Bishop Sankey romps for a career-high 241 yards with two touchdowns, Keith Price throws for 376 yards accounting for three more scores, and UW ends its three-game losing streak with a 41-17 rout of California on an emotional night at Husky Stadium.
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE – Don James would have been proud.
In Steve Sarkisian’s mind, the “Dawgfather” is proud.
“It was great that we were able to play the way we did tonight,” the Huskies’ current coach said of his late mentor, “with Coach James watching.”
Bishop Sankey broke tackles and California’s will by powering for a career-high 241 yards on 27 carries with two touchdowns. The yards rushing were his career high, and the eighth-most in 123 years of UW football.
Keith Price made everyone wonder, what thumb? After leaving last week’s loss at Arizona State early to get X-rays on his banged thumb on his passing hand and not practicing this week until Thursday, Price was brilliant. He torched the nation’s worst-ranked pass defense for 376 yards on 20 completions in 32 throws, with two touchdowns passing and one running. It was his second-most passing yards of his career, behind the 438 he had in the 2011 Alamo Bowl.
And a thudding defense led by Hau’oli Kikaha up front, Princeton Fuimaono in the middle and Tre Watson in the secondary held Cal to one touchdown before the reserves finished up the Huskies’ 41-17 romp that ended a three-game losing streak on an emotional Saturday night for 66,328 at Husky Stadium.
“It’s a start,” Sankey said, seven days after the Huskies stunned themselves and everyone else with a baffling, 53-24 loss at Arizona State. “After going down to Tempe we lost a little respect.
“We bounced back.”
A video tribute to coach Don James narrated by the “Voice of the Huskies,” Bob Rondeau, aired on the stadium’s giant, east-side scoreboard at the start of halftime. It was as chilling and poignant a moment this stadium, old or new, has had in decades.
“Husky fans, please stand and bow down to the ‘Dawgfather,’” Rondeau announced at the end of the video tribute.
And they did, roaring and bowing to the Hall of Fame coach and 1991 national-championship winner with the Huskies. James died last Sunday at the age of 80 from pancreatic cancer.
“We did this one for Coach James, who built this program for us,” middle linebacker and co-captain John Timu said.
James’ wife of 61 years Carol, their three grown children and 10 grandchildren were at midfield as honorary captains for the pregame coin toss. Sarkisian spoke to Carol on the field just before that. Then, after the halftime tribute, hundreds of James’ former players jogged out of the tunnel and formed a cordon for the current Huskies to run through while coming out for the second half.
It was the fastest, most-inspired run the Dawgs had coming out of halftime in many, many years.
“Coach James, his wife and his family deserve much more than we were able to give tonight,” Sarkisian said.
Sophomore Jaydon Mickens had six catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns for Washington (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12), which ran Sankey at Cal’s outside early then threw all over the Golden Bears’ man-to-man coverage to gain 642 total yards.
The Huskies have had 600 or more yards in a game three times this season. That’s the first time that’s happened in a season in the 123-year history of UW football. Entering this season, UW had topped 600 yards of offense in just six games total.
The only downer for the Huskies: Junior wide receiver Kasen Williams left the game in the first half after falling hard on his lower left leg trying to leap to catch Price’s lone, regrettable pass of the night, an underthrown fly route. Williams was taken out of the stadium on the back of a motorized cart with his leg in a black, splint-like casing and transported directly to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center.
"It's not good. There's a break and a dislocation in his foot,” Sarkisian said. “Probably ends Kasen's season.”
Because the junior has played in more than 20-percent of this season’s game he is not eligible for a medical redshirt.
“If I threw it further, he probably wouldn’t have been hurt,” Price said. “It’s just a tough situation. I definitely could have led him a little more. Who knows, he probably could have scored a touchdown than get injured.”
Mickens joined Craig Chambers and Jermaine Kearse as the only Huskies in the last 10 seasons to have 180 yards receiving in a game. He credited the motivation from having dropped a sure touchdown behind safety Michael Lowe and the rest of the Cal defense last season in Berkeley.
Saturday night, he got behind Lowe again. This time he held on and ran the final 20 or so yards for a 68-yard score from Price that made it 17-0 just 13:19 into the game.
The always-chatty Mickens was so excited for his personal retribution that he loudly proclaimed to everyone with ears – including himself – on the UW sideline after he scored.
“What I thought about when the ball was in the air was about the Cal game last year. And the same guy was chasing me!” Mickens said outside the Huskies’ locker room. “Last year I tried to catch it with my chest. All week we had run the same play in practice for Cal – and then I finally caught it in the game!”
Price noticed Mickens was dialed in even before kickoff.
“Jaydon, he was on fire. He had a chip on his shoulder,” the quarterback said. “He said, ‘Keep coming to me.’ He had a certain swagger tonight. And he made plays for me.”
Mickens said he talked to Williams, a Parade magazine national high-school player of the year out of Skyline in the Seattle suburb of Sammamish who led the Huskies in receiving last season, on the sideline. That was as three trainers and two team doctors immobilized his left foot.
“He was just out of it,” Mickens said. “We are going to rally around him and get him back.”
Sankey ran like last week never happened.
Sarkisian regretted all this week not giving Sankey, who had been the nation’s leader rusher before ASU, the ball more than 13 times in Tempe. Saturday, Sankey romped for 188 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries in the first half as the Huskies roared to a 24-7 lead.
The Huskies were up 17-0 after just 13:19. The first score was the most impressive, coming at the end of a 97-yard opening drive on which Price was 6 for 6 passing. Sankey ended the march with a 3-yard touchdown run off right tackle.
Sankey enjoyed big openings off each of UW’s offensive tackles, on a Huskies line that responded to challenges this week for allowing Price to get sacked six times and Sankey no room to run last week. Off tackle is where Huskies Ben Riva and Micah Hatchie owned 50-plus-pound size advantages on Cal’s defensive ends.
“We had a bitter taste after last week seeing all the crap that happened,” center Mike Criste said. “We hated it. We made it a point to push it this week. We came in with a different mindset.”
Sankey took off on a 59-yard romp late in the second quarter, on a third-down play. He had already eclipsed 1,000 yards for the season early in the second quarter, just 7 1/4 games into this season.
It was his third 200-yard game since last December’s Las Vegas Bowl, making Sankey and Huskies career rushing leader Napoleon Kaufman the only Dawgs to rush for 200-plus yards more than twice.
California (1-7, 0-5) was already injury depleted and young. Then it became overwhelmed. It managed a touchdown late against UW’s third-string defense to make the final score only marginally better. The Bears came in with the worst-ranked pass defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision and a defense ranked 121 out of 123 FBS teams overall.
The Huskies are off on a bye next week. They next play on Nov. 9 against Colorado at Husky Stadium.
Asked how he feels going into his week off, Price said with a chuckle: “Good. I feel like we haven’t won in a while.”
“It’s been a long month for us.”
But a rebounding, emotional Saturday night to end it, a game that made the program’s patriarch proud.