Arizona-Washington Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 24, 2013
Washington's electric start to the season and an offense that's among the best in the country are about to get a test that will help determine just how good these Huskies really are. A Pac-12 slate that starts with four difficult games against Arizona, at Stanford, vs. Oregon and Arizona State should be telling as No. 16 Washington seeks its best start in 12 years with a win over the visiting Wildcats on Saturday. "This is the beginning of our making the run to the championship or to the Rose Bowl, so we know this is our first obstacle and hopefully we can first handle it," quarterback Keith Price said. Behind Price and running back Bishop Sankey, the Huskies (3-0) have the No. 3 overall offense in the country, averaging 629.0 yards per game, and have run their new up-tempo scheme precisely and efficiently. The Huskies finished non-conference play with a perfect record for the first time since 2000 after last Saturday's 56-0 romp over Idaho State of the FCS. They rolled up 680 yards of total offense, the second-highest total in school history. Washington, looking for its first 4-0 start since 2001, has topped 500 yards total offense in three straight games for the first time since the school started keeping track of those stats. The Huskies have gone over 600 yards in the last two games against Illinois and Idaho State, a first in school record books as well. Price believed this kind of output would be possible. "Throughout the spring, throughout fall camp we've had a lot of explosive plays. ... I knew that we had an explosive team," said Price, who has completed 77.0 percent of his passes for 879 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception. "It's just fun to play against other people to see how explosive we really are." The balance has also been impressive: the Huskies are No. 9 in rushing offense at 303.7 yards per game and No. 17 in passing offense at 325.3 per game. Sankey leads their dangerous ground attack at 148.7 yards per game - the second-highest average in the FBS. "I'm not surprised. I'm really pleased. I'm pleased with our ability to execute," coach Steve Sarkisian said. "I think the offensive line has really embraced this transition to tempo and speed at which we're working at. I think the system is doing what I was hopeful it would do, which is emphasize our skilled athletes." But have the Huskies really been tested yet? None of Washington's three opponents are ranked in the upper half of their respective divisions. Boise State's defense ranks 97th in the country, Illinois is 114th and Idaho State is 72nd in the FCS. The Arizona game will be the Huskies' first chance to see if that offense can click against a stronger defensive unit. The Wildcats (3-0) are 26th in the country, giving up 310.3 yards per game, although no one would consider Arizona's non-conference opponents, Northern Arizona, UNLV and Texas-San Antonio, the most difficult trio to try to shut down. "We can only face who's on the schedule," Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker said. "I don't think the normal fan appreciates that. If you're D-I Double-A (FCS) or if you're lower tier Division I football, this game is rough. You can't just go out on the field and expect a victory because someone will smack you in the mouth." One thing's for certain, Arizona will run the ball first and throw second. The Wildcats rank fifth nationally with 322.3 yards rushing per game. All-American Ka'Deem Carey has 299 yards and four touchdowns, even though he sat out the season opener for disciplinary reasons. The junior rushed for 172 yards and a touchdown to help Arizona cruise past the visiting Huskies 52-17 last October. Every week, the Wildcats go into the game thinking the opponent will dedicate extra personnel to stopping the run. After holding Idaho State to 22 yards on 28 carries, Washington ranks 25th nationally at 109.7 rushing yards allowed per game. "We're going to try and run the football, and we're going to throw when necessary," Denker said. "And I feel like even if they try to stop the run as hard as they're going to, we're still going to be successful. Our offensive line's been blocking great." This visit coincides with the 15th anniversary of one of the most memorable plays in Arizona history, quarterback Ortege Jenkins' "Leap by the Lake" to beat the Huskies in Seattle 31-28. On Oct. 3, 1998, the athletic Jenkins scrambled and, launching himself from outside the 3-yard line, did a complete front flip over the Washington defensive line and stuck the landing in the end zone. The Wildcats have won four of six meetings but have dropped their last two trips to Washington.
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