Friday, September 7, 2012

Washington Huskies take on #3 LSU Tigers

By Kshell

The Washington Huskies(1-0,0-0) travel down to face the #3 LSU Tigers(1-0,0-0) in a key non conference game. The Huskies find themselves 23.5 point underdogs in this game and if they were to win would be the biggest upset in school history. The reason the Huskies are such large underdogs is due to how good the Tigers are. The Tigers played in the national title game last year and haven't lost a home game since October of 2009 when they barely lost to then #1 Florida Gators 13-3. So despite the daunting task and having not traveled to an SEC game in decades the Huskies are hoping in year four of Steve Sarkisian they can make this a game. The Huskies although lacking in talent in several key areas in comparison to the Tigers do have a strong passing game which can keep this game close.

The Huskies biggest advantage is quarterback Keith Price. The Tigers who are starting two freshman corner backs also recorded zero sacks last week in a 41-14 win over North Texas. Price last week in a 21-12 win over San Diego State was 25-35(71.4%) passing for 222 yards(6.3 YPA) with a touchdown while also rushing for 17 yards. Price had a 39 yard touchdown pass called back and a 15 yard scramble called back.

 If the Huskies have any shot in this one it is the passing game. Wide receiver Kasen Williams who considered going to LSU had six receptions last week for 75 yards with a touchdown. The super sophomore must have a big day if the Huskies have any chance at all. Super sophomore tight end and future first round pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins had nine receptions for 82 yards last week. Seferian-Jenkins is a matchup nightmare for anyone and look for the Huskies to use him. The Huskies are hoping junior Kevin Smith who is now practiced all week can contribute in the passing game as he only had two receptions for 20 yards but has shown in the past he can make big plays. Then true freshman Jaydon Mickens who had only two receptions for 16 yards and Kendyl Taylor who had one reception for five yards must make big plays. After Price sets them up with the short passes those two along with Smith can hopefully beat their man deep.

For the Tigers last week they broke in a new quarterback Zach Mettenberger who will be a game manager. He was 19-26(73.1%) passing for 192 yards(7.4 YPA) with a touchdown and an interception. 17 of his passes went for less than five yards as the Tigers depend on their running game and defense to win games. His main target last week was Jarvis Landry who had eight receptions for 82 yards. Kadron Boone had two receptions for 46 yards including a 34 yard touchdown. Odell Beckman caught three passes for 30 yards. He also had four punt returns for 75 yards including a 70 yard punt return for a touchdown. The Tigers passing game won't excite fans but all head coach Les Miles is looking for is Mettenberger to take care of the ball and hit some key third downs as Miles looks to pound the rock like he did last week.

Last week against North Texas the Tigers ran the ball at will. Led by starting running back Kenny Hilliard who ran for 141 yards on just 13 carries(10.8 YPC) with two touchdowns. His backup did just fine as well as Alfred Blue ran for 123 yards on 16 carries(7.7 YPC). The tigers also saw Michael Ford rush eight times for 50 yards(6.3 YPC) while J.C. Copeland had four carries for 33 yards(8.3 YPC) with a touchdown. The Tigers ran the ball 46 times for 316 yards(6.9 YPC) with three touchdowns in their win. The Huskies in recent memory have been terrible against the run. They have also been terrible against the pass as well. Look for the Tigers to run the ball to wear down the Huskies in that humidity down in Louisiana . By running the ball the Tigers will also be controlling the clock which will keep Keith Price out of the game.

The first game in the post Chris Polk era was a disaster for the Huskies. First starting running back Jesse Callier blew out his ACL on a play where there was no defenders around him. So making his first career start is sophomore Bishop Sankey. Sankey last week ran for 66 yards on 22 carries(3.0 YPC) with a touchdown but a costly red zone fumble. This is a big chance for Sankey to make a name for himself as the Huskies will lean heavily on him this season at running back like they have done Chris Polk the last three years. It won't be easy as the Tigers last week held North Texas to 76 yards rushing on 35 rush attempts(2.2 YPC). Their defensive line features two guys who are expected to be first round picks. The Huskies are moving Erik Kohler back to right tackle as right tackle Ben Riva is out for this game. So James Atoe or Mike Criste will be making their first career start on the offensive line this week at right guard. Sarkisian is going to have to be creative to muster up a running game.

This is a big opportunity for the Huskies defense to show the nation they have improved under new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. In 2010 Wilcox almost upset the Tigers at LSU where his Tennessee Vols lost 16-14. The defense last year in big games on ABC/ESPN got lit up as they allowed 51 points to Nebraska on the road, 65 points to Stanford on the road and in the bowl game 67 points to Baylor. Once again the Huskies are in the big game as this game will air on ESPN. Their defense played well last week holding the Aztecs to 12 points and scoring a touchdown themselves. The only player on this roster who has played against the Tigers is senior captain Desmond Trufant. The Tigers weakness is their passing attack so Trufant and the rest of the secondary must create plays early so later they can help out in the run defense. For the Huskies to have a shot they need to create some turnovers like the defense did last week.

This is a big game in the Sarkisian era against the #3 team who is an SEC opponent in their house. If the Huskies were able to pull this off or even come close that is signs that the program is moving in the right direction. If let's say Sarkisian gets blown out again then he will enter Jim Lambright territory in 1998 where fans will start to grow tired of the blowouts. I see no reason why with a quarterback like Price the Huskies can't at least give the Tigers a scare. This is a great opportunity for these young guys to grow as well as they'll never face a more hostile environment than this going forward which can only help them this season and in 2013. This is a great opportunity that most college programs don't ever get the chance to achieve. The Huskies have a chance to show the nation that Husky football is officially back!

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