Undefeated and ready to start conference play, the Washington Huskies begin the Pac-12 campaign with a terrible taste in their mouths. It was put there last year when the Rich Rodrigues coached, Arizona Wildcats, thoroughly destroyed a staggering Husky team. The 52-17 score was the worst loss of the season for the young Dogs and probably helped convinced Husky Coach, Steve Sarkisian, to take a stronger look and then virtually commit to the hurry-up, zone blocking, spread option offense. (An offense that Coach Rodrigues has been running for at least the last decade or so at West Virginia, Michigan, and now Arizona).
Similar, but entirely different, primarily due to the quarterback position where one team, Washington, has a red-shirt senior who is a really good passer and Arizona has a first year starter who is a really good runner. Last year in Tucson, the Wildcats scored in a hurry using 1:55 to score their first touchdown, 2:55 to score their second, 2:38 their third, and finally 1:04 for their fourth TD of the first half and threw in a field goal to lead 31 to 17 at the break. A 27 yard pass, another a 33 yard pass, and finally a 52 yard pass, all completed for TD’s, pretty much forced the Huskies to throw out their game plan. This resulted in Husky quarterback, Keith Price, throwing 52 times for 256 yards. Unfortunately, two of those were to Arizona, and he also had a costly fumble and was sacked 4 sacks. Considering it all, he probably had his worst performance of the year and probably his whole career at Washington for that matter. Coincidently, the Arizona quarterback, Matt Scott, also threw for exactly 256 yards, but did so on 14 of 22 passes with 3 touchdowns. This year Scott is gone and Price is playing at home and playing with confidence. He has not had a single turnover since the very first pass of the season. Combine that with Bishop Sankey’s ability to run the ball and that should offset the Wildcats, Kadeem Carey, who was one of the leading rusher in the nation last year. The Huskies will win this critical league opener by protecting the football, winning the kicking game, and containing the run on defense. They will also have the best quarterback on the field.
Arizona has had two weeks to prepare for the Huskies (good scheduling) and arguably played the weakest non-conference schedule of any team in the Pac-12. They opened with Northern Arizona, who is in the same league with Idaho State, then beat UNLV where Ex-Husky assistant, Bobby Hauk, is fighting for his job, and then stepped up, or is it down?, to play Texas-San Antonio. It’s hard to tell how good they are but they are undefeated and must think they own the Huskies based upon last year’s performance. If the Husky defense can play good sound option responsibilities, contain the quarterback and combine it with creating some fumbles and intercepting a couple of passes, they will win the game.
The Husky defense would do well to make the Wildcats play the long field by not giving up any long runs or passes and then win the kicking game. Last year, the Wildcats returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown and basically put the game away with it. The Huskies should return the favor by running a kick back this time in Seattle. What also hurt was the Huskies averaged only 33.5 yards on 6 punts and were penalized 10 times for 100 yards. (They have just committed 28 penalties in their last two games alone for a negative 234 yards) Washington needs to clean up their penalties, period, end of discussion. Come on, you’re not going to win close games by losing the kicking game and committing stupid penalties.
The Huskies will move the football this year against the Wildcat’s 3-3 stack defense simply because of the weapons they have on offense. One can expect this will be somewhat of a shootout but if Washington is going to be contender this season then they must find some way to pull out this victory. Throw out last year’s game except for the learning process and focus in on beating Arizona with some of their own medicine. Prepare to win a close game and answer any negative with a positive. Use the crowd on defense and win it in the second half. (The Huskies failed to score in either the third or fourth quarters in 2012)
The Huskies have a chance to go 4-0 and that alone should be a major incentive. It’s not about revenge or pay-back, it’s about continuing to improve and winning the next game. It just happens to be against a team that kicked your ass the year before.