Sunday, September 11, 2011

Keith Price leads Huskies to 40-32 win over Hawaii; first 2-0 start since 2007

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies(2-0) have extended their winning streak to six games with a 40-32 win over the Hawaii Warriors(1-1). The Huskies under third year coach Steve Sarkisian had a much more prolific offensive output led by his sophomore quarterback Keith Price. Price making only his third career start threw for 315 yards and four touchdowns. Price completed a pass to nine different receivers as he was sharing the wealth all game long. When Price wasn't hitting passes the Huskies were pounding the run with Chris Polk who ran for 107 yards with a touchdown. That was Polk's fourth straight 100 yard rushing performance and sixth straight game over 90 yards. The Warriors almost came back from a 21-0 deficit led by quarterback Bryant Moniz who threw for 333 yards. The Huskies made just enough plays to hang onto the lead. The Huskies improve to 2-0 for the first time since the 2007 season and 2-0 at home for the first time since 2006.

The Huskies opened up the game using their freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. On the opening play of the game Price on a play action pass hit the talented tight end for a gain of 30 yards. Then on the following play he hit Seferian-Jenkins again for a gain of 47 yards. The Huskies then ran Chris Polk for his first touchdown of the season from two yards out. The Huskies like they did last week jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead. Then the Warriors offense took over and they were driving themselves behind talented quarterback Moniz. Moniz then hit Royce Pollard for a gain of 41 yards but then a Husky defender poked the ball out from behind taking over possession on the five yard line.

The Huskies would run the ball on their own five starting off with a Polk run of 14 yards. Then the Huskies would call for an end around run to Kevin Smith for 18 yards. Price would then hit Polk for a gain of 11 yards. Jesse Callier would then rush for 11 yards to the Warriors 41 yard line. After two Price completions the Huskies had the ball on the Warriors 21 yard line. Polk would rush for 10 more yards then after a Price run of one yard would set up a big play in the passing game. Price would hit Jermaine Kearse with a bubble screen as Kearse would run 10 yards for the touchdown. Kearse who caught 20 touchdown passes the last two years missed most of last weeks contest against Eastern Washington. The Huskies would extend their lead 14-0.

The Huskies defense would record a rare stop on the Warriors offense as the series would end when Alameda Ta'amu would sack Moniz. The Huskies would take over on their own 11 yard line. Up 14-0 most thought Sarkisian would be safe but instead he called a play action bomb. Price hit senior wide receiver Devin Aguilar for a 59 yard gain to the Warriors 22. After two failed plays facing a third and eight from the Warriors 20 yard line Price would hit Kearse once again over the middle as Kearse would break the tackle for the 20 yard touchdown pass and catch. The Huskies would take a commanding 21-0 lead as Price would start the game off completing his first nine passes. The Huskies would finish the first quarter like they did the last time these two teams played with a 21-0 lead. Like the last game this lead wouldn't last for very long.

The Warriors would finally respond in the second quarter to cut the lead to 21-7. The Warriors went on a 10 play 69 yard touchdown drive. Moniz was four for five passing for 51 yards on the drive. Sterling Jackson would finish off the drive with a one yard touchdown run. Then on the kickoff Callier would return the kick to the Warriors 37 yard line. The Huskies who weren't doing anything were facing a critical fourth and nine which Price would complete to Aguilar. Then facing a third and goal from the eight yard line Price would throw his first career interception at the worst time. He was attempting a pass to Kevin Smith but was picked off by Richard Torres who returned the interception 99 yards to cut the lead to 21-14.

With momentum wearing the Warriors colors the Huskies still had two minutes left in the half to salvage the half. Price unlike most young quarterbacks wasn't even worried about that interception. The Huskies would run Polk twice for 11 yards to their own 42 yard line. Then Price would hit Aguilar for a gain of 12 yards to the Warriors 46 on a crucial third and nine since the Huskies began their drive with a penalty. Price would then hit James Johnson for a gain of nine yards followed up by a Johri Fogerson six yard run to the Warriors 31 yard line. Price went back to pass was drilled by the defender hit Aguilar who made a defender miss as he went into the endzone to give the Huskies a 28-14 lead which stood at halftime.

At halftime the Huskies led 28-14 and had dominated the Warriors as well. The Huskies had a 17-8 first downs advantage and 370 total yards to the Warriors 176. Price was a star in the first half completing 13-17(76.5%) passes for 272 yards with three touchdownds and that one interception. Aguilar had four receptions for 126 yards with a touchdown. Kearse had two receptions for 30 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Chris Polk had 54 yards(4.9 YPC) on 11 carries with a touchdown. For the Warriors they were led by Moniz who was 12-17 passing for 154 yards. If not for the interception return the Huskies would be blowing away the Warriors. In the second half that would be a different story as the Warriors offense finally started to click while the Huskies offense did just enough to survive.

