Friday, November 23, 2012

#25 Huskies look to win four in a row vs struggling Cougars

By Kshell

This week the #25 Washington Huskies(7-4,5-3) travel to take on their cross state rivals the Washington State Cougars(2-9,0-8) in their annual Apple Cup meeting. The Huskies lead the all-time series with the Cougars 67-31-6 and have won the last three contests all coached by Steve Sarkisian. While the Cougars coach Mike Leach who is having a rough first season in Pullman will be coaching his first Apple Cup. These two programs are going in different directions as the Huskies have won four games in a row looking to win five in a row for the first time in one season since 2000. While the Cougars are suffering a disaster season under Leach. The Cougars have lost eight games in a row and their star receiver Marquess Wilson quit the team two weeks ago. In this game though if the Cougars beat the Huskies that will make their season while the Huskies are trying to win eight games for the first time since 2001.

The Huskies offense has been playing well the last two weeks due to the improved play of Keith Price. This will be Price second apple cup game. Last year in the 38-21 win over the Cougars Price was 21-29(72.4%) passing for 291 yards(10.0 YPA) with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Price is also coming off of a career high five touchdown passes last week vs Colorado Buffaloes.

For the year Price is 223-359(62.1%) passing for 2,290 yards(6.4 YPA) with 16 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. He has also ran in a touchdown. The Cougars passing defense has allowed 248-374 passing(66.3%) for 2,952 yards (7.9 YPA) with 24 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. Look for Price to continue his hot streak as he has been playing great the last two weeks.

For the Cougars they'll be going with Jeff Tuel who played against the Huskies in the 35-28 loss back in 2010. In that game Tuel was 25-35(71.4%) passing for 298 yards(8.5 YPA) with three touchdown passes to one interception. He also ran for 25 yards with a touchdown.

This year Tuel has split time with Connor Halliday. Tuel on the year is 178-279(63.8%) passing for 1,737 yards(6.2 YPA) with eight touchdowns to six interceptions. Halliday who won't play on the year was 152-291(52.2%) passing for 1,878 yards(6.5 YPA) with 15 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. The Cougars rely on their passing attack as their rushing attack has been non existent this year.

With sacks counting against teams rushing totals the Cougars this year have ran for only 330 yards on 228 carries(1.5 YPC) with three touchdowns. The Cougars two main rushers are Teondray  Caldwell who has ran for 262 yards on 53 carries(4.9 YPC). He has also caught 12 passes for 49 yards(4.1 YPC) on the year.

The other back is Carl Winston who last year in the Apple Cup loss ran for only 20 yards on six carries(3.3 YPC). This year he has ran for only 253 yards on 73 carries(3.5 YPC) with two touchdowns. He has also caught 12 passes for 63 yards(5.3 YPC). The Cougars rushing game has been non existent while their counter parts have a strong rushing attack.

What has to hurt the Cougars lack of a running game is that the Huskies have a strong running game led by Bishop Sankey. Sankey who was a Cougar commit decided at the last minute to go to the Huskies instead. Last year he didn't play in the Apple Cup and will be playing in his first career Apple Cup against the school he snubbed.

Sankey on the year has ran for 1,150 yards on 233 carries(4.9 YPC) with 13 touchdowns. He has also caught 27 passes for 175 yards(6.5 YPC). His backup Kendyl Taylor is a nice change of pace back as he has ran for 206 yards on 33 carries(6.2 YPC). He has also caught 13 passes for 99 yards(7.6 YPC) with a touchdown. The Cougars rush defense isn't very strong as they have allowed 1,884 yards rushing on 457 attempts(4.1 YPC) with 19 touchdowns. The Huskies have had four straight years with a 100 yard rusher against the Cougars.

The Huskies receiving group is led by Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Last year against the Cougars Williams had a breakout game. The true freshman caught five passes for 74 yards(14.8 YPC) with two touchdowns. He also had a memorable leap over a Cougar defender. That big game led way to a big season for Williams this year as he has caught 63 passes for 700 yards(11.1 YPC) with six touchdowns.

