Monday, September 3, 2012
Huskies defense comes up big in 21-12 win over Aztecs!
The Washington Huskies(1-0,0-0) for the second straight season begin their year with a victory. They defeated San Diego State(0-1,0-0) 21-12 in a defensive battle something the Huskies haven't seen since the 2010 Holiday Bowl victory over Nebraska 19-7. There was still some offense as Keith Price was 25-35 passing for 222 yards with a touchdown while also rushing for 17 yards. His main targets were the super sophomores of Kasen Williams who had six receptions for 75 yards with a touchdown and Austin Seferian-Jenkins who had nine receptions for 82 yards. The Huskies won this game despite not scoring a single offensive point after the first quarter. For Steve Sarkisian he is now 2-2 all-time in season openers as his program is hoping to take that next step that he promised all offseason.
When the Aztecs broke the huddle Tim Vizzi was already standing on the sidelines. No Huskies were over there so Ryan Katz quickly threw it deep to Vizzi who scored from 47 yards out. There was many problems with that play as you can't intentionally have a play with the act to deceive your opponent. Another problem was Sarkisian noticed what was going on and was signaling timeout to the ref which wasn't called. As it stood the Aztecs cut the lead to 14-6. Then head coach Rocky Long made his first of many head scratching calls as the Aztecs decided to go for two. Katz was sacked by Shirley in the backfield as the Aztecs failed on the two point play as the Huskies 14-6 led in the second.
The Huskies defense would record a stop on the Aztecs but due to a 50 yard punt the Huskies had the ball on their own 22 yard line. Facing a third and nine from the 23 yard line Price would hit Williams over the middle for a gain of 20 yards and would tack on 15 more yards as the Aztecs had a personal foul for ripping Williams helmet off. On the 42 yard line Price would hit Seferian-Jenkins for a gain of 11 yards to the 31 yard line. Sankey would rush for three yards to the Aztecs 28 yard line but Price would throw back to back incomplete passes. New kicker Travis Coons who is replacing graduated kicker Erik Folk would miss the 47 yard field goal badly that would have put the Huskies up 24-6. The Aztecs with a little over a quarter left wouldn't waste this golden opportunity to come back and make this a game.
Now the Huskies offense would take over from their own eight yard line hoping to grind out the clock. After Sankey ran for no gain and Price had an incomplete pass the Huskies were facing a huge third down from their own nine yard line with still 4:05 left in the game. This is when having a healthy Keith Price unlike last year came into play. Price would rush up the middle on a broken play for a gain of 17 yards to the 26 yard line. That was a huge first down as the Huskies continued to run some clock. After two Sankey runs for a combined seven yards the Huskies faced another third down from their own 33 yard line with 2:41 left in the game. Trusting his quarterback the Huskies called a pass play as Price hit Kevin Smith for a gain of seven yards to pick up the crucial third and three. The Huskies would then run the clock down to 51 seconds before punting it. With no timeouts Katz ran three times for 33 yards as time ran out on the Aztecs as the Huskies won 21-12.
For the Aztecs they were led by Ryan Katz who was 10-19 passing for 128 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Where he hurt the Huskies was with his legs as he ran for a net of 77 yards(lost 23 from sacks so in reality 100 yards) including that big 32 yarder. Walter Kazee ran for 86 yards on only nine carries. Adam Muema had only 32 yards rushing on 11 carries but had a touchdown. Aztecs leading receiver was Colin Locket who had four receptions for 48 yards but had a costly fumble which cost the Aztecs a touchdown. The Aztecs defense held the Huskies to only 108 yards offense in the second half including Price going 8-14 passing while Sankey carried the ball 13 times for 17 yards in the second half.
The Huskies did something they couldn't do last year which was play a poor offensive game and still win. The good news is the defense appears to be a lot stronger than last season while the bad news is the offensive line play. Thankfully Price was on his "A" game in the first half or the Huskies would have had trouble scoring points which they didn't do in the second half cause Price wasn't perfect. The Huskies offense didn't play up to their abilities but still walked away with a win. This was a different feeling than last year where the Huskies escaped barely with a victory over Eastern Washington. This year the Huskies led the entire game and led the entire second half by two scores. Despite the head scratching moves by the Aztecs coaching staff the Huskies earned this victory. For the first time since 2007 the Huskies have won back to back season openers. For the first time since 2003 the Huskies have won three straight home openers. At least the Huskies are back to winning games with their defense which has to feel good for anyone who witnessed the Alamo Bowl last year.
Seferian-Jenkins could be the best tight end in the nation and is guaranteed to be with the Huskies for this season and next. He'll be a first round pick after the 2013 season he's that good. He's so physically strong on those quick passes he carries defenders while also having the speed to get some YAC yardage. Seferian-Jenkins will be a major weapon for the Huskies to use and if Sankey continues to struggle look for Seferian-Jenkins to be used even more especially down in the red zone as Sarkisian won't tolerate leaving points on the scoreboard. Seferian-Jenkins is off to a great start this year and is on his way to being an all-american someday if not this year.
Shirley last year had nine sacks and had 3.5 sacks in the bowl loss to Baylor. Look for Shirley to challenge the school record for sacks in a season and sacks in a career. He has the ability and with Justin Wilcox emphasizing more blitzes that just means more opportunities for Shirley to record some quarterback sacks. Shirley is a special talent and a guy many were high on when he finally made his way to Washington in July of 2010. It is nice to see another sophomore having a big impact for this program. The Huskies program had a ton of sophomore's making major contributions as I just pointed out with Shirley, Williams, Seferian-Jenkins and hopefully Sankey. Shirley was an animal this past Saturday and he'll have some monster games this upcoming season.
The Huskies won the game and improve to 1-0 which ultimately is what matters. If the Huskies are to take that "next step" as a program they must improve their defense from the last couple of seasons. The 2011 defense allowed the most points in Huskies history followed by 2008, 2007 and then 2010. So the four worst defenses in Huskies history have happened in the last five years. That is why I'm actually encouraged by this win due to the play of the defense. I think the offense will be fine as they left plenty of points on the board. The Huskies shouldn't have to apologize for beating a bowl team to begin their season as San Diego State is an average team who the Huskies defeated. The season is early and the injuries are piling up for this team. The Huskies must overcome them as the tough part of the schedule is about to begin as they play at #3 LSU, then after hosting Portland State the Huskies play #21 Stanford, at #5 Oregon then host #1 USC. The Huskies better get better in a hurry as the schedule is about to become unfriendly which is why winning this game was so important. The Huskies took care of business at home and hope to pull off the shocking upset next week down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.