By Brent Stecker
The Washington Huskies will have a different look when they return from their bye week to host Colorado on Nov. 9, and not by choice.
Junior wide receiver Kasen Williams is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a fracture in his lower left leg and an injury to his left foot, according to the Associated Press, meaning the Huskies will be without the big-play ability the former Washington state high-jump champion provides down the field.
Jaydon Mickens shined in the Huskies’ win over Cal after fellow receiver Kasen Williams left with an injury. (AP)
Williams’ injury occurred in the second quarter of Washington’s 41-17 win over Cal, when he jumped to make a catch on an underthrown pass but landed with his leg pinned under a Golden Bears defensive back.
“(The pass) could have gone a little further down the field, but it’s a play that Kasen routinely makes,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday. “We’ve grown accustomed to him jumping up and making those plays. It was just an odd play where the defensive back landed right on the back of his leg with all the force, and it caused obviously the break in the leg and then the injury to the foot.”
Williams has 29 receptions for 421 yards and a touchdown this season. In 2012, the Sammamish native had 878 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 77 catches.
“To Kasen’s credit, he’s in good spirits. He’ll take it like a champion, and he’ll do whatever we need him to do to get healthy,” Sarkisian said.
Williams’ absence means several other players will see their opportunities increase in the passing and punt-returning games.
“Kasen’s a great player, don’t get me wrong, but this is a great opportunity to expand (Jaydon Mickens’) role, to expand John Ross’ role, for Damore’ea Stringfellow to really try to take the next step,” Sarkisian said. “I think what we saw (from) Marvin Hall in the punt-return game, (he) has an opportunity to do some special things for us. So we’ve got good depth at the position. We’ll miss him because he’s a great player, but we’ve got good depth.”
Mickens, a sophomore who has typically made his mark on short passes, has already made the most of his extra chances. He totaled 180 yards on six catches against Cal, including a pair of long touchdown receptions.
“We had some pretty favorable matchups with him one-on-one on safeties, and Jaydon can really run,” Sarkisian said. “You see that in the short game, but he got opportunities down the field on these safeties one-on-one and Keith recognized it and got him the ball, and Jaydon made the plays.”
Sarkisian said missing Williams doesn’t mean the Huskies’ offense will be in for any drastic shifts, though.
“We’re gonna run our offense. We never try to get anybody the ball,” he said. “We’re gonna run our plays and the quarterback’s gonna throw it to where the reads tell him to throw it.”
Sankey tops 1,000 yards
Washington saw one of its running backs top the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the fifth time in Sarkisian’s five-year tenure when junior Bishop Sankey eclipsed the milestone with his 241-yard, two-touchdown performance against Cal. Sankey is the FBS leader with 199 carries this season, ranks second with 1,162 rushing yards, and is third with 145.3 rushing yards per game.
“Bishop has just been a pro since the day he got here,” Sarkisian said. “I think back to the dropped kickoff at Nebraska where they get the ball on the 1-yard line (in Sankey’s first game for Washington). We didn’t give up on him and he didn’t give up on himself, and now we have a guy who arguably might be the MVP of our conference, or at least in the discussion of it, and deservedly so.”
Sarkisian expressed that though he’s long been known as a passing coach, the fact that his Huskies teams have always had success in the ground game proves that the opposite may be true.
“I’ve always had a firm belief of running the football, and that comes from Pete (Carroll) quite honestly from our time at SC,” he said. “We were always a run-first team then. We’re a run-first team now. I know people always wanna keep labeling me a passing guy, but every year we sure know how to run the football pretty well, and we’re doing a great job of it right now.”
Washington’s offensive line, which struggled mightily in a loss to Arizona State on Oct. 19, had a strong bounce-back performance against Cal.
“I think for as much of the criticism the offensive line took two weeks ago after the Arizona State game, they came out and really produced some big-time holes for Bishop to run through, and then Bishop capitalized on it,” Sarkisian said. “We’re running the football well, and we’re gonna need to. … We obviously have the talent to do it with the back that we have and the offensive line.”
• K/P Travis Coons was named Pac-12 special teams player of the week Monday. He had a 37.8-yard average on eight punts – including three that were downed inside the 10-yard line – hit field goals of 42 and a career-high 46 yards to stay perfect on the season, and registered three touchbacks on eight kickoffs.
“I thought Travis Coons had an excellent night for us in all three phases,” Sarksian said.
• Sarkisian praised junior DE Hau’oli Kikaha for his continued strong play this season.
“Hau’oli Kikaha had a tremendous game. This guy is having a great season so far, and he’s really improving as the year has gone on,” Sarkisian said. “He has six sacks now on the year, he has quarterback hurries. He’s playing at a high level.”