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Originally published August 14, 2013 at 7:26 PM | Page modified August 15, 2013 at 9:24 PM

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Huskies hope to punch in red-zone opportunities

Washington was 10th in Pac-12 in scoring percentage inside opponents’ 20-yard line last season

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Getting in the zone was one thing. Getting in the end zone was something else for the Washington offense last season.

Part of the Huskies’ decision to shift to a no-huddle offense in the offseason is a result of their inability to consistently punch the ball across the goal line in 2012. UW ranked 10th in the Pac-12 Conference with a scoring percentage of 75 percent on their 52 trips inside the red zone — 33 touchdowns and six made field goals — which ranked just a nose ahead of USC (74.5) and Washington State (74.4).

It’s an area, on both sides of the ball, that has been an emphasis in UW training camp.

“When we’re looking at the formula for success in a football game, you talk about turnover and turnover margin and how critical that is,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “And you start talking about red-zone efficiency and your ability to score touchdowns in the red zone, and also on defense to minimize those touchdowns and create turnovers.”

The Huskies defense allowed opponents to score on 86 percent of red-zone trips last season, which also ranked 10th in the conference. Looking closer at the statistics, however, shows UW was No. 1 in holding opponents out of the end zone. The Huskies allowed opponents a touchdown on just 48.8 percent of 43 attempts in the red zone.

Offensively, the Huskies say they were too careless with the ball in the red zone, and senior quarterback Keith Price put the onus on himself to be better in those situations.

“I turned the ball over too many times in the red zone,” he said this week. “That’s been the key focal point this camp: not turning the ball over in the red zone. Giving your teammates a chance to make plays and if not, then check the ball down, and I think we’ve been doing a tremendous job of it.”

Having talented receivers like Kasen Williams and 6-foot-6, 276-pound tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins — if healthy — would seem to make a quarterback’s job that much easier all over the field, and particularly so in the red zone where, as Sarkisian noted, Price can feed Seferian-Jenkins like a point guard would a post player. With his size, Seferian-Jenkins excels at boxing out smaller defenders.

But Sarkisian noted it’s important for the Huskies to utilize the durability and versatility of tailback Bishop Sankey in those situations.

“We pride ourselves on being aggressive, but being aggressive doesn’t mean you can’t run the football,” Sarkisian said. “We’ve got some good backs. ... and we have some great red-zone weapons.

“We’re just looking for the right balance, but also remaining aggressive when we’re down there to make us feel like we’re attacking them.”

Notes

• Sophomore linebacker Cory Littleton was taken from the sideline in a cart after suffering an apparent left knee injury late in Wednesday night’s practice.

If serious, the injury could be the most significant blow yet for the Huskies in training camp. Littleton had come on strong lately as a candidate to start at rush-end after starting two games for UW last season.

A few minutes later, during an 11-on-11 goal-line drill, 327-pound DT Danny Shelton knocked down Price(wearing a no-contact yellow jersey) on a keeper; Shelton appeared to knock his helmet into Price’s right knee. Price popped right up and appeared to be OK, but Sarkisian threw off his visor and fell onto his back in disgust.

Sarkisian ended practice immediately. He quickly left the field and said no one would be available for interviews.

• Seferian-Jenkins suited up for practice wearing a bandage over his fractured right pinkie, but was not catching any passes.

Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or ajude@seattletimes.com.

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