SEATTLE – After Saturday’s game, Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian touched on the important things. The smell of garlic fries wafted through the interview room, and he wondered where it was coming from. When he was done with his comments, he asked how stylish – or not – Kasen Williams thought his hat was.
When the most sound performance of the season results in a third consecutive win, light-hearted details can be discussed.
Washington’s 34-15 drubbing of Utah on Saturday night made the Huskies bowl eligible for the third consecutive season – the first time that has happened since 2000-02. Much of the work to get there was done at CenturyLink Field. Washington allowed just 84 points, 15.7 a game, leading to a 5-1 home record and two upsets of top-10 teams.
At 6-4 overall, Washington heads on the road the next two weeks to face two struggling foes. Colorado is 1-9 overall and Washington State dipped to 2-8 and 0-7 in the Pacific-12 Conference while turmoil swirls around the departure of star wide receiver Marquess Wilson, who claimed “physical, emotional and verbal” abuse from the Cougars’ coaching staff. School president Eldon Floyd said Sunday that he has asked the athletic department and Pac-12 to separately review the allegations.
Meanwhile, it appears Washington is getting its act together. Sarkisian said quarterback Keith Price had his best game of the year after he threw for a season-high 277 yards Saturday night. He finally connected with Jaydon Mickens on a deep pass and kept feeding Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who broke two more records – for single-season and career receptions for a tight end at the school – by catching seven passes for 99 yards.
“I felt like early in the season, the weight of the world was on his shoulders,” Sarkisian said of Price. “He was sitting on the bench, he was trying to decipher through things, trying to understand what was going on; (lately) he was much more of the leader we grew to know and love a year ago. That guy is starting to come back.”
Plus, running back Bishop Sankey keeps chugging along. His career-high 36 carries resulted in 162 more yards. He has 1,017 on the season, becoming the 10th Huskies back to pass the 1,000-yard mark.
“I’m hoping he’s got more in his tank,” Sarkisian said. “If you would have told me in July, when I was on vacation, that at the end of the year Bishop Sankey was going to rush for well over 1,000 yards, I would have thought, ‘How is that going to happen?’ Now that we’re here and I watched the kid play, he’s a stud.”
Sankey is putting together an exceptional year during his first full season as Washington’s featured back. His 13 rushing touchdowns are tied for the fifth most in a season at Washington. Corey Dillon set the record of 24 when he dominated in 1996, but Sankey is just two touchdowns shy of moving into a tie for second place. Sankey is also just outside the Washington top 10 for single-season rushing yards.
But, the defense is dealing with injury issues. Seferian-Jenkins was used as a defensive end multiple times Saturday night after being approached by defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi. Seferian-Jenkins said he was all for the move and hopes to get better at rushing the quarterback. He’s now part of a third-down package that moves Andrew Hudson inside and puts Seferian-Jenkins and Josh Shirley on the edge to rush the passer.
Cornerback Desmond Trufant left Saturday’s game early a week after injuring his left hamstring. Sarkisian said Trufant is “all right” and “he’ll be back.” Middle linebacker John Timu, who had an interception and tied for the team lead in tackles with nine, suffered a “stinger” to his neck. He showed up after the game with a large ice pack on his upper shoulders and neck. A similar injury caused Timu to be taken off the field in an ambulance last season.
Timu said he had flashbacks to that incident when he was down Saturday. Asked if he would miss any practice this coming week, he said, “There’s no time for that.”
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