Keith Price, Husky offense, in a hurry to get better
One sequence during the win over Boise State showed how Washington is becoming a quicker and more efficient team on offense.
Seattle Times staff reporter
It was a third-and-six play in the third quarter of a tight game. Washington’s Kasen Williams stopped his route near the UW sideline, hauled in the back-shoulder throw from Keith Price and weaved his way around defenders to the Boise State 19-yard line.
Williams, on his back on the right hash after the tackle, immediately popped up and sprinted back to his position on the far left of the UW line of scrimmage.
A mere 15 seconds after the previous play was whistled dead, Williams was on the move again, spinning a defenseless defensive back with a double move and hauling in an easy reception in the left corner of the end zone.
It was, in the estimation of UW coach Steve Sarkisian, the best sequence of the Huskies’ 38-6 victory over Boise State on Saturday. What made it so effective wasn’t so obvious.
The execution of back-to-back throw and catch from Price to Williams was impressive, certainly. What really made the sequence work was the quick-twitch mechanics of the various moving parts in UW’s hurry-up offense.
“It’s definitely chaotic,” UW right tackle Ben Riva said. “But there’s a method to it.”
The only criticism of Williams’ two-catch touchdown sequence? He dropped the ball.
After being tackled at the Boise State 19 following his 38-yard reception, Williams was in such a hurry to get up and get lined up again that he flipped the ball to the ground.
These days, UW ballcarriers are taught to find the closest game official and deliver the ball to him after they’re tackled.
In doing so, in this new age of gentlemen’s football, the Huskies are both saving the field umpire the discomfort of having to bend over and pick up the ball while saving themselves precious time between snaps. It’s the equivalent of one pulling out a smart phone to Google a query instead of going to the dusty bookshelf and flipping through an encyclopedia.
Every second matters when the offenses are trying to politely exhaust their opponent into submission.
It worked wonders for Washington on Saturday. The Huskies averaged one play every 20.5 seconds in running 85 plays and gaining 592 yards of total offense against Boise State. By comparison, UW ran an average of 69.5 plays per game in 2012 with 28 seconds between snaps.
The Huskies believe they can get better, faster and more efficient. “It’s still something new, as opposed to last year (when) you’d just lay the ball on the ground,” UW running back Bishop Sankey said.
Everything has been simplified for speed.
When calling the offensive plays from the sideline, Sarkisian doesn’t worry as much anymore about the down, the distance or the situation. In the past, he might have a flip card with plays for third-down calls, and he’d match that up with the scenario based on location of the field, as if trying to solve a calculus equation between plays. Now, it’s more like basic addition and subtraction.
UW coaches are trusting their preparation and their gut.
“We know the calls we like, and we’re just going with ’em,” Sarkisian said.
And they’re using one- or two-word calls to get the play communicated to players on (and running onto) the field.
“Last year, (one) play would be ‘X Go Z Dover Y Go blah, blah, blah.’ It would be all that,” Williams said. “Now it’s just ‘Fonzie.’ ”
Price, the senior quarterback, doesn’t wear the thick wristband from which he would decode play calls in the past, as if flipping through one of those dusty encyclopedias.
“It’s becoming natural,” Price said of the between-play operations.
The funny part about UW’s new fast-forward offense is it often requires a few steps backward first.
If the Huskies are substituting between offensive plays, a receiver will have to run onto the field backward while looking at the sideline for the play call.
The receivers aren’t the only ones learning more efficient routes.
UW’s offense can only go as fast as the linemen will let it. And after Williams’ 38-yard reception in the third quarter Saturday, all five of UW’s linemen had made their way to the new line of scrimmage and were set within 10 seconds of the previous play ending.
“As soon as you hear the whistle blow, you’re looking around, ‘Hey, where’s the ref?’ ” Riva said. “Because you gotta get on the ball, then you identify the (defensive) front and then you get the play call and you make your calls and we’re going again. “It’s bam-bam-bam.”
It’s that simple, and it’s that fast. And so far, it’s working.
• Sarkisian was heading out on a recruiting trip to southern California immediately after practice Thursday morning. It’s scheduled to be a quick trip for Sarkisian, who said he will be the volunteer announcer for his son’s Junior Wolverines game Saturday in Bellevue. It’s Brady Sarkisian’s first tackle football game. “I’m fired up for it,” the UW coach said. “I told my wife that I wanted the bio on every guy, what his hobbies are, nicknames, all sorts of stuff.”
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @a_jude