Revamped offensive line paves way for Sankey's 103 yards
A game against a lower-division team that has struggled so much stopping opponents that it fired its defensive coordinator this week may...
Seattle Times staff reporter
A game against a lower-division team that has struggled so much stopping opponents that it fired its defensive coordinator this week may not be the best judge of progress.
But Portland State was the opponent on the schedule for the Washington Huskies. And regardless of the opponent, the Huskies felt they made some improvement in a running game that ranked among the worst in the nation after the first two games of the season.
UW rushed for 209 yards — it had just 132 coming into the game — in defeating Portland State 52-13 Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
"I feel like our O-line did a great job today getting a push up front and getting to the second-level blocks," said running back Bishop Sankey, who rushed for a career-high 103 yards on 14 carries — the first 100-yard game for a UW running back not named Chris Polk since Willie Griffin had 112 in the 2008 Apple Cup. "It's something we worked on this last week in practice and got better at it."
It was a somewhat new-look offensive line behind which Sankey ran, due once again to the latest injury bug to hit the Huskies up front.
Washington played without Erik Kohler, who started at right tackle against LSU before dislocating his kneecap, and starting guard Colin Tanigawa. UW coach Steve Sarkisian said this week he no longer plans to discuss injuries.
However, a tweet from a school official said that Tanigawa was out with a knee injury. Asked after the game about Tanigawa's status, Sarkisian said only that he didn't know. So how long either may be out is at the moment open to speculation, though Sarkisian had hinted last week that Kohler's injury could be long-term.
The absence of those two caused the Huskies to go with their third different starting offensive line of the season — Micah Hatchie at left tackle, Dexter Charles at left guard, Drew Schaefer at center, James Atoe at right guard and Mike Criste at right tackle. It was the first career starts for Charles, a redshirt freshman, and Criste, a redshirt sophomore.
True freshman Shane Brostek also entered the game early for his first career action.
"I thought we did some really good stuff," Sarkisian said of the offensive line, but he also reiterated a past concern that the Huskies have to "get our pad level down."
makes his point
UW tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins scored a 16-yard touchdown in the second quarter on a pass from Keith Price and then made a little point to Portland State defender Ian Sluss, who had unsuccessfully tried to cover Seferian-Jenkins on the play.
For a few seconds after the score, the two remained tangled.
Explained Seferian-Jenkins: "He was just talking mess to me and he was holding me down and I was just trying to say, 'Hey, I'm trying to help you up here, can you let go of me?' And he just kept talking to me and I was like, 'All right, man, I'm trying to help you up ... if you want to keep doing this, all right.' They were talking a lot but that's football — everybody wants to talk, but it's not about how you talk but about how you play."
Given UW's policy enacted this week of not talking about injuries, there is some mystery on this topic.
In what was the only apparent injury of note, defensive tackle Danny Shelton left in the second quarter with a foot injury and watched the second half in street clothes.
Sarkisian said only that Shelton would be OK, though he also intimated on his postgame radio show that Shelton could have kept playing if needed.
Among those who sat out were starting defensive end Talia Crichton, who suffered a concussion at Louisiana State, and receiver Kevin Smith, who tweaked his knee in the same game. Sarkisian said on his radio show that each would be back next week.
Brown sees action
The lopsided score allowed backup quarterback Derrick Brown to get his first significant playing time. Brown, a redshirt freshmen, is officially listed as a co-backup with true freshman Cyler Miles. But UW appears to be trying to preserve a redshirt year for Miles, so it was Brown who got the call to relieve starter Keith Price. UW did not score in five possessions with Brown at quarterback, but it also ran a pretty scaled-down offense.
Brown was 2-of-5 passing for 23 yards and an interception on a pass that was tipped.
"Every snap I get, it builds my confidence more and more," said Brown, who played the final series last week at LSU, though doing nothing more than handing off.
• Marvin Hall joined Brostek as true freshmen to see their first career action. UW has played nine true freshmen this season.
• UW has scored on its opening possession in all three games — touchdowns against San Diego State and Portland State and a field goal at LSU.