Washington has become a challenging team to contain behind running back Bishop Sankey and quarterback Keith Price, but there is lots of work left to do, if the Huskies want to tap in to their real potential.
The 17th-ranked Huskies hope to tie their best start in 12 years with their 10th straight home win against an unranked opponent Saturday when they face FCS participant Idaho St.
After holding on for a 34-24 win over Illinois at Soldier Field in Chicago last Saturday, Washington (2-0) returns home against the Bengals (2-0) with a chance to open the season with three consecutive wins for the first time since 2001.
The Huskies have ascended into the Top 25 thanks to a fiery no-huddle offense that has led to some huge numbers for Sankey and Price through the first two games.
Sankey leads the nation with 184.5 rushing yards per game following his career-best 208-yard performance Saturday, leading the program to its first non-conference road win since 2007.
In his last three games, including a Las Vegas Bowl loss against Boise State, the junior has rushed for 574 yards on 6.4 per carry.
“He’s not very flashy but he gets the job done,” Price said.”You’d probably look at him and think there is no way this guy is tearing us apart. He’s very patient. He’s got good vision, great balance for a guy his stature and I mean, he just makes plays.”
Price also has reveled in fantastic success in Steve Sarkisian’s new offense, completing 51 of 66 passes for 666 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. The senior ranks fourth in the nation with a 77.3 completion percentage after going 28 for 35 for 342 yards and two scores without an interception against the Illini.
Kevin Smith (9 catches, 173 yards), Jaydon Mickens (17, 160) and Kasen Williams (7, 126) have emerged as Price’s top targets in the passing game.
Washington, however, has 66 pass attempts compared to 104 rushing attempts while loading up a combined 1,207 total yards. That’s the kind of offensive ratio Sarkisian hopes to have – regardless of the perception that he’s a pass-heavy coach.
“I know people try and label me as someone who just wants to throw the ball,” Sarkisian said.”Our running numbers last year and even into this year, we run the ball about 60 percent of the time, which is about where we want to be.”
Sarkisian’s team looks to carry on that production in its first meeting with Idaho State, which has allowed just 127 total rushing yards and sacked opposing quarterbacks 10 times in easy wins over Dixie State (40-14) and Western State (29-3).
Washington has averaged 36.2 points while winning nine straight home games against unranked opponents.
The Huskies, nonetheless, are hoping to cut down on their penalties after getting flagged 12 times for 104 yards in Saturday’s win. They’d also like to progress on their red-zone effectiveness after scoring two touchdowns in four trips inside the opponent’s 20.
“I’m not hitting the panic button on us in the red zone,” Sarkisian told the school’s official website. “Part of the positive is that we haven’t turned the ball over in the red zone.”
Washington may have to tighten up things defensively after permitting three second-half touchdowns versus Illinois. The Huskies didn’t give up any over their first six quarters.
Defensive development could become more demanding if standout middle linebacker John Timu is not capable to play. The co-captain could not lift his arm following Saturday’s win and is day-to-day, according to Sarkisian, after suffering a right rotator cuff bruise.
The Huskies are expected to be tested by quarterback Justin Arias in Idaho State’s pass-happy attack. The senior has thrown for 868 yards and four touchdowns with one interception after completing 36 of 53 for 429 yards and two scores in last week’s win.
Washington will have to locate wideout Cameron Richmond every down, who’s 21 catches for 301 yards and a touchdown, are not by accident.
Idaho State dropped its last two contests against FBS opponents by a collective 137-7 margin, together with a 73-7 loss at No. 25 Nebraska on Sept. 22, 2012.