Sankey, ASJ, Price ... Oh, My! Huskies Roll Utes
Nov. 10, 2012
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - The most awaited moment of the Huskies' wildly seesawing season wasn't Keith Price leaping, reaching the ball out across the goal line, and getting whacked in the end zone for a touchdown run against Utah.
It was what he did immediately afterward.
The previously burdened, sullen quarterback popped up as if a Jack in the Box. He smiled through his customized mouthpiece. He shook his head up and down, faced the roaring CenturyLink Field crowd -- and jubilantly put his hands on both hips to strike a look-at-me pose.
The swagger was finally back in KP17.
"Yeah, a little bit," Price said with a more sly grin after his first three-touchdown day against a Football Bowl Subdivision team since his NCAA-record seven touchdowns in last December's Alamo Bowl.
It was one of many revitalizing aspects of suddenly smokin' Washington's 34-15 ransacking of Utah Saturday night.
"I'm starting to get it back," Price said. "I just needed to get myself together."
Bishop Sankey ran for 162 yards on 36 carries with two touchdowns to become the 10th running back in UW history with 1,000 yards in a season. Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught seven more passes from Price for 99 yards to pass Mark Bruener and become Washington's all-time leader for career receptions by a tight end - as a sophomore. He even debuted as a pass-rush defensive end.
Price completed 24 of 33 passes for a season-high 277 yards and two touchdowns passing plus his first rushing touchdown since he outplayed Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III in that astounding Alamo Bowl 11 months ago.
And the Huskies got bowl eligible by bowling over the stunned Utes on a thumping Senior Night in front of 60,050 at cold-yet-sizzling CenturyLink Field.
The flummoxed, emotion-wracked Price that had turned the ball over 10 times while UW lost three in a row? More gone than that warm weather in Seattle.
Yeah, the Huskies don't remember that, either.
"He was much more the Keith we grew to know and love last season," coach Steve Sarkisian said after Washington (6-4, 4-3 Pac-12) won its third straight. "It's just the energy that he brings. He got an infectious energy that the team really responds to.
"And I'm happy for him. It's been a grind for him this season. He's been through a lot. He's an awesome, awesome kid. And he deserved to have a game like this, to get going."
As Sarkisian noted, all aspects were finally going for the Huskies as they qualified for their third consecutive bowl.
How long ago was that winless season? Eons?
"We talked early on this season as a football team about taking the next step," Sarkisian said of an encore to his 5-7, 7-6 and 7-6 start to his UW tenure. "We're not here playing just to get bowl eligible anymore.
"There is a lot of meat left on the bone in this season."
The Utes (4-6, 2-5) took an early 8-0 lead - then watched Sankey, Seferian-Jenkins, Price, and a thumping defense dominate. UW scored 34 of the next 41 points to improve to 8-0 all-time against Utah.
Price's first touchdown pass came early in the second quarter when Kasen Williams turned his turf cleats into ballet shoes and stuck his toes straight down inside the back line of the end zone, Lynn Swann style. The stylish, 8-yard touchdown catch cut Utah's early lead to 8-7.
Price's other scoring pass was DiAndre Campbell's first touchdown since the Portland State game. It was the first time in seven games someone other than Seferian-Jenkins or Williams had a TD reception, and it put UW up 21-8 early in the third quarter.
The offensive line with four first-year starters that created this shocking 1,000-yard season for Sankey also neutralized national-defensive-player-of-the-year candidate Star Lotulelei and Utah's outstanding defensive front.
The grit and refusal to yield was best exemplified by John Timu. The sophomore linebacker and co-captain got hit in the side of the helmet by his own, flying teammate while trying to stop a Utah run in the third quarter with the Huskies leading 21-15. He lay prone unable to feel the right side of his body for a moment as trainers and doctors rushed to him and a sideline cart was summoned to take him off.
Then, remember how he was carted off strapped to a board to a hospital against California last season, Timu told trainers, "No way I am getting on that. Get that out of here. I'm walking off."
And he did.
Seferian-Jenkins made two big catches - the first when Price threw just before scrambling out of bounds and the 6-foot-6 ASJ leaped over a sprawling defender at the sideline - then made a key block on the left edge that Sankey ran behind for a 2-yard score. After that, Timu came back in. On third down, he deflected away a pass by Utes freshman Travis Wilson to force another three and out and allow UW to seize control of the game at 27-15.
That took the Huskies into the fourth quarter. They then proved Sarkisian correct after the coach had said Thursday UW had become a "lunch-pail, blue-collar" team.
The Dawgs went on an 16-play, 82-yard drive Price twice extended by scrambling for a combined 18 yards on third downs. Seferian-Jenkins passed Bruener (1991-94) with his 96th career catch as a tight end on the drive that Sankey finished with a 4-yard scoring run. That put Washington up 34-15 with 3:58 to go.
It was the first time since that 67-56 Alamo Bowl loss to Baylor that the Huskies had scored more than 21 points on a FBS foe. (UW had 52 in week three against Portland State, when Price threw for three touchdowns).
Sankey was Sarkisian's No. 3 running back entering fall camp. Then Deontae Cooper tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in August. Jesse Callier did the same early in the opener against San Diego State Sept. 1. Suddenly, the supposedly scat back was running like Chris Polk between the tackles.
And now he is the 10th running back in UW's storied history to rush for 1,000 yards.
"I didn't think this was how this season would go, at the beginning," Sankey deadpanned.
The special teams also had a big hand in this complete victory. The Huskies had Travis Coons loft pooch kickoffs repeatedly well short of Reggie Dunn, Utah's extraordinary returner who had run three kickoffs back 100 yards in the previous two games to set an NCAA record. Yet the swarming defense handled Utah's great field position as if the Utes were backed up to their own goal line instead of closer to midfield. It collected three sacks and six tackles for losses - including a sack and two TFLs by end Andrew Hudson.
"It was a really cool win for our team because we executed in all three phases really well," Sarkisian said.
The Huskies go to Colorado (1-9, 1-6) next Saturday. Kickoff in Boulder, Colo., is at 10:30 a.m. Pacific time on FX cable television nationally.
Chances are, Price is going to be back to smilin' and posin' and grinnin' again - back to being "Teeth" Price, vintage 2011.
"That'd be Keith," Seferian-Jenkins said.
"Keith Price's swagger is back."
For once, the tight end's - and now defensive end's -- grin was as wide as his quarterback's.
INSIDE THE DAWGS: Seferian-Jenkins said defensive-line coach Tosh Lupoi came to him early in the week with the idea of putting him at DE in UW's nickel, five-defensive backs defense on passing downs to fill in with Talia Crichton injured. The 260-pound former high school defensive back lowered his shoulders and sped through Utah LT Sam Brenner multiple times while playing on about a half dozen third downs. He called his offense "OK" - and his defense "subpar," adding, "I hope to play D-end again next week. I hope I didn't do too badly that they won't put me back in there." ... ASJ on passing Bruener. "It's a blessing to be even mentioned with the best tight end to ever play at U-Dub ... I look at it more as being about the people around me." He named Price, Sarkisian and Sankey. ... The 11 seniors honored before the game: FB Jonathan Amosa, WR Cody Bruns, Crichton, LB Nate Fellner, S Justin Glenn, CB Anthony Gobern, CB Adam Long, TB Cole Sager, C Drew Schaefer, DT Semisi Tokolahi, and CB Desmond Trufant. Sarkisian hugged each one in the tunnel leading to the locker room. He had extra long ones with helmet taps for the final two, Schaefer and Trufant. ... Sankey's five career 100-yard games have all come within the last two months. ... Walk-on sophomore Drew Schultz made his first career start, at DT. It was on his second career appearance.