SEATTLE – When running back Jesse Callier got hurt in the first game of the season against San Diego State, a chunk of Washington’s playbook went down with him.
Replacing Chris Polk was a daunting enough task for the Huskies. Then, Deontae Cooper was again lost for the year with a knee injury. Losing Callier made filling Polk’s departure that much more difficult.
One solution to the running back issue showed up Sept. 27 against Stanford when freshman Kendyl Taylor lined up in the backfield for the first time. His workload was modest – four carries for 9 yards – but he picked up a first down on a third-and-short, and, more important, gives Washington options.
Callier was a capable receiver out of the backfield. The Huskies ran a lot of fly sweeps with him, and used him as the slithery counterpart to the blunt Polk.
Taylor appears to be moving into the same role.
The 5-foot-10, 200-pound freshman rushed for 558 yards on 68 carries his senior year at Hamilton High School in Chandler, Ariz., in addition to receiver duties there.
“(He) catches the ball very nicely out of the backfield,” running backs coach Joel Thomas said. “Has some elusiveness to him.”
UW coach Steve Sarkisian said he doesn’t mind if there is a distinct lead back, which Bishop Sankey currently is, or an approach by committee.
“Just whatever is best for our team,” Sarkisian said. “If we’ve got a lead back that can do that, that’s great. If we have to give guys multiple carries and balance it out, then that’s what we’ll do.”
Crucial for Washington is to show the running game is consistent. Sankey had a breakthrough game against Stanford when he ran for a career-high 144 yards on 20 carries. If his success continues, then Sarkisian can rely on play-action passes, as he has in the past, to loosen opposing defenses that have all been configured to keep Washington from passing efficiently.
PRICE NOT NOSTALGIC
Keith Price made his first college start against Oregon at Autzen Stadium in 2010 when the Ducks were ranked No. 1. Price threw for 127 yards on 14-for-28 passing during the Ducks’ 53-16 romp over the Huskies.
Price said he doesn’t think about that start unless someone brings it up. But, he’s aware of the thunderous noise in Autzen.
“It was probably one of the loudest venues I played at,” Price said. “The atmosphere there is great and their fans are some of the best fans in college football. It’s just an exciting atmosphere.”
And, a winning one. Price is hopeful this will be Washington’s breakthrough after losing eight consecutive against the Ducks.
“We’re just going to take it like another game,” Price said. “We know that they have a really good team, and we know that we have a pretty good team, as well.”
Price said he was sore after taking several shots against Stanford, but nothing that lingered into this week.
The talk of rivalry between the schools has been predictably downplayed by each team’s coaches and players. The fans, however, are getting into it per usual.
“Players on both sides just take it as a game,” Oregon running back Kenjon Barber told The Oregonian. “But our fans get so into — so into it. Even going to Washington State last weekend (a game played in Seattle), we were getting middle fingers — just everything from the fans. The fans take it more to heart than we do.” … Oregon is a 24-point favorite, according to the Glantz-Culver email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas