Friday, November 2, 2012

Huskies looking for first road win of the season at Cal

By Kshell

This week the Washington Huskies(4-4,2-3) fresh off of their 20-17 upset win over #7 Oregon State Beavers will travel to face a struggling California Golden Bears(3-6,2-4) team who has lost back to back games by a combined score of 70-30. The Huskies have defeated the Bears the last three years in the Steve Sarkisian era with the past two wins being instant classics. Two years ago down at California with the Huskies trailing 13-10 with their bowl hopes on the line as well as California's Sarkisian decided to instead of kicking the field goal to send it to overtime he would go for it on fourth and goal from the one yard line. Chris Polk scored the game winning touchdown with no time left as the Huskies won 16-13. Last year at Husky stadium the Huskies led 31-23 as the Bears had the ball on the Huskies two yard line facing second and goal. The Huskies stuffed the Bears three straight times including Zach Maynard throwing an incomplete pass on fourth and goal. The Huskies have won the last two meetings at the goal line.

A big part of the Huskies win last year over California was the play of quarterback Keith Price. In the 31-23 win over Cal, Price was on fire completing 19-25(76.0%) of his passes for 292 yards(11.7 YPA) with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for 21 yards on seven carries.

This year has been a much different story for Price as he is struggling. On the year he is 161-268(60.1%) passing for only 1,530 yards(5.7 YPA) with 8 TD's to 9 interceptions. He has only 10 net rushing yards due to losing 151 yards in sacks. Price hasn't had a game where he threw for more touchdowns than interceptions since the Portland State game. He only has two games both against non BCS opponents where he has thrown for more touchdowns than interceptions. Last year he had eight games where he threw for more touchdowns than interceptions. The play of Keith Price is why this Huskies offense is only averaging 16.1 points per game against D-1 schools. In conference play Price has thrown only four touchdown passes while throwing eight interceptions.

Zach Maynard knows all about being inconsistent this year. Although last year he hit some big plays against the Huskies. He was 23-43(53.5%) passing for 349 yards(8.1 YPA) with a 90 yard touchdown pass. Ultimately him being so inaccurate cost the Bears as his goal line fade to Keenan Allen sailed on him out of bounds on fourth down.

This year Maynard is 165-267(61.8%) passing for 2,039 yards(7.6 YPA) with 12 touchdowns to 9 interceptions. He also has 52 yards rushing with three touchdowns. Maynard will be without his top weapon this Friday as Keenan Allen won't be playing. Maynard represents the Cal team well as you never know what you are going to get with him.

The Bears will be without top wide receiver Keenan Allen. Last year Allen killed the Huskies for 10 receptions for 197 yards with a touchdown. He has 61 receptions for 737 yards(12.1 YPC) with six touchdowns and a 39 yard rushing touchdown. Without him the Bears don't have much at the receiver position. Next in line is Chris Harper who has 29 receptions for 380 yards(13.1 YPC) with two touchdowns. After that they have tight end Richard Rodgers 15 receptions for 244 yards(16.3 YPC) with a touchdown. Wide receiver Bryce Treggs also has 21 receptions for 216 yards(10.3 YPC) with a touchdown. Allen has accounted for 50% of their touchdowns and 35.8% of their receiving yards. The Huskies secondary led by Desmond Trufant should capitalize on this injury.

The Huskies receiving core is led by two super sophomores wide receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Seferian-Jenkins in the win over Cal last year had a break out game with four receptions for 54 yards(13.5 YPC) with two touchdowns. He is having a pretty good season as well catching 40 passes for 478 yards(12.0 YPC) with three touchdowns.

Kasen Williams last year only had three receptions for 12 yards against California. His role has expanded this year as he already has a career high 46 receptions for a career high 503 yards(10.9 YPC) with four touchdown receptions. Besides these two it's been tough for the Huskies. True freshman Jaydon Mickens has 15 receptions for 112 yards(7.5 YPC) including last week catching two passes for 40 yards. DiAndre Campbell has nine receptions for 96 yards(10.7 YPC) with a touchdown. Tight end Michael Hartvigson has six receptions for 55 yards(9.2 YPC) including a 31 yard reception last week. The Huskies must get some production from this group to succeed going forward.

With Allen out and the Huskies rush defense allowing 185 yards per game on the ground look for the Bears to pound the ball. They have three options at running back. First there is C.J. Anderson who last year against the Huskies had only nine yards rushing but did score a touchdown. Anderson on the year has ran for 513 yards on 82 carries(6.3 YPC) with four touchdowns. He has also caught 11 passes for 120 yards with a touchdown.

Behind him is Isi Sofele who leads the team in carries. Last year against the Huskies Sofele ran for 98 yards on 17 carries(5.8 YPC). This year Sofele has ran for 477 yards on 109 carries(4.4 YPC) with two touchdowns. He has six receptions for 64 yards. Then there is electric sophomore running back Brendan Bigelow who has ran for 343 yards on only 27 carries(12.7 YPC) with three touchdowns including an exciting 81 yard score at Ohio State. Look for the Bears to try and run the ball down the Huskies throats with these three.

Look for the Huskies to do the same as the Cal rush defense is allowing 164 yards rushing a game with 4.16 yards per carry. Bishop Sankey got his first career carry last year vs Cal as he ran for 16 yards on two carries including a 13 yard run. This year Sankey has been terrific for the Huskies rushing for 666 yards on 147 carries(4.5 YPC) with nine touchdowns. He has also added 18 receptions for 106 yards(5.9 YPC) on the year.

Behind him is true freshman Kendyl Taylor who started the year off as the starting wide receiver. Taylor has ran for 107 yards on 18 carries(5.9 YPC). He also has 10 receptions for 59 yards(5.9 YPC) for the year. The Huskies last week ran the ball effectively on Oregon State which allowed Price to have a nice second half. Look for the Huskies to pound the ball on the Bears to establish the run game to make life easier on Price.

Another big story is true freshman Shaq Thompson. Thompson the #1 safety in the nation who is from Sacramento, California committed to Cal originally. Then when defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi left California a school he played for and was coaching for to Washington. Thompson then withdraws his commitment. Later on Thompson would commit to Washington on twitter. Thompson this year has been a terrific add to the Huskies defense as he is fourth on the defense with 44 tackles as the three guys ahead of him have 45 tackles. Thompson had a sack last game against the Beavers and an interception earlier this year against the Ducks. Thompson so far has been better against the run and mainly plays line backer to support the run. Desmond Trufant has helped the secondary a lot while shutting down the other teams best receiver. Still Thompson will be the focus when the Huskies are on defense.

The Huskies face a winnable four game stretch starting this week against 3-6 Cal on the road, then host 3-5 Utah, travel to 1-7 Colorado and finish the year at 2-6 Washington State Cougars. The tough schedule is behind the Huskies as they have a chance to finish the regular season on a five game winning streak to go to 8-4 for the first time since 2001. Cal must win out to go to a bowl game and seeing how they still have Oregon left on their schedule and at Oregon State I don't see that happening. Good chance Jeff Tedford is going to be fired after this year for the Bears. The Huskies though are 0-3 on the road this year losing by 41-3 at LSU, 52-21 at Oregon and 52-17 at Arizona as none of those three games were even competitive. With Cal struggling, the Huskies having their number as of late and with the Bears best offensive weapon out this is a great opportunity for Sarkisian to earn an impressive road win on ESPN to show the nation that the Huskies program has turned the corner. The tough stretch is now behind the Huskies this is where the Huskies have a chance to turn the corner as a program. That chance will start Friday at California on ESPN2.

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