While Seferian-Jenkins last year in his first Apple Cup caught four passes for 62 yards(15.5 YPC). This year Seferian-Jenkins has caught 58 passes for 751 yards(12.9 YPC) with five touchdowns. The Huskies last couple of years have had other receivers step up as well. Jaydon Mickens the true freshman on the year has 18 receptions for 178 yards(9.9 YPC) with his first career touchdown last week. He has also ran for 26 yards on three carries. DiAndre Campbell has caught 12 passes for 125 yards(10.4 YPC) with two touchdowns. Senior Cody Bruns has caught 11 passes for 84 yards(7.6 YPC) with a touchdown. The Cougars will look to make someone else beat them this year. Last year going into the game they tried to stop Jermaine Kearse from killing them as he destroyed them the previous two years which allowed the freshman Williams to have a break through game. Look for Mickens or Bruns to step up with a career game this Friday.

The Cougars receivers took a hit when Marquess Wilson quit the team. Last year against the Huskies Wilson caught seven passes for 108 yards(15.4 YPC) with two touchdowns. For this season Wilson had caught 52 passes for 813 yards(15.6 YPC) with five touchdowns in only nine games.

The other Cougar receivers are true freshman Gabe Marks who has caught 47 passes for 547 yards(11.6 YPC) with two touchdowns. Brett Bartolone has caught 49 passes for 407 yards(8.3 YPC) with four touchdowns. Dominique Williams who has stepped up in Wilson's absence in only seven games has caught 26 passes for 403 yards(15.5 YPC) with three touchdowns. Bobby Ratliff has caught 27 passes for 377 yards(14.0 YPC) in only seven games. Isiah Myers in eight games has caught 38 passes for 391 yards(10.3 YPC) with four touchdowns. The Cougars will throw the ball all over the place and will try and test the talented Huskies secondary.

The Huskies rank 9th in the nation against the pass this year which is led by senior Desmond Trufant who is the brother of Marcus Trufant. Unlike his brother Marcus who was 0-4 in apple cup games Desmond is 3-0 in the apple cup. Last year with the Huskies leading 31-21, the Cougars tried a flea flicker to Wilson when Trufant tipped the pass straight to Sean Parker for a momentum changing interception.

Opposing quarterbacks are 157-302(51.9%) passing for 1,917 yards(6.3 YPA) with 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The Huskies have recorded 22 sacks on the season while the Cougars have allowed 52 sacks(4.7 a game) on the season. The Huskies secondary will be tested all game as they hardly run the ball. You have a battle between a top 10 passing offense against a top 10 passing defense. For Trufant this will be his final Apple Cup and like Sankey his presence on the Huskies sideline has to kill Cougar fans. Trufant unlike his brother decided to come to the Huskies in Sarkisian's first every recruiting class at Washington. Trufant who will be playing on Sunday's next year has two more games left in his Husky career. For him to go out a perfect 4-0 in Apple Cups would be a nice end to his great Husky career so far.

In the last three years Steve Sarkisian is 3-0 against the Cougars. In fact he has never trailed the Cougars in his three years as Huskies head coach. In his first year the Huskies shut out the Cougars for the first time since 1964 30-0 in 2009. In his second year the Huskies blew a 28-14 lead only to see Locker hit Kearse for the game winning touchdown to 35-28 in 2010 to clinch their first bowl game since 2002. Then last year the Huskies won 38-21 behind Price and Chris Polk. Sarkisian has a chance to join Don James and Rick Neuheisel as Husky coaches who began their career going 4-0 against the Cougars. The Huskies are heavy favorites heading into this game and know what is at stake. A win would give the program their 8th win which they haven't done since 2001.

The Huskies are playing their best ball right now while the Cougars have been blown out in the first half in their last three games. The Cougars will be at home and for them a win over the Huskies would salvage a terrible season. With a win here Leach's first year would win over some fans and make this year a success for the Cougars. If the Huskies win and if the win is a blowout this could put some real heat on Leach. Leach has had a disaster first year going 2-9 so far and with a loss would go 2-10 clinching the Cougars 50th loss in the last five years. The Cougars are 11-49 and 4-40 in conference since 2008. This is a game the Huskies should win easily as the talent gap is too great. I expect a somewhat close first half where the Huskies lead then in the second half the Huskies pull away. The programs are just going in different directions once again as the Huskies program appears to be getting better while the Cougars program appears to be getting worse.

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