The second half began with the Warriors having possession and they took advantage of that possession. The Warriors ate up over seven minutes of clock as they went on a 14 play 73 yard touchdown scoring drive. On that drive the Warriors converted all four third downs. Moniz on that drive was six for eight passing for 57 yards. Moniz would finish off the drive scoring from one yard out  on third and goal. The Warriors would have their PAT blocked so the Huskies would still lead 28-20. Just like the Huskies had done all game long they would respond to that touchdown. The Huskies were on their own 40 yard line when Price hit Kevin Smith for a gain of 17 yards to the Warriors 43 yard line. Then Chris Polk had four carries for 15 yards mixed in with a Warriors penalty set up a third down. Price would throw an incomplete pass which would set up an Erik Folk 36 yard field goal to give the Huskies a 31-20 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Warriors in the fourth quarter would then make the game interesting. The Warriors would go on a nine play 75 yard touchdown drive. On that drive Moniz was six for seven passing for 69 yards. The Warriors would finish the drive with a Jackson two yard rushing touchdown. The Warriors would fail on their two point conversation so the Huskies still led 31-26. The Huskies like they had all game long responded to the score. The Huskies would go on a seven play 70 yard touchdown drive to extend the lead to two scores. Starting from their own 30 Price would hit Aguilar for a gain of five and with a late hit from the Warriors the Huskies would then have the ball at midfield. Polk would rush for six yards then Price would hit Michael Hartvigson for a gain of seven yards. Price would then rush for six yards, Polk for 17 on his next two carries to the Warriors 14 yard line. That is when Price hit the very talented true freshman tight end Seferian-Jenkins for a 14 yard touchdown score to extend the lead 38-26.

After trading punts for both teams that is when Desmond Trufant would step up. On the Warriors second play from their own 41 after an Everette Thompson sack Moniz would try to record the quick score which Trufant had the interception. That would be Trufant's second interception in two games while last year he had just one interception. The Huskies would go three and out and then have just a five yard punt giving the Warriors the ball on the 27 yard line. Moniz was three for four passing for 22 yards and finished the drive with a touchdown pass to cut the lead to 38-32. The Huskies would block the PAT again and Trufant would scoop up the ball and score the two points for the Huskies to extend the lead to 40-32. The Warriors with no timeouts still had an onside kick to do which the ball didn't travel 10 yards so the Huskies kept possession then simply ran out the clock.

After last week's poor performance the Huskies offense responded this week. Price would finish the game completing 18 of 25 passes(72.0%) for 315 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Price would complete a pass to nine different receivers as he once again was spreading the wealth. His favorite receivers today were Aguilar who had five catches for 131 yards with a touchdown. Then Seferian-Jenkins who had three receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. Kearse also added two touchdown receptions. For the rushing attack well Polk had 105 yards(4.8 YPC) on 22 carries with a touchdown. The Huskies had 466 yards of offense and they needed every bit of that. For the Warriors they were led by Moniz who completed 31 of 45 passes(68.9%) for 333 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

All in all, the Huskies are 2-0 for the first time since 2007. The Huskies offense is averaging 35 points a game despite breaking in a new quarterback era. Price has seven touchdown passes already which Locker didn't accomplish last year until the fourth game. The Huskies have several weapons on offense which is why no individual receiver will have big numbers but as a whole they will put up more points than they did last season. The Huskies took care of business and now face the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln, Nebraska next week on ABC. The Huskies defense has a lot of work to be done but the offense unlike last week was clicking. Sarkisian also went over .500 for the first time as Huskies coach since the third game of his career. He is now 14-13 which considering he took over an 0-12 program is pretty good. The Huskies have now won six games in a row and have a good balance with the pass and run. The Huskies offense stepped up today and answered every Hawaii score with a score of their own which is what winning teams do.


- Chris Polk some speculated that he wouldn't be able to play these first two games. Well Polk has rushed for over 100 yards both games. You can tell Polk is still banged up a bit as he hasn't had any long runs. Part of that could be due to defenses stacking up against the run which is why Price already has seven touchdown passes. For the year Polk has 227 yards rushing(5.0 YPC) with a touchdown.

Polk has 13 career 100 yard rushing performances including four in a row. The two running backs ahead of Polk in that category are Doak Walker award winner Greg Lewis(1987-1990) with 15 and legendary running back Napoleon Kaufman(1991-1994) with 17. If the Huskies plan on having the type of season they are envisioning Polk should pass up Kaufman this season. Polk has been a great Husky and I'm happy to see him overcome his injury. He is a power back who very rarely has the first tackler bring him down. I expect to see a ton of Polk next week in the hostile Nebraska.

