Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Huskies hope to end 4 game losing streak vs #8 Stanford

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies(2-1,0-0) are hosting the #8 Stanford Cardinal(3-0,1-0) on a special Thursday night game on ESPN which the Huskies will be wearing the black uniforms. This is a big game for the Huskies as they start conference play in probably the second toughest conference in America. The Huskies will also have some revenge on the mind as the Stanford Cardinal have dominated this series in recent memory winning four in a row including last seasons embarrassing 65-21 loss to then #7 Stanford as the Huskies were ranked #22 going into that game. The Huskies were 5-1 heading into that game and that loss started a trend where the Huskies lost five of their last seven games of the season.

If the Huskies are to pull off the upset they will need a big game from Keith Price. Price this year is 56-90(62.2%) passing for 560 yards(6.2 YPA) with four touchdowns to one interception. He has had to deal with a injured offensive line and injuries to his receivers as well. Basically Price has had to overcome a lot in his junior season. Last year in the loss to the Cardinal Price was 23-36(63.9%) passing for 247 yards(6.9 YPA) with a touchdown and a costly interception that was ran back for a touchdown. Price was able to move the ball on the Cardinal last year just couldn't finish off drives. Hopefully this year Price can finish off the drives as he is 8-1 at home in his Husky career and the Huskies do tend to play a lot better at home compared to on the road.

The Huskies offense despite the injuries still feature plenty of talent headlined by super sophomore tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and wide receiver Kasen Williams. The Huskies also start true sophomore running back Bishop Sankey as well.

First I'll start by talking about the talented tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins who has 20 receptions this year for 211 yards(10.6 YPC) with a touchdown. In the loss to Stanford last year Seferian-Jenkins had five receptions for 77 yards. Seferian-Jenkins is a match up nightmare for every opponent he faces this year.

Then at receiver you have Kasen Williams who this year has 15 receptions for 163 yards(10.9 YPC) with two touchdowns. Williams has had two good games and one stinker at LSU. Williams is a touchdown machine though have caught eight in 15 career games so far. The receiver opposite of Williams will be junior Kevin Smith  who in two games this year has six receptions for 68 yards(11.3 YPC). The Huskies will need another receiver to step up whether that be Jaydon Mickens, DiAndre Campbell, Kendyl Taylor or Marvin Hall. One of those four guys needs to develop into that consistent number three option.

For the running game the Huskies will turn to Bishop Sankey. Sankey on the year has ran for 185 yards(4.2 YPC) with three touchdowns. Last year in the loss to Stanford Sankey ran for 31 yards on five carries(6.2 YPC). Backing up Sankey is Erich Wilson who has ran for 119 yards(5.7 YPC) and has the longest run of the season so far which was 31 yards. Last year despite the loss Chris Polk busted two long runs against the Cardinal as he ran for 144 yards with two touchdowns. The Huskies must have some sort of run game to overcome this Stanford defense which has been pretty good this year.

The Stanford defense currently ranks 3rd in the nation against the run. They held the then #2 USC Trojans to 26 yards rushing on 24 carries as they flat out dominated the Trojans. This year the Cardinal have yet to allow 20 points in their three games as they are allowing only 14.7 points per game.

This defense creates pressure which leads to turnovers as they have already forced six interceptions this season. They are led by Ed Reynolds who already has three interceptions for 144 yards including a touchdown. The Cardinal defense have also shut down the Huskies in the Sarkisian era holding the Huskies to 14 points, then shutting them out at home in 2010 and last year the Huskies only scored 21 points against this defense. The Huskies must find a way to score on this defense as the Cardinal offense has also had their way with the Huskies in recent years.

The Cardinal offense is led by Stepfan Taylor who this year has ran for 338 yards(5.0 YPC) with three touchdowns. He also has 10 receptions for 89 yards with a touchdown. Taylor has also destroyed the Huskies in the past as well. Taylor as a freshman ran for a touchdown against the Huskies then started to do damage on them in 2010 and 2011. In 2010 Taylor ran for 102 yards on 20 carries(5.1 YPC) with two touchdowns. Then last year Taylor ran for 138 yards on only 10 carries(13.8 YPC) with a touchdown. The offense runs through Taylor as the Cardinal have pounded the ball on the Huskies the last four years.

The Cardinal will have a new quarterback in this series as Andrew Luck defeated the Huskies the last three years. This year the quarterback is Josh Nunes who will be making his first career start on the road. This year Nunes is 47-88(53.4%) passing for 615 yards(7.0 YPA) with six touchdowns and three interceptions. His leading target is tight end Zach Ertz who has nine receptions for 146 yards(16.2 YPC) with a touchdown. The Cardinal will try to establish the run game and work the play action passes against this new Huskies defense led by new coordinator Justin Wilcox.

The Huskies defense this year has played well in two games and terrible in the other game. The defense has been killed by the Cardinal the last three years in the Sarkisian era allowing 34 points, 41 points and last year giving up 65 points. This defense does have some talent led by senior corner back Desmond Trufant who has played really well this year. They also have super talented true freshman Shaq Thompson who is all over the field and he could see some action at running back.

The Huskies defense in the past especially against ranked opponents have been blown out. The defense has allowed 298 points in their last six meetings against ranked opponents all of which are losses. That is an average of 49.7 points per game which is completely unacceptable. For the Huskies to take the next step they must start showing they can compete in these type of games.

This is a huge game in the Steve Sarkisian era as his tenure appears to be at a cross roads. A win tomorrow proves the Huskies are indeed moving in the right direction as a program. While another blowout loss with #2 Oregon and #13 USC looming could start getting some uncomfortable talk surrounding Sarkisian. Starting with this embarrassing 41-0 loss to Stanford in 2010 the Huskies are 1-9 in their last 10 games against ranked opponents losing by an average of 28.2 points. The Huskies have lost six games in a row to ranked opponents all of which were by double figures. In three games against Stanford the Huskies have lost 34-14, 41-0, and 65-21 last year. Sarkisian is in his fourth year and this is a huge game for him. The 41-3 loss to #4 LSU Tigers was a bad start to showcase how this program has made "progress". Hopefully tomorrow Sarkisian can start pulling off these upsets like he did his first year and a half on the job.

This is a big game for the Huskies program on a special Thursday night game on ESPN. This is a chance for this program to finally show they are ready for big time wins on big network games. This is a chance for Sarkisian to finally silence his critics with a win over a good top 10 opponent who is very beatable. The Huskies have the talent to beat the Cardinal and they are at home. Plus in the past when facing a quarterback making his first career road start that used to always mean a Huskies win. The Huskies program has a great opportunity tomorrow to show they are ready to compete with the top tier teams in the conference. Should be a fun atmosphere which I'll be there in person to witness. The Huskies are hoping this year against the Cardinal it's a different story unlike the last four years. We'll know a lot more about the Sarkisian tenure at Washington after tomorrow that is for sure.

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