By Brent Stecker
With a nasty combination of rain and wind turning Husky Stadium into something that resembles the setting of a horror movie, Washington needed to dial up its running game more than usual against Arizona in order to stay perfect in 2013.
After his record-setting performance in a 31-13 win over Arizona, Washington running back Bishop Sankey (center) ranks 11th in the nation in rushing yards. (AP) | More photos
Junior running back Bishop Sankey was there to answer the call.
Sankey’s number was called for a school-record 40 carries Saturday night, and he responded with 161 yards and a touchdown as the Huskies rolled to a 31-13 victory over Arizona in their Pac-12 opener and improved to 4-0 for the first time since 2001.
Coach Steve Sarkisian said two weeks prior that Sankey’s 35 carries in a win over Illinois were more than he was comfortable with. But even though Sankey ran the ball just four times last week against Idaho State, the Huskies wound up turning to him much more than expected against the Wildcats.
“That’s why he had four carries last week and 40 tonight,” Sarkisian said. “We knew coming into the game that both teams were going to go fast. We knew coming into the game that both teams were going to want to run the football. The weather kind of forced our hand a little bit in the way that we had to play the game. I don’t know exactly what our run-to-pass ratio was, but when you have 61 rush attempts, somebody’s got to carry the ball.
“You play the hand that you’re dealt, and those were the conditions we had, and Bishop was awesome. His focus was there, (and) his body language didn’t change from his first carry to his last one.”
Sankey’s performance put him at 446 rushing yards this season, good enough for 11th in the nation. He’s totaled that on 64 attempts for seven yards per carry.
“He’s a stud. We are lucky to have him, and we just have to keep making holes for him,” Washington offensive lineman Ben Riva said.
Sankey didn’t act alone – junior running back Jesse Callier added 57 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
“I was happy that we got what we got out of Jesse, and Jesse was really effective late in the game,” Sarkisian said. “I think that we will continue to get more out of Jesse. I think he’s been impressive. He’s really starting to get better and better and better. We saw it there late in the ballgame. We’ll probably let him play more early on.”
As productive as Sankey and Callier have been, Sarkisian said he’s still looking for redshirt freshman running back Dwayne Washington (11 yards, two carries) to turn the corner two games after he lost a pair of fumbles in one half against Illinois.
“We tried to get Dwayne Washington going a little bit more than we had been,” he said. “We still need to find that third guy. We need to get Dwayne’s confidence back, and we need to get Coop (junior running back Deontae Cooper) really taking that next step, too.”