SEATTLE — Climbing from being unranked to No. 16 in the country over the first three games has built good will and propelled expectations for Washington.
Both will be challenged Saturday.
Arizona comes to Husky Stadium for a 4 p.m. kickoff in the Pacific-12 Conference opener for both 3-0 teams a year after the Wildcats embarrassed the Huskies, 52-17, in Tucson, Ariz. It was one of the low points of Washington’s season.
With the face-punching portion of the schedule – at No. 5 Stanford, hosting No. 2 Oregon, at Arizona State – looming, building on a fast start with a win over the Wildcats is crucial.
Steamed after just talking with his team after the loss in Tucson, Steve Sarkisian stood on the field and for the first time said quarterback Keith Price needed to trust Sarskisian’s play calls as well as his line.
The loss was Washington’s third consecutive and the second time in three weeks it allowed a season-high 52 points.
“I felt like Arizona’s tempo got us, and this is part of the reason we’re doing what we’re doing offensively … to prepare for this game,” Sarkisian said. “So that when teams go to this up-tempo style against us, we don’t become
uncomfortable on defense. We remain comfortable.
“It’s an arena that we’re used to being in, we’re used to excelling in, so this up-tempo style people are playing in is really the norm now ... and you better be ready to defend it or what happened to us a year ago there will happen to you.”
Washington hopes it has cleansed those sins by adding the up-tempo offense to its arsenal. The point was to help the defense prepare and to better Price’s efficiency.
Thus far, he has been dynamic. Through three games, he’s carrying a 77 percent completion rate, 10 percentage points higher than his record-setting 2011. Multiple receivers are involved. Debates about play-calls have subsided.
But, the core of success for Washington and Arizona comes rumbling out of the backfield.
The Huskies’ Bishop Sankey is starting to receive recognition as one of the best backs in the nation. That’s nothing new for Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey.
Carey led the country in rushing yards last season with 1,929. He added 23 touchdowns.
This year, he’s averaging 7 yards a carry. If there’s a common term associated with Carey’s running style, it’s “angry.”
“Sankey has been a huge part of their success and Ka’Deem has been a huge part of ours,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “That’s probably going to be the case for the rest of the season.”
Huge is, for once, accurate as opposed to hyperbole. Arizona runs and runs some more. The Wildcats have run 967 times and thrown 326. No one in the conference has thrown it fewer times.
“This game is obviously a little unique in just the style that Arizona plays,” Sarkisian said. “They go so fast and they’re so dedicated to running the football. And their commitment to remaining physical and really trying to wear you out from a conditioning standpoint.
“So to simulate that in a practice setting is sometimes a unique challenge, so we’ve really tried to stress ... to focus on the tempo and extend the drive to fatigue our guys, and I think they’ve responded really well to it.”
The Huskies are pleased middle linebacker John Timu has responded well. He’s expected to play after missing the second half of the game against Illinois and all of the Idaho State game last week because of a bruised shoulder.
ARIZONA (3-0) AT NO. 16 WASHINGTON (3-0)
4 p.m., Husky Stadium, Seattle
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 950-AM
The series: Washington leads, 18-10-1.
What to watch: The Huskies have to figure out a way to force Arizona to pass, then make one-on-one tackles when it does. Wildcats quarterback B.J. Denker has completed 56.4 percent of his passes this season. He, too, can run it out of Arizona’s triple-option looks. He has two passing touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns in their three games. For Washington, expect a large dose of tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
What’s at stake: A 4-0 start for the Huskies before they deal with the their toughest scheduling stretch of the season.
The pick: Washington, 37-21.
Led the country in rushing yards last year. Averaging 100 yards a game this season despite being suspended for the opener and sitting out the opening quarter of his first game back.
Bondurant leads the Wildcats in tackles, tackles for loss and interceptions.
He’s the backup but no slouch. Has a 91-yard rushing touchdown this year.
A chance for him to make a name for himself opposite Carey on a national stage.
Parker will be filling lanes trying to slow the Arizona running game.
Timu’s bruised shoulder will be tested when he tries to stop the Wildcats’ email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas firstname.lastname@example.org