By Brent Stecker
Amidst the pomp and circumstance surrounding Saturday’s unveiling of the new Husky Stadium, quarterback Keith Price breaking the school record for career touchdown passes, and a dominant showing from a revamped offense, hidden in there was a defensive performance from Washington that was just as important as anything in its 38-6 dismantling of No. 19 Boise State.
The Huskies became the first team since 1997 to prevent Boise State from scoring a touchdown, and they allowed the Broncos to gain more than 15 yards on just two of their 88 plays.
“If you would have told me going into that game that Boise would run 88 plays and we’d hold them to six points, I would have taken it in a heartbeat,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday.
Linebacker John Timu (10) led the Huskies with 13 tackles in their 38-6 win over Boise State. (AP) | More photos
Like the Huskies, Boise State was running an up-tempo offense in an attempt to wear out the opposing the defense. It just didn’t work out as well for the Broncos.
“We were ready for them. Whatever they gave us, we had an answer to it,” said linebacker John Timu, who recorded a game-high 13 tackles.
The scary thing is, Sarkisian didn’t spend too much time Monday lauding the defense, but instead talked a lot about shoring up some tackling issues.
“An area where I think we can improve is our tackling on defense,” he said. “That’s a key component to playing good defense, whoever you play.”
Even though the Huskies held the Broncos to six points, they had zero sacks and yielded 346 total yards.
“I think we can be better at rushing the passer, especially in obvious passing situations,” Sarkisian said.
Luckily for Washington, it was able to bend without breaking, and didn’t get burned downfield.
“We really eliminated the big play, which was a big focus for us going into the ballgame,” Sarkisian said. “That’s a really impressive job by the defense.”
ASJ on the way
The Huskies gained 592 total yards of offense against Boise State, and they did it without one of their more prominent players.
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins served a one-game suspension Saturday for his March DUI citation, but he will be back for Washington’s next game against Illinois on Sept. 14. That could mean even bigger numbers from the team’s new no-huddle offense.
“It’s just another weapon,” Sarkisian said of the 6-foot-6, 276-pound Seferian-Jenkins. “He’s so effective for us on third down and in the red zone because he’s such a big target. Even when he’s covered, he’s not.”
Seferian-Jenkins’ return will likely help the running game as well, which rolled up 268 yards Saturday, including 161 by Bishop Sankey.
“I think (Seferian-Jenkins) is really gonna help us in the run game, too. He has worked at his run blocking, and he wants to make it a positive in his game,” Sarkisian said. “When you’re that big on the edge, some of our runs the other night that went to the perimeter that kinda got muddled up and didn’t look so hot I think will look more effective when he’s in there blocking.”
As for how Seferian-Jenkins has handled his punishment, Sarkisian said he’s extremely impressed.
“He’s been awesome. He’s in a great frame of mind, working his tail off, going above and beyond everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s just been a good teammate,” Sarkisian said. “… I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
If there was one thing Sarkisian said he was pleased with from the win, it was the Huskies’ second-half performance.
“One of the more impressive things to me was outscoring them 28-3 in the second half, meaning that we were in good physical condition on both sides of the ball,” he said.
Price – who completed 23 of 31 attempts for 324 yards, two touchdowns and an interception – was especially good after halftime.
“I was really impressed with Keith’s second half of the game,” Sarkisian said. “I thought he was focused, I thought he was detailed, and I thought he used his legs really well in the second half, running around and making plays the way he’s capable of doing it.”
Sarkisian said Price was a bit excitable in the first half, but he relaxed as the game wore on.
“(It was) just him settling down. He was so fired up,” he said. “I love that about Keith. Nobody prepared more, nobody was more ready to go play the game. That environment, I think he was just kinda white-knuckle, grabbing the ball too hard. ‘Settle down, play the game,’ and I thought he did that. I thought he allowed plays to happen.”
• Sarkisian said he wants to see better blocking from the Huskies’ receivers on the perimeter.
“We know the ball’s gonna go to the perimeter. We have big wideouts blocking on the perimeter, and it’s a real piece to our offense that has to be effective,” he said. “If you’re gonna load the box to stop Bishop and Dwayne (Washington) and those guys, and we’re gonna throw the ball to the perimeter, we have to block those corners and safeties. We were good. We can be better though.”
• A chaotic style in practice contributed to Washington’s success on offense against Boise State.
“We’re used to chaos. We spot the ball even faster in practice than they do in the games,” Sarkisian said. “I think for us it was a little bit calm on gameday, and it made it a little easier to go even faster. … I thought all in all it really worked out well, and (I’m) proud of the guys for their ability to embrace the change and then apply it on gameday.”