Sunday, September 25, 2011

Price throws for three touchdowns as Huskies hang on over Cal 31-23

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies(3-1,1-0) defeated the California Golden Bears(3-1,0-1) 31-23 in a much important Pac-12 opener. The game ended like last year with the Huskies winning on the goal line only this year it was the defense who came up big. The Bears had the ball on the one yard line and couldn't score the touchdown in three tries. The Huskies ahead due to the play of Keith Price who threw for 292 yards with three touchdowns. The Huskies were once again led by their offense despite the rushing game being stopped. Steve Sarkisian took over a program that was 12-47 previous five seasons then started off 3-7 has found himself winning 12 of his last 19 games. The Huskies offense has scored over 30 points all four games this season led by Price who has thrown 14 touchdowns in his first four games this year. The Huskies just like they did last week were victimized by the first play of the game which is something that needs to be improved next week.

The game didn't start off the way the Huskies wanted as their offense was forced to punt on their first drive. The Huskies special teams which was terrific all game long pinned the Bears on their own nine yard line. The Bears after an 11 yard rush would then have a bad snap for a loss of 14 yards back to their own six yard line. After a run of four yards the Bears were facing a third and 20 from their own 10 yard line. That is when Zach Maynard found standout wide receiver Keenan Allen down the middle who was wide open. Allen then made a move on Desmond Trufant and it appeared he was going to be tackled from behind by Quinton Richardson instead Richardson went for the strip. Allen would score on a 90 yard touchdown pass to give the Bears a quick 7-0 lead. The Huskies fans who saw their defense give up 36.6 points per game the previous three weeks couldn't believe the start their defense had.

The Huskies offense like they have all season long would respond with a scoring drive of their own. Jesse Callier would return the kickoff 30 yards to their own 34 yard line when the Huskies offense would take over. After a short two yard run by Chris Polk the Huskies offense decided to open up the playbook. Price was flushed out of the pocket and looked like he was going to run instead he hit Devin Aguilar for a 44 yard pass to the Bears 20 yard line. Price on the next play again scrambling to find freshman sensation Austin Seferian-Jenkins who made a nice spin move on the California defender to score the touchdown. The Huskies only needed three plays to tie up the score at 7-7. For Price that would be his 12th touchdown pass of the season. California was trying to stop the Huskies running game while Price made them pay with the big pass plays to Aguilar and then to Seferian-Jenkins. The big pass plays would help the Huskies offense later in the game set up other big plays. For the offense like they did last week when they gave up a touchdown on their first defensive possession responded with a touchdown of their own. Then on defense after the Huskies tied it up at 7-7 the Huskies would force a three and out where they would take over possession on their own 35 yard line.

The Huskies offense would then go on an eight play 65 yard drive to take the lead. The drive started off with a five yard penalty backing the Huskies up on their 30 yard line. Facing a first and 15 Price would hit Kasen Williams for a gain of four yards, Polk would rush for zero yards so the Huskies were facing a third and 11 from their own 34 yard line. Price who isn't known for his rushing would run for 13 yards for the first down as he faked he was going to pitch to Polk after he had an eight yard run for the first down. Polk had a run of nine yards, Callier a run for five yards to the California 39 yard line. After back to back offsides penalties the Huskies had the ball on the California 29 yard line. Chris Polk had a run of 14 yards to the California 15 yard line. Price had a pass intended for Jermaine Kearse but California committed a 13 yard pass interference penalty. Polk would finish off the drive with a two yard touchdown run to give the Huskies a 14-7 lead.

The Bears would respond with a 13 play 68 yard drive that ate up over five minutes off the clock. The Huskies defense did get tough in the red zone holding the Bears to a 29 yard field goal cutting the score to 14-10. The Huskies would once again respond with a nine play 78 yard drive. Price would hit Kearse for a gain of 10 yards to their own 32 yard line. Callier then would had two runs for nine yards setting up a third and one. After stopping Chris Polk on a play the Huskies were called for holding Jeff Tedford decided to take the penalty instead of having the Huskies face a fourth and inches. The Huskies then faced a third and 11 from the 31 yard line when Price hit Kevin Smith for a gain of 12 yards for a first down. On second down Price would hit James Johnson for a 21 yard gain to the left for a first down to the California 36 yard line. Freshman running back Bishop Sankey would rush for 16 yards on his two carries including a 13 yard run to the California 20 yard line. Sarkisian would call a beautiful play call where Price would roll to his right then throw to his left to Seferian-Jenkins who was helped by a great blocked by Senio Kelemente for the 20 yard touchdown. For Seferian-Jenkins that was his second touchdown reception of the game and third of his career. The Huskies would take a 21-10 lead which would be their biggest lead of the game that would immediately get cut down.

