Suddenly, Portland State game takes on new significance for Huskies
Washington in need of a confidence-booster
Seattle Times staff reporter
Portland State @ Washington, 1 p.m., FX
When Washington's 2012 schedule appeared, the Week 3 date against Portland State was projected as the "ho hum" game of the season. One that figured to be little noted, nor long remembered.
Suddenly, though, in the wake of the 41-3 dismantling last week at Louisiana State, the 1 p.m. game Saturday against the Vikings at CenturyLink Field has a larger meaning.
"Obviously, we need a win this week and to go into our bye week pretty confident and ready for Stanford," said UW quarterback Keith Price.
That confidence has been shaken by the sluggish Week 1 victory against San Diego State and the blowout loss at LSU, leaving the Huskies in need of a feel-good triumph against Portland State, a member of the Big Sky Conference of the Football Championship Subdivision.
"It'd be great for our own psyche (to get a win)," said UW coach Steve Sarkisian. "I don't think that we've wavered on that we have a very good chance to be a good football team. But anytime you lose the way we lost last week, I'm sure there is a smidgen of doubt in there. There is a bit of hesitation. Secondly, for our fans, I would like our fans to be fired up about this football team because it is a good one."
And while the psyche of every area of the team might need repairing after the LSU defeat, the offense might need it most of all.
The Huskies figured scoring points wouldn't be an issue this season with the return of Price, as well as blossoming sophomore receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
But UW has not scored an offensive touchdown the past seven quarters, and doesn't have a gain this season longer than 22 yards. The biggest issue has been an anemic running game, due in part to constant shuffling of an injury-riddled offensive line. The exact makeup of that unit for this game is unclear due to UW's new policy of not disclosing injuries.
Without a running game to open up the pass, Price has thrown just one touchdown, and the Huskies rank 11th in the Pac-12 in passing at 189.5 yards per game.
Williams, acclaimed as one of the top recruits in the nation in 2011 after a standout career at Skyline High, had just three catches for 19 yards against LSU and acknowledged he's not used to such struggles.
"I was thinking that after the LSU game that it's different not winning every single game," he said. "You're working harder and preparing harder than you ever have and still not seeing the results. Even in high school, whenever we did lose, I still had a pretty good game and this is kind of the opposite. So I'm just growing and taking these experiences and learning from it."
Portland State appears the perfect tonic for what ails the Huskies.
Not only should the Huskies have physical edges due to playing in a higher division, but Portland State's defense has struggled in its first two games — a 38-20 victory over Carroll College and a 45-37 defeat to North Dakota — allowing 372 yards a game and seven touchdown passes. That led PSU coach Nigel Burton, who played for the Huskies from 1996 to 1998, to take the unusual step of firing defensive coordinator Eric Jackson on Wednesday.
Portland State has used its pistol offense to average 437 yards, with freshman quarterback Kieran McDonagh throwing for five touchdowns.
Sarkisian, though, said this is a game where what matters most is how Washington prepares and plays. After feeling blue on the Bayou, Sarkisian simply wants the Huskies to get back to the team he thinks they can be.
"This week is totally about us," he said. "And that's to take nothing away from Nigel and Portland State. For our program to get back on track we have to focus on ourselves right now."
Alabama transfer headed to UW
Travell Dixon, a cornerback who left the University of Alabama in August, will transfer to UW, according to several Internet reports.
Originally from Miami, the 6-foot-1, 191-pounder signed with Alabama last winter after spending the past two years at Arizona Western College. He left Alabama for what were said to be personal reasons.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com