The University of Washington’s plan out of fall camp to replace No. 2 all-time rusher Chris Polk was to split carries between returners Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey.
And what’s the status after the Huskies’ 21-12 season-opening victory over San Diego State?
Sankey – 22 carries.
Callier – none.
That’s because Callier limped off the field with a bruised right knee at the 3-minute, 4 second mark of the first quarter. He had just caught his second pass of the game in the right flat, made one cut and tripped untouched on the turf at the Aztecs’ 8.
Callier, the junior from Downey, Calif., never returned, leaving the lion’s share of the carries to Sankey, who ended up with 66 yards.
Callier will have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test in the next couple days, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said, and he admitted that after UW was left with one healthy tailback the Huskies were forced to “scale down” the running game.
Sprinkled into the backfield mix, too, was a pair of first-time participants – Lakes High’s Willis Wilson (one carry, 1 yard) and Erich Wilson II (two carries, 22 yards), a true freshman from East Palo Alto, Calif.
The real surprise was Wilson II, who was not listed in the top four in the Huskies’ depth chart. But after Sankey, he was the first tailback to receive a carry – with 121/2 minutes remaining in the second quarter, gaining 5 yards.
Wilson II set Serra High’s single-season rushing record with 2,106 yards and 33 touchdowns on 226 carries as a senior – and also set the school’s career touchdown mark (52), breaking Hall-of-Fame receiver Lynn Swann’s record (38).
Sankey, a sophomore from Spokane, easily eclipsed his previous single-game high in carries (eight rushes against Colorado last season). And although he wasn’t spectacular, he allowed the Huskies to control the clock in the second half.
Sarkisian took into account the injury to Callier, but admitted he had hoped for more from his team’s running game.
“I don’t know if we’re gonna lead the country in rushing, but it needs to be a good complement to our passing game,” he said. “Tonight it wasn’t where it needed to be.”
TURNING TIDE EARLY
Considering that eight of last season’s 13 UW opponents scored touchdowns on opening drives, the Huskies got off to a much better start in 2012. And they did something they had never done under Sarkisian – grab an interception on the defense’s first series.
SDSU’s Ryan Katz was expecting his receiver to run a slant-in pattern from the right sideline. It never happened. And UW cornerback Tre Watson – in his first start – read it perfectly, picking off the pass and returning it 34 yards.
Watson, a Kennedy Catholic product, joined the team as an invited walk-on last season, and redshirted due to NCAA transfer rules. He started 10 of 11 games at Central Washington University in 2010.
Six true freshmen – receivers Jaydon Mickens (started) and Kendyl Taylor; safety Shaq Thompson (started); defensive end Pio Vatuvei; running back Wilson II; and punter Korey Durkee (started) – saw action. … Cornerback Desmond Trufant (hamstring) left in the fourth quarter, and right tackle Ben Riva (fractured arm) never came out of the locker room after halftime. … The Huskies are now 7-4 against programs from California under Sarkisian. … A nice pre-game crowd ovation was given to longtime UW usher George Hickman, who died last month at the age of 88.Todd.email@example.com 253-597-8442 blog.thenewstribune.com/huskies #ManyHatsMilles