The California Bears would respond going on a 10 play 53 yard drive. Maynard would hit Allen for a key 18 yard gain on a third and 10 on their own 44 yard line. The Bears offense down in the red zone area would struggle once again having to settle for a 36 yard field goal cutting the lead to 21-13. The Huskies having the ball on their own 33 would see Price bust a 10 yard run but would fumble the ball as the Bears receoverd on the Huskies 43 yard line. Facing a fourth and four from the Huskies 37 yard line Maynard would hit Allen for a gain of 17 yards to the Huskies 20 yard line. Maynard would then hit a 15 yard pass, rush for three yards to the Huskies two yard line. C.J.Anderson would finish the drive off with a one yard touchdown run to cut the Huskies lead to 21-20. The Huskies would have some time to go down to score. The Huskies offense would come up just short as Erik Folk missed a 52 yard field goal into the wind by just two yards as the Huskies had some shaky play calling. The Huskies failed to blow the game open and found themselves in a dog fight up 21-20 at halftime. The Huskies were led by Price who was 12-16 passing for 179 yards with two touchdowns and 23 yards rushing with a fumble.  His favorite targets were Aguilar with two receptions for 72 yards and Seferian-Jenkins who had three receptions for 48 yards with two touchdowns. Polk had 37 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown plus a reception for 12 yards. Maynard for the Bears was 11-19 passing for 217 yards with a touchdown. His main weapons were Allen who had three receptions for 125 yards with the long touchdown. He also was hitting Marvin Jones who had five receptions for 65 yards. The Huskies led 21-20 and only outgained the Bears 267-261. The game was fast scoring in the first half but would slow down in the second half.

The Bears would begin the second half with a 13 play 80 yard drive after starting off on their own 10 yard line. The Bears would eat up over seven minutes on that drive as well. Maynard was five for five passing on the drive for 44 yards. Once again though the Bears had to settle for a short field goal from 25 yards out to give the Bears the lead 23-21 over the Huskies. Just like they have done all season long the Huskies would answer right back. Kevin Smith would take the kickoff 53 yards to the California 44 yard line. On second and 11 Price would hit Williams on a short pass which Williams turned into a gain of 10 to set up third and one. Polk was then stopped short of the first down setting up a fourth and one play from the California 35 yard line. Polk was lined up at fullback and everyone assumed Polk was going to take the handoff instead Price pitched the ball to his tailback in that formation which was Kearse who ran for seven yards. Third and 12 from the Bears 30 yard line Price would hit Johnson for a gain of 13 yards to extend the chains. The Huskies would then have a bad penalty and would have to settle for a Folk 40 yard field goal to give the Huskies the lead for good at 24-23 entering the fourth quarter.

The Huskies defense would come up with a stop setting up the offense. The Huskies would have a holding penalty which would put the ball on their own one yard line. After a short run by Polk, Price would hit Polk for a gain of five yards. Price was then hit in the head for an automatic first down to their own 32 yard line. Price would then be sacked for a loss of eight with Polk gaining six of it back to set up the biggest play of the game. The Huskies were facing a third and 12 from their own 30 yard line. The Huskies had Seferian-Jenkins in the slot who already had two touchdowns. The Bears doubled him which allowed Polk to go up the seam as Price would hit him with a perfect pass that would go 70 yards for a touchdown. The Huskies would have a 31-23 lead as Polk had his longest reception of his career. Polk when he came to the Huskies was a wide receiver his senior year in high school and showed off that Reggie Bush ability. For Price this would be the fourth straight game he would throw for at least three touchdown passes giving him 14 on the season.