- After last season where the tight end was rarely used I was excited to see Austin Seferian-Jenkins break out in only his second game of his career. Just like Kasen Williams last week Seferian-Jenkins caught his first of hopefully many touchdowns for his career. The Huskies began the game featuring him and making the Warriors defense pay for stacking up against the run. Price hit Seferian-Jenkins on two play action passes that covered 77 yards to set up the first scoring drive. Then after that Seferian-Jenkins didn't record a catch for the next three quarters as they were spying on him. That simply allowed the Huskies other receivers to make plenty of big plays.

The ability to have a tight end is so important because of Seferian-Jenkins setting the tone first series the Huskies passing attack was able to click. Then when the Huskies only up 31-26 needed a big play Price threw the ball high and in the back of the end zone as the 6'7" Seferian-Jenkins made the touchdown reception to give the Huskies a 38-26 lead. As Price matures look for Seferian-Jenkins to be a big weapon in the red zone as he is so tall and athletic. Seferian-Jenkins in only his second career college game showed everyone why he was such a highly touted recruit coming out of high school.

- The Huskies have to execute better on third downs offensively and defensively moving forward. The Huskies on offense converted just 4-11(36.4%) on third downs while allowing Hawaii to convert 11-14(78.6%). Last week the Huskies were just 6-15(40.0%) on third downs while their opponent was 10-16(62.5%) on third downs. So in two games the Huskies are 10-26(38.4%) on third downs while their opponents are 21-30(70.0%) on third downs.

The good news is I doubt the Huskies allow that high of a conversion rate on third downs. The Huskies are 2-0 despite not being able to get off the field and offensively not extending the drives. If the Huskies can increase their third down percentage which I expect them to do as Price matures with the offense. Defensively if the Huskies want to have the season they expect which is a bowl season they obviously have to cut down that percentage. No defense even the Willingham era of terrible defenses allowed that high of a percentage so I expect that number to be reduced. Hopefully Nick Holt can have that percentage in the low 30%. If the defense can record some key stops the Huskies explosive offense has more opportunities to put the other team away.

- Keith Price has exceeded all expectations in the first two games as Huskies quarterback. I expected the Huskies to be 2-0 but I figured Price would be a game manager not a guy who is throwing for over 300 yards. For the season Price is 35-50(70.0%) passing for 417 yards with seven touchdowns to one interception. Dating back to last year Price has nine touchdowns to just one interception. Price also spreads the ball around as last week he completed 17 passes to 10 different receivers. This week he completed 18 passes to nine different receivers.

Price playing with a knee brace so you've yet to see his mobility come into play. Price is very accurate and in the red zone is scoring touchdowns not settling for field goals. Price also showed off his arm this game hitting several long passes against Hawaii. Price completed six passes over 20 yards today against Hawaii. As Price keeps showing opponents he is a deadly threat with his arm look for defenses to be forced to play nickel defenses which should open up monster games from Chris Polk. The Price era is starting off as well as anyone could have hoped for at Washington.

- The Huskies are now 14-13 in the Steve Sarkisian era. Most importantly the program has won six games in a row. The Huskies offense is starting to click under Sarkisian with a balance of pass and run.  Sarkisian like most coaches isn't perfect but overall I liked how he was agressive today with Price. He allowed Price to be a quarterback today which meant some long throws unlike last week. Last week Price was captain checkdown he didn't exactly play well but he didn't play bad. While today Price was the main reason the Huskies were winners over Hawaii. This is also the first time Sarkisian has won two games in the regular season against non conference opponents. His offense is clicking and if Nick Holt can just somehow get the defense rolling the Huskies can be a dangerous team this year. He has brought in plenty of talent on the offensive side of the ball so look for the scoreboard to be lighting up all season long for the Huskies.

In conclusion, this was a much better win than last week was. The Huskies outplayed the Warriors and beat them. There was no "cheap" win about it this week as the Huskies jumped out to a 21-0 lead over the Warriors. The Warriors are a decent team so of course they battled back but the Huskies never gave up the lead. Every time the Warriors scored the Huskies would immediately answer as the Warriors had zero possessions where they could potentionally take the lead. The Huskies offense scored 40 points something they only did once all of last season. For the Huskies to miss a bowl game they would have to go 3-7 the rest of the season and there is way too much talent in my opinion for that to even be possible. The Huskies went 2-0 on the part of the schedule everyone expected them to go 2-0 and now they play Nebraska in Nebraska then it's Pac-12 play after that. The Huskies offense looked great and hopefully the defense can soon follow. After being 0-12 or even more recently 3-6 last year it feels good to be talking about a six game winning streak. The Huskies are a program that is on the rise that is for sure.

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