The overwhelming feeling leaving Husky Stadium today? That’s what a ranked football team looks like.
The Huskies were heavily favored to beat Colorado today and then did as expected, though in even more spectacular fashion with a first-half show of offensive fireworks rarely seen. Almost 400 yards? 38 points? This was the kind of game the Huskies were on the other side of just four years ago, maybe the most vivid proof yet of how times have changed.
It was also more proof of how well this team is listening to the messages from its coach, who preached all week that he didn’t want there to be a letdown following a bye week, and with a game against Stanford coming up next week. Obviously, the Cardinal game will tell a whole heckuva lot more about where UW is in the grand scheme of college football things. But for today, this was another evident step back up the mountain, to steal Steve Sarkisian’s analogy.
“First and foremost, I want to say how proud of our football team I am, for really responding this week,” Sarkisian said in his opening remarks. “You come off of a bye and a big win like we had at Utah and there’s some challenges there from a psychological standpoint and I’m proud of our coaches and our kids for responding the way they did. I thought they played with a real sense of urgency, a lot of energy, a lot of passion, and that’s the first part. And then the second part is their ability to execute. You know, one of the keys when you come into a ball game like this, you can have a tendency, you can be sloppy and you know, just because the rhythm of the game, and I thought our kids were just on point with everything that we wanted them and asked them to do. The first half was obviously one of the best halves of football we’ve played since we’ve been here. Our guys responded and they played passionate football, they played physical football. Again, we weren’t perfect and we’ll learn things and we’ll learn to understand when you’ve got a big lead and you go in at halftime, you have got to come out with a sense of urgency right there in the third quarter, but again, foreign territory for us, and so a great teachable moment for us there in the third quarter.”
There you go, a good summation of the game from Sarkisian, who again had a steller play-calling day, seeming in perfect rhythm with his quarterback and offense.
There’s not a whole lot to pick at, let’s take a quick look at each position, anyway.
QUARTERBACK: Hardly even know what to say anymore other than that anything less than three touchdowns and about a 70 percent completion percentage is now what would be the surprise — not the other way around. Keith Price was again nearly flawless in directing one of the best halves of offense ever seen here. He has thrown 21 touchdowns in just 170 attempts — hard to fathom there’s anyone out there with a better TD-to-attempt ratio in the nation. Nick Montana got his long-awaited first start, and learned a quick lesson about holding onto the football. But it was a good soft landing for Montana to get his first snaps.
RUNNING BACK: Another workmarnlike game by Chris Polk (117 yards) was basically overshadowed by the re-emergence of Jesse Callier (81 yards and first career TD) and the breakout day of Bishop Sankey (71 yards and his first career TD). UW had a season-high 295 yards rushing on just 40 carries, a staggering average of 7.4 per attempt. Like just about everything else the offense did, basically flawless.
RECEIVERS: Another area that would deserve an A. No dropped passes (I’m not counting the one by Austin Seferian-Jenkins since that was knocked out by a CU defender who hit him hard) and obviously solid routes and good catches and all of that. Also four different TDs by four different receivers. Interesting that the longest reception of the day was 25 yards — no real deep shots, just lots of shorter and intermediate routes that Price throws well and that are a staple of the Sarkisian offense.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Like the rest of the offense, obviously a good day by this crew. Maybe the play of the day from this vantage point was turned in by Colin Tanigawa when he moved over into the middle to pick up a blitzing linebacker and threw a block that leveled the defender. That was indicative of the way that the Huskies seemed to manage all of their assignments well, the key against CU’s blitzes — CU’s only sack was the one against Montana. Stanford — finishing its rout of WSU as I type this — will be a really good test of exactly where the Huskies are up front. But so far, seems like this is a group getting better each week. And nice to see some of the backups get some time at the end of the game as Micah Hatchie got in at tackle and Nick Wood at guard — if you’re looking for who is next in line, there’s your apparent answere.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Two stats point out how well the Huskies played up front today — Colorado was held to 62 yards rushing on 27 carries and UW had a season-high five sacks. For a series or two, it seemed like the Buffs were getting some push and protection up front. But that changed pretty quickly. UW has now allowed just 79 yards rushing on 50 attempts in the last two games, the kind of stout play up front that obviously wins game. Alameda Ta’amu, rebounding after the poor start to the season, had maybe his best game with five tackles and 1.5 for a loss, and Josh Shirley was also active with a pass breakup and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Another area of the team that seems to have improved greatly since the beginning of the season.
LINEBACKERS: Cort Dennison had another steady day to lead this group, finishing with six tackles — the team high on a day when a lot of players got in the action. Jamaal Kearse had three tackles, and Garret Gilliland finished the day in fitting fashion with a sack on the last play of the game. Gilliland rotated in a few times for Fuimoano and that appears a spot that is getting a little more competitive with each week. John Timu also returned to action after the injury against Cal and had two tackles. The best thing the LBs did was defend the screens well, not getting caught out of position and holding most of those plays to a minimum.
SECONDARY: Statistically, the best day of the year for this group as the Huskies allowed just 207 yards — the lowest other than against Nebraska, which got 155 early and then pretty much stopped once it got a lead. The first drive seemed a little ominous as Tyler Hansen threw for a TD. But from there, the secondary — like the rest of the defense — stiffened from there. It helped that the front was getting some pressure and that Hansen didn’t have a great day — and that the Buffs are beat up, playing without Paul Richardson and then losing running back Rodney Stewart, a dangerous receiver, as well. Again, a much stiffer test awaits next week against Stanford (already worth wondering how UW will defend all of those tight ends). But for today, a step in the right direction.
SPECIAL TEAMS: No issues here as UW held its own or won the stat battle in every category. Probably time to consider that the Huskies are simply a lot better on special teams this year than the past two seasons. Not having to use a lot of true freshmen is helping, and having veteran kickers helps as well. At some point, the Huskies will want to get more out of its punt return game, maybe — Kasen Williams, playing with a tender ankle, seemed a little cautious. But it didn’t matter today.
OVERALL: Another performance that only heightens the expectations for this team as the Huskies are 5-1 for the first time since 2001. Eight wins might almost seem like a disappointment now, though it obviously shouldn’t given how much the Huskies have progressed. UW has won nine of 10 and figures now to get the best shot from every team left on its schedule — good in that it shows that UW is reawakening the echoes, but obviously something that will make it a tougher to beat some of the better teams left on the slate. Overall, though, the worry and consternation that followed the Eastern game seems a long way away.