Huskies, Hawks reflect alikeness

November 14, 2012 

Last weekend at CenturyLink Field, the Washington Huskies and the Seattle Seahawks won football games that seemed to mirror each other.

The Huskies on Saturday night beat the Utah Utes, who were limited by an inability to pass. The 34-15 victory ranked as Washington’s most comprehensively impressive performance of 2012.

The Seahawks on Sunday afternoon beat the New York Jets, who also were limited by an inability to pass. The 28-7 victory ranked as Seattle’s most comprehensively impressive performance of 2012.

I’m not sure what it means – I’ll get back to you if I find out – but the teams that have shared The Clink this season are looking less like co-tenants than siblings from the same football family. Which, come to think of it, they are: Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian cut his chops at USC as an assistant for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.

While Sarkisian’s background is on offense and Carroll’s is on defense, the former colleagues share basic philosophies about practice-week preparation and game management. Each takes schematic cues from a respected defensive coordinator (Justin Wilcox with the Huskies, Gus Bradley with the Seahawks) who is seen as a potential head coach.

But the similarities between the Dawgs and the Hawks go well beyond the coaches.

The Huskies are 6-4 and riding a two-game winning streak, as are the Seahawks. The Huskies have won five at home and one on the road. So have the Seahawks.

When this year’s schedule was announced, the Huskies had reason to fear October – with games against Stanford, Oregon and USC – as a brutal month. Those fears turned out to be legitimate.

The Seahawks must’ve winced, too, when they pondered an October stretch that included a home game against New England, followed by road games at San Francisco and Detroit. Those fears turned out to be legitimate.

Despite a rash of injuries to their offensive line, the Huskies have assembled a ground attack around running back Bishop Sankey, playing his second season at the UW. Sankey has rushed 210 times, for 1,011 yards.

Injuries have also forced the Seahawks to piece together an offensive line of movable parts, anchored by the dependably durable Max Unger – their version of the Huskies’ Drew Schaefer. The ground attack relies on Marshawn Lynch, playing his second season in Seattle. Lynch has rushed 212 times, for 1,005 yards.

Huskies quarterback Keith Price is a dual threat. Price’s natural inclination to save plays on the run has been tempered by his coaches, who are wary of the physical toll too many carries could take on a 6-foot-1, 202-pound athlete unaccustomed to broken-field collisions. Price is admired for his leadership and infectious enthusiasm.

The Seahawks’ Russell Wilson also is a dual threat whose body – at 5-11, as you probably have heard, he’s unusually short for an NFL quarterback – was not built to take an an abundance of punishing tackles. There are times, such as the sack the Jets converted into a touchdown return off a fumble last Sunday, Wilson’s coaches would rather see him throw the ball out of bounds than attempt to save a play.

But as a team leader whose intangible virtues are admired by teammates, Wilson is off the charts. Sound familiar?

When it’s time for a throw into the end zone, Price has two targets who’ve gained his trust: wide receiver Kasen Williams (five touchdowns) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (four touchdowns). Ditto Wilson, who has Sidney Rice (six touchdowns) and Golden Tate (six touchdowns).

Except for touchdowns, the ambition for any offense is a first down. The Huskies are averaging 18.8 per game The Seahawks are averaging 18.7 per game.

The similarities between Team Sark and Team Pete are uncanny, but they won’t last only because they can’t: The Seahawks are enjoying a bye-date vacation this week, and when they return to work on Monday, the Huskies figure to have fattened their offensive stats from a road game against hapless, hopeless Colorado.

After the UW’s regular season concludes with the Nov. 23 Apple Cup at Washington State, the Seahawks will play six more times. In other words, savor all this same-record symmetry while you can.

Ah, but there’s still another similarity to consider, and it regards a postseason destination. The Huskies, who became bowl-eligible with their sixth victory, could be headed to San Francisco for a Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl assignment against Navy.

If the NFL season were to end today – a ghastly thought, but just sayin’ – the Seahawks would be awaiting a playoff trip to San Francisco. Such a game won’t be affiliated with fighting hunger, but for the 49ers defensive line, the premise is close.

Fight Unger.

john.mcgrath@ thenewstribune.com

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