Huskies Set For A Unique, Downtown Spring Game
April 27, 2012
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - This is no ordinary Huskies spring game.
First -- and most obvious -- is the venue. Saturday's ending to 15 spring practices (free admission, and a live spring game chat at 1 p.m. answering fans' questions here on GoHuskies.com) is the first time Washington's spring game will be at CentryLink Field in downtown Seattle. The home to the NFL's Seahawks is also where Washington will play its 2012 season beginning Sept. 1 against San Diego State, before renovations are completed at Husky Stadium in time for the for 2013 and beyond.
Also this year fans will be a part of the spring game in two, unprecedented ways.
Upon entry Saturday a randomly selected fan will be invited to the field later in the afternoon to call the first offensive play in the second half.
Yep, dust off your favorite, drawn-in-the-dirt play from grade school, or anything else you can devise. Sarkisian's game for it. And who knows? It may actually work.
Another fan selected randomly upon entry to CenturyLink Field Saturday will be invited onto the field to catch a touchdown pass from Keith Price during the break between the first and second quarters. Sarkisian will then sign the football for the lucky fan to keep.
Even this year's spring game format is new. For the first time in Sarkisian's four springs at UW's coach, the Huskies will not field two complete teams to compete in mostly normal game play. Injuries, specifically across an offensive line that has been missing four starters this month, are forcing Sarkisian to keep the offensive-versus-defense play with mixed and matched first- and second-team units that the Huskies have been using daily in the previous 14 practices this month through Friday morning's workout on campus.
The defense will earn three points for a series stop, five points for forcing a turnover and seven points for a touchdown. The offensive scoring will be as usual for a regular game.
"Is that ideal? No. I wish we could split up into two times like we have in the past," Sarkisian said before Friday's final on-campus practice of the spring. "But just because of injuries and where we've gotten to we'll play offense-defense.
"We've got a good scoring system in place. It should be competitive."
There will be no kickoffs or punts. Instead, there will be automatic touchbacks after each score, and the ball will be placed 40 yards from the previous spot to replace punts. The four quarters will be played at 15 minutes each, with a running game clock throughout.
The Huskies' defense will take the field to the familiar siren at 1:20 p.m., followed by the offense. After the national anthem, there will be a legends coin toss. Kickoff will be at 1:30.
The players will remain on the field at halftime, which will include a 10-minute, "powder-puff" game.
Also, fans can purchase a "$100 hot dog" from the Husky Dawg Cart inside the north, downtown-side entrance of CenturyLink Field. The special dog will be served with a free side order of one 2012 Husky football season-ticket deposit. Fans that have a season-ticket deposit this year secure their place in line to select seats in 2013 inside renovated Husky Stadium.
Speaking of top Dawgs, Washington will have its one back Saturday on that in-flux offensive line.
Center Drew Schaefer, the line's only senior in 2012, returned to practice this week after missing time this month with a sprained knee. He will make communication smoother for a blocking corps that is missing starters Colin Tanigawa (knee surgery in November) and Colin Porter (retired because of degenerative shoulders) at guard and has had Erik Koehler slowly working back through the second-team while recovering from nagging pains leftover from 2011.
"Drew's got such an understanding of our offense. It's like having your quarterback back for your entire offense," Sarkisian said, though Mike Criste will again get time at center Saturday. "Having your veteran center back is like having the quarterback for your O-line back."
The true quarterback is as healthy and sharp as he's been since before he sprained his knee for the first time in the opener last September. Price has wowed new offensive coordinator Erik Kiesau all month during practices, then stayed late after them to throw extra to Kasen Williams and James Johnson, among others.
"I love him. I absolutely love him," Kiesau said of Price, a rising junior who set UW's single-season records in 2011 with 33 touchdown throws, a completion percentage of 66.9 and a pass efficiency rating of 161.09. "His accuracy is exceptional, just pinpoint accuracy.
"Sometimes on a throw it's a matter of four or five inches -- and then he puts the ball in there that four or five inches."
Price's wondrous debut year replacing Jake Locker began with an eye-popping performance in this spring game 12 months ago, in "old" Husky Stadium.
Sarkisian thinks despite all that will be new downtown this time, Husky fans are likely to be just as excited Saturday when they see the Huskies for the first time since December's Alamo Bowl, to end a competitive spring.
"I think they will see an energized group on both sides of the ball. I think fans will see guys that have improved in their level of play," the coach said. "From a scheme standpoint, it will be interesting. ... It could be a little bit vanilla that way.
"But I don't think that will diminish from the style we play and the way we play, and our big-play ability that I think this team has on both sides of the ball."