The Huskies offense failed to put the game away so the Bears had one final chance. With 4:28 left in the game and two timeouts the Bears would start from their own 13 yard line needing a touchdown and a two point conversation. After a penalty and a pass to Allen for 12 yards the Bears were facing a fourth and three from their own 20 with 3:54 left. Having no faith in his defense Jeff Tedford decided to go for it. Maynard would hit Allen for a gain of 17 yards to give the Bears hopes of winning this game alive. On third and nine from their own 38 yard line Maynard would hit Allen for a gain of 12 yards to the 50 yard line. On third and three from the Huskies 43 yard line Maynard would hit Allen for a gain of seven yards. Then after a pass interference penalty Maynard would hit Allen for a gain of 19 yards giving the Bears first and goal from the two yard line with under a minute to go. Maynard would throw an incomplete pass defended well by Jamaal Kearse. On second and goal the Bears would have a one yard gain to the one yard line. On third and goal from the one the Bears would run the ball again only Alameda Ta'amu would blow the play up as Justin Glenn would make the tackle for a one yard loss. Just like last year it came down to a fourth and goal play where Maynard would throw an incomplete pass on a fade route as the Huskies would win 31-23.

For the Huskies they were led by their promising sophomore quarterback Keith Price.  Price was 19 for 25(76.0%) passing for 292 yards with three touchdowns to zero interceptions. Price also added 21 yards on the ground. Like he has done all season long he spread the ball around hitting seven different Huskies with a pass. The Huskies were also led by Chris Polk who had a tough day running with only 60 yards(3.0 YPC) on 20 carries with a touchdown. Polk did have four receptions for 85 yards with a touchdown as well showing even when he is slowed down he is still a major factor. The Huskies also saw Aguilar with two receptions for 72 yards, Seferian-Jenkins with four receptions for 54 yards with two touchdowns, Johnson with two receptions for 34 yards, Kearse had three for 23 yards with a run of seven yards as well, Smith with a reception of 12 yards and Williams had a career high three receptions for 12 yards. The Huskies also saw Sankey rush for 16 yards(8.0 YPC) and Callier rush for 14 yards(4.7 YPC). The Huskies offense once again showed up while the defense held strong in the redzone.

All in all, the Huskies are finding ways to win which wasn't the case for so many years. The Huskies defense has done exactly what I asked them to do which was bend but don't break. I would rather have a dominant defense but with this offense I'll take allowing only 23 points. The offense led by Price is pretty explosive this season as they have already scored 17 touchdowns in four games led by Price with his 14 touchdown passes through four games. On a day when they couldn't get the running game going or when they allowed Maynard to throw for 349 yards the Huskies once again came out on top. The Huskies improve to 3-1 which most fans expected them to be at this point in the season and next week they take on the Utah Utes. The offense behind Keith Price appears to be dangerous this season as they are averaging 34.8 points per game. The Huskies had to win this game at home and they found a way which was the key.


- The sign of a good football player is when he is slowed down in one area of his game he still makes an impact anyways. Chris Polk had his string of five straight games rushing for over 100 yards snapped(Cal was the last team to prevent him from 100 last time). Polk was held to 60 yards on 20 carries good for just 3.0 YPC with a touchdown. It was a tough day for Polk who had to work hard for every rushing yards. After four games Polk now has 417 yards on 87 carries(4.8 YPC) with three rushing touchdowns. Polk though did something today he rarely does which was make an impact in the passing game.

For his career Polk has 51 receptions for 378 yards with zero touchdowns coming into today. Today Polk had four receptions for 85 yards including a 70 yard touchdown. That was Polk's longest reception and only touchdown receiving of his career. Polk in a game in which he was shut down still had 145 total yards with two touchdowns. This is why Polk is an all-american candidate because he can beat you with power most of the time. He also can beat you with his speed as he is faster than most people give him credit for.

- I have to give the defense credit for being tough in the redzone. The defense who is led by Cort Dennison made some big plays today. Dennison had his best game as a Husky in my opinion as he was stopping the run on key short yardage situations then was breaking up passes as well. The Bears had four possessions inside the Huskies 15 yard line where they walked away with a total of nine points instead of the maximum 28 points. Score a touchdown on two of those drive and the Bears walk away with the win. The defense showed heart today and remember last two years the defense improved as the season went along. Led by their captain Dennison the defense was just as part of this victory as the offense was by being tough when it mattered most.

