Plenty at stake for Huskies in opener

todd.dybas@thenewstribune.comAugust 31, 2013 

The mounting pressure starts with the outcome of the past three years.

Three consecutive 7-6 seasons have left everyone associated with Washington football labeling that result as insufficient.

Mix in the fact that this group will open a sold-out Husky Stadium after a massive renovation. Add on that the opener is against a ranked team the Huskies lost to in a bowl game last season.

Finally, top it all off with a national broadcast that will feature the bellowing oratory of play-by-play man Gus Johnson.

Pressure? Uh … yeah.

Washington opens the 2013 season Saturday night against 19th-ranked Boise State in the house that $280 million built on the equally new Fox Sports 1.

It reportedly is doing so without preseason All-American tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who has been suspended for the game as part of his punishment for his DUI citation in March, according to the Seattle Times.

When asked Friday on KJR 950-AM for his reaction to the report, Huskies coach Steve

Sarkisian reiterated that Seferian-Jenkins’ punishment will remain internal.

Boise State has other worries, namely running back Bishop Sankey.

Early in camp, Sankey sat in the Founder’s Club inside Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Reporters and cameramen bounced from player to player, at times stopping for a brief chat with Sankey.

Conversations with him are never long. When asked if he liked doing media sessions, and told the solution to not doing them was to gain a lot less yardage, Sankey just smiled. “It’s OK.”

He was more than OK last December against Boise State. Sankey ran for a career-high 205 yards. Much of it came from motoring around the edge, even though Washington had been a zone-blocking team all season. That huge bowl game pushed Sankey to third all-time on Washington’s single-season rushing list.

“If you just run into him, he’s not going down,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “You have to tackle him and hang on for dear life.”

Coaches from both sides say they can take away base schemes and personnel groupings from last year’s game in Las Vegas, which Boise State won, 28-26. But that’s about it.

“They could come out running triple-option,” joked Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who previously coached under Petersen.

The Huskies will come out running their new full-time up-tempo offense. The team has spent all summer and fall conditioning for the frantic approach.

The pace of Washington’s offense will matter little if the offensive line isn’t improved from last year. Quarterback Keith Price was sacked 37 times in 2012, up from 26 a year before. Four of those came against Boise State when Price was 20-for-39 with a touchdown and two interceptions.

“I don’t feel any pressure,” Price said. “I expect a lot out of myself. I don’t need other people telling me I need to play better.”

If Seferian-Jenkins doesn’t play, Price will turn to Josh Perkins and Michael Hartvigson at tight end. They had a combined six catches last season. Perkins is a converted wide receiver and Hartvigson has a large frame similar to Seferian-Jenkins.

All on the field will be under the glare of a massive new scoreboard and increased expectations. Plush seats will be filled, new traditions started and old ones rekindled.

All Washington has to do to satisfy the masses is block everything out and win.

HUSKIES GAMEDAY

NO. 19 BOISE STATE AT WASHINGTON

7 p.m., Husky Stadium, Seattle

TV: FS1. Radio: 950-AM, 850-AM, 102.9-FM.

The series: The series is tied 1-1. Washington upset 22nd-ranked Boise State, 24-10, Sept. 8, 2007, in Husky Stadium behind redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Locker. The Broncos countered with a 28-26 win last year in the Las Vegas Bowl.

What to watch: New wrinkles for each. After ending last season facing off in Vegas, Washington and Boise State have the odd circumstance of opening this season against each other. Boise State went to an up-tempo offense in the Las Vegas Bowl for the first time in 2012. Washington wonders if the Broncos will use it again Saturday. Washington was a zone-blocking team throughout last season before predominantly rushing to the edges in the bowl game. It worked. Bishop Sankey racked up a career-high 205 yards against the Broncos.

What’s at stake: A win would validate Washington’s goal to push past the 7-6 mark this year and challenge the top-tier of the Pacific-12 Conference North, where Stanford and Oregon reside. For Boise State, this could well be its most difficult game of the year and the difference between busting the BCS or heading back to Las Vegas during bowl season.

The pick: Washington, 27-20.

PRIME NUMBERS

BOISE STATE

No.NamePos.Ht.Wt.Year

16Joe SouthwickQB6-1202Sr.

Southwick’s ability to scramble hurt Washington throughout the bowl game. He says he feels even more comfortable now.

8Demarcus LawrenceDE6-3245RS-Jr.

Lawrence was first-team All-Mountain West Conference last season before being suspended for the bowl. Had 9.5 sacks.

2Matt MillerWR6-3222Jr.

Miller is much bigger than both of Washington’s starting corners, Marcus Peters (5-11, 193) and Greg Ducre (5-10, 178). He had six catches for 90 yards in the Las Vegas Bowl.

WASHINGTON

No.NamePos.Ht.Wt.Year

25Bishop SankeyRB5-10203Jr.

Sankey ran for more than a yard per pound in the Las Vegas Bowl when he picked up 205 yards. He is Boise’s prime concern.

2Kasen WilliamsWR6-2212Jr.

Williams was a monster in camp, often making catches against double teams that seemed destined to be incompletions.

7Shaq ThompsonLB6-2224So.

Southwick said he thinks Thompson is Washington’s best player. He was raw last year. Expected to have a big season.

todd.dybas@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas todd.dybas@thenewstribune.com

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