Friday, November 9, 2012

Huskies host Utes for final home game of the season

By Kshell

This Saturday at Century Link Field the Washington Huskies(5-4,3-3) will be hosting their final home game as they take on the Utah Utes(4-5,2-4). Both teams are coming into this game on a two game winning streak and riding some momentum. With a win on Saturday the Huskies will clinch their third straight bowl appearance under Steve Sarkisian. The Utes come into this game favored despite the Huskies being 4-1 at home and the Utes being 0-4 on the road averaging only 12 points per game. Last year in their first meeting since 1979 the Huskies won their only road game of the season blowing out the Utes 31-14 down in Salt Lake City. The Utes are going to try and get some revenge this year against the Huskies.

Last year against the Utes, quarterback Keith Price struggled in the first half. Then in the second half Price torched the Utes. In the win over Utah, Price was 22-30(73.3%) passing for 226 yards(7.5 YPA) with three touchdowns and one interception. All three touchdowns were in the second half.

Unfortunately for Price such performances as that game last year haven't happened this year. This year Price is 177-297(59.6%) passing for 1,765 yards(5.9 YPA) with only nine touchdowns to 10 interceptions. Price has already been sacked 26 times this year and his struggles has been a big part of the Huskies offensive struggles. Sarkisian is hoping Price can regain that magic that he had last season when he was lighting up opponents such as Utah last year.

The Utes have had some quarterback issues this season. Jordan Wynn started the first two games then was injured. He was replaced by senior Jon Hays who played against the Huskies last year. Hays in that game was 10-16 passing for 156 yards with a touchdown and interception. Recently he was replaced by freshman Travis Wilson.

Wilson this year is 79-116(68.1%) passing for 817 yards(7.0 YPA) with four touchdowns and five interceptions. He has also ran for 27 net yards with three touchdowns. Last week in the 49-6 win over the Washington State Cougars Wilson had a breakout game. Wilson was 17-21(81.0%) passing for 171 yards(8.1 YPA) with two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for 14 yards in that blowout win. Wilson has been up and down this year for the Utes which explains the inconsistency of the Utes season.

To help ease a freshman quarterback playing in a hostile environment the Utes will feature the running game. Last year John White was actually shut down by the Huskies defense as he only had 35 yards rushing on 14 carries(2.5 YPC) with his longest rush being for six yards.

White is hoping the results are much different this time around. This year White has ran for 619 yards on 149 carries(4.2 YPC) with five touchdowns. He also has 10 receptions for 86(8.6 YPC) with a touchdown. His backup Kelvin York has ran for 248 yards on 50 carries(5.0 YPC) with two touchdowns. The Utes will try to run the ball on the Huskies defense which has been very poor against the run. The Huskies defense this year has allowed 1,730 yards rushing(4.9 YPC) with 12 touchdowns. The Huskies are allowing 192 yards rushing a game which the Utes will look to exploit.

The best part of the Huskies offense this year has been sophomore running back Bishop Sankey. Sankey is coming off of a career game last week against the California Golden Bears where he ran for 189 yards with two touchdowns.

Sankey this year has ran for 855 yards on 176 carries(4.9 YPC) with 11 touchdowns. Sankey has also caught 19 passes for 114 yards(6.0 YPC) on the year. His backup true freshman Kendyl Taylor has ran for 122 yards on 22 carries(5.5 YPC). Taylor also has 11 receptions for 69 yards(6.3 YPC) on the year.

Sankey will have a tough time against the Utes rush defense. This year the Utes rush defense has allowed only 946 yards rushing(3.2 YPC) with 10 touchdowns. Although last year the Huskies were quite successful in running the ball on the Utes as Chris Polk ran for 189 yards on 29 carries(6.5 YPC) including 101 yards rushing in the third quarter alone. The Huskies will hope to repeat that type of performance on the ground as they simply lack weapons in the passing game.

The Huskies passing offense is led by Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Last year against the Utes, Williams had two receptions for 30 yards with an eight yard touchdown reception. This year Williams has caught 49 passes for 547 yards(11.2 YPC) with four touchdowns. Williams has been held out of the end zone the last three weeks so perhaps he'll find the end zone this week.

The other big weapon is Seferian-Jenkins who is coming off a career high 152 yards receiving last week in the win over Cal. Seferian-Jenkins on the year has 48 receptions for 630 yards(13.1 YPC) with four touchdowns. Seferian-Jenkins last year in the win over Utah caught three passes for 32 yards. He has also caught at least one touchdown in three of the last four weeks.

Another receiver in the passing offense is Jaydon Mickens who has 16 receptions for 113 yards(7.1 YPC). He did drop a 68 yard touchdown last week. The Huskies are hoping to exploit a weak Utes defense which has allowed 174-289(60.2%) passing for 2,080 yards(7.2 YPA) for 14 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions. Look for the Huskies to feature Williams and Seferian-Jenkins early and often to take advantage of the Utes poor secondary.

The Utes receiving core isn't that strong this year although last year DeVonte Christopher had a big game against the Huskies. Last year Christopher caught five passes for 125 yards(25.0 YPC) including a 63 yard reception. This year Christopher is having a down year having only caught 19 passes for 217 yards(11.4 YPC) with a touchdown.

The Utes leading receiver is tight end Jake Murphy who has caught 29 passes for 304 yards(10.5 YPC) with three touchdowns. Kenneth Scott has caught 21 passes for 283 yards(13.5 YPC) with three touchdowns. Dres Anderson has 27 receptions for 258 yards(9.6 YPC) with two touchdowns. Last year against the Huskies Anderson caught three passes for 37 yards with a touchdown.

The Huskies pass defense has actually been pretty tough this year. Opponents are 139-256(54.2%) passing for 1,811 yards(7.1 YPA) with 14 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. Given the weak receiver core, freshman quarterback and a stingy Huskies secondary look for the Utes to try and establish the run all game long.

The main reason teams struggle to pass on the Huskies is the play of Desmond Trufant. Trufant will be playing in his final home game which I talked about yesterday how the Trufant era is ending . Now Trufant is going to be a game-time decision which changes the Huskies defense entirely. With Trufant in there the Huskies can leave him on an island and allow Shaq Thompson to simply roam. Thompson the talented true freshman had a big interception last week.

The Huskies secondary features some highly recruited guys such as Shaq Thompson and safety Sean Parker. Trufant still at the end of the day is straw that stirs the drink. If Trufant can play the Huskies secondary should be able to neutralize the Utes passing attack. Look for the Huskies to have a similar game plan they had against the Stanford Cardinal. I see the Huskies having an eight man box and leaving their corners on an island daring the Utes to beat them with the pass.

This is a big game for both programs who are stuck in the middle of the conference and would like to rise towards the top. For the Huskies a win here would clinch a bowl appearance for the third straight year not to mention they end the season with the two worst teams in the conference. While a loss to Utah would drop the Huskies to 5-5 and ensure that the Huskies didn't make any progress from the previous year in the regular season. For the Utes a win here puts them at 5-5 which puts them in a good position to earn a bowl appearance for the second straight season in the Pac-12. While a loss would put the Utes backs against the wall meaning they'd have to beat both Arizona at home and win at Colorado to earn a bowl berth. The Utes also haven't won a road game all season long which is what they have going against them. The Huskies are 11-2 in their last 13 home games which bodes well for them. Sarkisian is also 3-0 on senior night as he looks to send the seniors out right once again.

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