- The Huskies are sure glad they landed five star recruit Austin Seferian-Jenkins who came up big today. Seferian-Jenkins had a career high four receptions today for 54 yards with a career high two touchdowns. Seferian-Jenkins will be a big weapon for the Huskies in the redzone as he caught two 20 yard touchdown passes. The Huskies with the threat of the tight end can use him as a decoy which they did on their 70 yard touchdown pass to Polk. Seferian-Jenkins has the size of a lineman but moves like a wide receiver which in a year or two will make him an impossible matchup. Seferian-Jenkins is already developing into a very difficult matchup for opposing teams. For the season Seferian-Jenkins has nine receptions for 170 yards(18.9 YPC) with three touchdowns on the season. Seferian-Jenkins is only a true freshman so look for the season to get older look for him to make even more big plays in the passing game.

- Keith Price continues to silence his doubters with another strong performance. Price was 19-25(76.0%) passing for 292 yards with three touchdowns today. Price who still doesn't have his #17 jersey on sale at UW but his backup quarterback has his jersey being sold is showing everyone why Sarkisian picked him as the starting quarterback. Price unlike a Jake Locker doesn't have the "wow" factor or impress you with his build. Instead Price is just accurate with his passes while making big plays with his arm instead of his legs.

For the season Price is 75-112(66.9%) of his passes for 983 yards(8.8 YPA) with 14 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions. Price is running this offense better than Jake Locker ever did. Of the 14 touchdown passes that Price has thrown he has connected with seven different receivers showing that you can't just focus on one receiver. Price who is only a sophomore will continue to grow under Sarkisian for two more seasons which should have the rest of the Pac-12 worried. Price you would think will only improve and Sarkisian will trust him even more so.

-  Sarkisian has his offense playing better than it ever did during his first two years at Washington. Sarkisian finally has a balance offense with a good running game in Polk and an accurate passer in Price. Sarkisian has plenty of weapons in the passing game for Price to distribute the ball to. Sarkisian even has the offensive line playing better(still not quite there yet) and his play calling seems to have improved. Whenever the Huskies need to respond after allowing a score they seem to always rise up with the score. After inheriting a program who had just gone 12-47 the previous five seasons Sarkisian began his career at Washington going 3-7 after a promising 3-3 start. Since going 3-7 Sarkisian is now 12-7 as a head coach putting him at 15-14 in his career. The Huskies took a risk on Sarkisian much like Sarkisian took a risk by naming Price the starting quarterback over the guy with the famous last name Nick Montana.

Unlike the previous failed coach Tyrone Willingham it appears the players actually like Sarkisian. The players want to play for this guy as he is a players coach but will discipline you if you cross the line. Take how he handled young freshman Bishop Sankey. Sankey as you know fumbled last week on the one yard line which caused the Nebraska game to get away from the Huskies. Sarkisian told Sankey how Chris Polk did the same thing last year and how Polk would on to have a fine season. Then Sankey responded with his best week of practice while Sarkisian rewarded him with two carries this week and Sankey rewarded his coaches faith with 16 yards rushing. When Price does make a mistake the Huskies move onto the next play or if a receiver drops a pass often Sarkisian will go right back to that receiver. Sarkisian coaches his players for success not for failure and his players aren't afraid to fail. Sarkisian was a risky hire and at times it looked like this marriage wasn't going to work. Well Sarkisian has proved his doubters including myself wrong.

In conclusion, the Huskies did what good teams do which is win at home against middle of the conference competition. In a game which vegas had as a pick em the Huskies won at home to improve to 3-1 and under Sarkisian begin conference play 1-0. For the Huskies to miss a bowl game they would have to go 2-6 the rest of the way which I can't see this team doing. The Huskies goal isn't just to make a bowl though like year. If this team goes 6-6 I'll be very disappointed as I predicted 8-4 before I knew the capabilities of Keith Price. Sarkisian is showing why he is the quarterback coach on the west coast as every quarterback he puts his hands on turns to gold. The Huskies defense who had been bashed on all week came up huge when the game mattered most when Cal had four chances from two yards out and couldn't deliver. The Huskies are a winning team which is why they win these type of games. The type of games that Willingham could never win because those teams were losing teams. Sarkisian changed the attitude of his players and you can tell that this team is very confident. When the Huskies offense faces a third and long Price seems to always deliver with a key first down. The Huskies program is going in the right direction and I'm excited to see what the Sarkisian/Price combo can do in their three years together.

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