't pretty," said Glenn, the senior safety who got hurt separating a Bears receiver from the ball near the goal line.
"But we'll take it."
Washington turned the ball over four times, including on fumbles by Price, Sankey and Seferian-Jenkins. It committed 12 penalties, including more galling personal fouls.
But the defense forced four turnovers. And Andrew Hudson led an awakened pass rush that knocked Maynard out of the game on Cal's final drive.
"Again, our defense was there," Sarkisian said.
As for UW's first road win in 13 months, yeah, the players expect to be in shirts and ties again in two weeks for the trip to Colorado.
"It's big," Sarkisian said. "It's great for our psyche, for two road games still left to play (in the regular season). Our guys don't have to sit on the plane ride home with a woe-is-me attitude."
Sankey sure won't. He passed his per-game average of 83 yards rushing before the first quarter ended. He gained 124 yards on 18 carries for the half.
The sophomore from Spokane, a backup to Jesse Callier until Callier blew out his knee in the opener, is now 145 yards from an improbable, 1,000-yard season.
Asked if he could have ever envisioned such a 2012, Sankey smiled, shook his head and deadpanned, "Not exactly."
Even with Sankey running wild, cutting inside and out and leaving Bears juked all over Strawberry Canyon, Washington squandered at least two prime chances for touchdowns.
Jaydon Mickens was three steps beyond Cal's last defender at the Bears 15 when Price's perfectly placed ball hit him on the hands and fell to the turf.
Then Price got Washington to the Cal 9 on its final drive of the half, after a 28-yard pass to Seferian-Jenkins on third down. On third and goal Price waited for Seferian-Jenkins to break into the end zone on an out-and-up route. Cal linebacker Nick Forbes leaped and tapped Price's throw to himself with a crushing interception to keep the game tied at 7 at the half.
Then, a bizarre sequence of the team committing three turnovers in a six-play span. Yet as they have done 11 consecutive times in games decided by fewer than 10 points, the Huskies persevered.
Ugly ultimately became beautiful.
"It's a Dawgs' life, man," Shelton said.
Only then, after this zany night of miscues and misfortune was over, did he smile.
INSIDE THE DAWGS: Seferian-Jenkins passed Jerramy Stevens (1999-2001) for second-most receptions by a tight end in UW history. ASJ's 89 are six behind all-time leader Mark Bruener (1991-94). ... Sarkisian is now 3-0 all-time at Washington wearing a cap instead of his usual visor. Last week in a driving rain he went sans visor - and the Huskies beat No. 7 Oregon State. Asked if it's cap only from here on, Sarkisian took off his gray W hat, looked at it, chuckled and said, "I don't know. I'm a visor guy." ... Price critiqued the players' fashion on the new dress-up travel days. The QB said Hudson looked the best, in a sharp, pinstriped suit. "He was suited and booted," Price said. ... The Huskies host Utah Saturday at CenturyLink Field in the season's final home game. Kickoff time is scheduled to be announced Sunday or Monday.