Keith Price steps up to lead UW to first 2-0 start since 2007
Huskies score on first three drives and have big special-teams play at the end to seal the 40-32 victory over Hawaii
Seattle Times staff reporter
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A week later than planned, the 2011 Washington Huskies made their entrance.
"This is us," defensive tackle Everrette Thompson said after Washington beat Hawaii 40-32 in front of 63,252 at sun-splashed Husky Stadium.
The win improved the Huskies to 2-0 for the first time since 2007. But this one felt like a victory worth celebrating, in contrast to the 30-27 escape last week against Eastern Washington.
"I think it was our team that played today," defensive coordinator Nick Holt said. "Last week we played a little cautious, not to lose, and we weren't physical and not playing Sark (UW coach Steve Sarkisian) football. And today we did, and I think we got back to kind of being us. It was good to see."
Being the real Huskies, it meant there's still work to do, as Sarkisian himself said afterward. Hawaii's offense also showed that as it relentlessly tried to make a game of it after UW took a 21-0 lead.
But being the real Huskies also meant Sarkisian taking the leashes off the offense, which was evident from the first play as Keith Price hit tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins for a 30-yard gain — 20 yards longer than any completion the previous week.
Price followed with a 47-yard pass to Seferian-Jenkins to set up Washington's first touchdown.
That set the tone for an offense that came out swinging and never let up, as Price — in a breakout game that should erase any doubt as to whether he is the true successor to Jake Locker — threw for four touchdowns and 315 yards.
"We weren't expecting as much of that," Hawaii coach Greg McMackin said. "Washington came out really strong."
Sarkisian said the early deep throws were all in keeping with the theme of the week.
"I evaluate myself and our team and our coaches every game, and I was too cautious last week," he said, adding that an early injury to Price last week helped lead to him rein things in. "I said to myself, 'I'm not going to do that again.' "
Price was 8 for 8 in the first quarter as UW rolled to a 21-0 lead, threatening to turn the game into a rout.
But then Hawaii's offense found its groove and Price made a big mistake that turned into a 99-yard interception return by Richard Torres to make it 21-14 late in the first half.
Sticking with the aggressive theme, Sarkisian called for a third-down pass after Hawaii called two timeouts after stopping running plays, hoping to get the ball back. Price hit Devin Aguilar for a 12-yard gain on third-and-nine to set up another touchdown — a 31-yard pass to Aguilar — to make it 28-14 at the break.
Hawaii, led by senior quarterback Bryant Moniz, scored touchdowns on its first two possessions of the second half to keep the game tight. But, UW responded each time with another score to retake command.
A shanked punt by Kiel Rasp gave Hawaii the ball at the UW 27, and Hawaii scored with 1:39 left to cut the lead to 38-32. But UW's Everrette Thompson blocked his second extra-point attempt of the game and Desmond Trufant returned it for two points. And when Hawaii's onside kick failed to go 10 yards, the game was UW's for good.
"I'm getting old fast," Sarkisian joked later of watching the Huskies again take at least a two-touchdown lead and then have to hold on at the end. "This is how tough it gets. It's tough, but I kind of like it."
What he really liked was how the team responded to his challenge, which he first made to the media on Monday and then to the players in a team meeting that followed. He felt the Huskies lacked emotion, energy and excitement against Eastern Washington, and knew UW couldn't win again with a similar effort.
"It was a whole different tempo, a whole different tone (in practice), and no-nonsense," linebacker Cort Dennison said. "He stood up and laid the law down, and I think we responded really well."
Nine different receivers caught Price's 18 completions for an average of 17.5 per catch — led by Aguilar's five catches for 131 yards — while Chris Polk provided the running attack with 107 yards on 22 carries.
The special teams again won its battle (save for the Rasp punt), stopping a two-point play, blocking two PATs and averaging 30 yards per kickoff return.
And the defense, while giving up its share of yards and points, came up big when it had to, stopping one Hawaii drive at the 5 when Dennison forced a fumble, and another on downs at the 10.
"I thought we played the brand of football that makes Husky nation proud," Sarkisian said. "The key for us as we move forward is that this wasn't something just to respond to my challenge, but this is who we are. So we will have to get to the point where we can recreate all of those things again next week."
They'll get that chance at Nebraska, an opponent whom the Huskies need no introduction. And Saturday, they finally introduced themselves, as well.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com
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