SEATTLE — Husky Stadium was improved over the offseason, but Northwest weather is still pretty much the same.
On Saturday, the wettest Seattle day of 2013, the Washington Huskies adapted and rode a pounding running game, a tough-enough defense and an efficient passing game to a 31-13 win over the Arizona Wildcats.
“A really cool win,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. “It was one of those games that the weather had an impact on both teams and made it one of those grind-it-out meat-and-potato games. Both teams had to run the ball. Both defenses knew it.”
Washington ran 61 times for 244 yards. A school-record 40 carries came from Bishop Sankey, who ran for 161 yards.
“The weather kind of forced our hand a bit the way we needed to play the game,” Sarkisian said.
The win pushed the Huskies to 4-0 on the season and 1-0 in the Pacific-12 Conference. The Wildcats fell to 3-1 and 0-1.
“The conditions probably affected both teams offensively,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “The wind wasn’t as bad as we thought, but it was raining so hard that the ball was wet. Both teams were struggling in the passing game with that. Both teams actually held onto the ball well, because usually you’d see more fumbles in weather like this.”
Still, the wet and the wind took their toll.
Three points after touchdown were missed. Three passes were intercepted. A bad snap led to a safety. There were a couple of fumbles.
But through it all, UW quarterback Keith Price managed to complete 14 of 25 passes for 165 yards, with touchdown passes to Kevin Smith and Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
“Be efficient and manage the game,” Price said. “That’s what I wanted to do today.”
Washington ground out some breathing room early. Sean Parker ended Arizona’s opening possession with an interception. Then the Huskies made it pay off with a four-play 35-yard touchdown drive, capped with a 7-yard pass from Price to Smith.
A wild snap snuffed the point-after attempt. However, the Huskies picked up a couple of points soon enough as the Wildcats’ second drive went nowhere and when trying to punt from their own end zone, a high snap resulted in a safety.
Arizona seemed to find its footing a bit after that, and Washington’s lead was 11-6 at halftime.
The Huskies created breathing room by opening the second half with a 14-play, 95-yard drive with the final yard coming on a pass from Price to a wide-open Seferian-Jenkins.
“I think the weather calmed down a little bit,” Price said. “We started airing it out a little bit more. I knew that I needed to get into a rhythm for us to win the game, and guys started making plays. We were just trying to score. We knew that they would have problems trying to match us score for score in these conditions.”
That turned out to be the case.
The Wildcats closed the gap again to 18-13 late in the third quarter. But the Huskies answered from there with another length-of-the-field drive, this time 90 yards in 10 plays and capped by a spinning 1-yard run by Sankey.
Washington settled it with the only score of the fourth quarter: a 2-yard run by Jesse Callier.
Even in the desert, the Wildcats like to run the ball. They did so again Saturday, with 199 ground yards – 132 of those coming from Ka’Deem Carey, who carried the ball 30 times.
Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker, however, completed only 14 of 35 passes for 119 yards and threw two interceptions.
“The rain was coming down hard,” he said. “It was cold. The ball was slippery. First half was the worst.
Sarkisian also allocated some of the credit to his defense.
“We knew they were going to ground and pound, and we wanted to make sure we tackled and not give up the big play – which we really did tonight in the running game,” he said. “All in all, it was kind of a bend-but-don’t break performance by the defense against an offense that we knew was capable of big plays.”
The Huskies return to action at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at No. 5 Stanford. They return home Oct. 12 to face No. 2 Oregon.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808