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Across the Ute sideline: Scouting the Washington Huskies

Across the Ute sideline: Scouting the Washington Huskies

By Robert Jackson, KSL.com Sports Director | Posted - Sep. 27, 2011 at 4:19 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY - After a brief step outside of conference play, Utah returns to Salt Lake to host its first home Pac-12 conference game against the Washington Huskies.

Utah (2-1) vs. Washington (3-1)
Series Snapshot
Utah looks for its first win against the Huskies in the first game played in Salt Lake City between the new rivals. Washington's 6-0 lead includes narrow 7-6 victories in 1931 and 1954. The Utes have struggled to score in this series—most recently losing 41-7 in Seattle in 1979.Game 4 Notes
  • Utah (2-1, 0-1 Pac-12) vs. Washington (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12)
  • Date: Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011
  • Time: 5:00 p.m. MT
  • Site: Rice-Eccles Stadium (45,017, FieldTurf)
  • TV: FSN (ROOT Sports)
  • Radio: ESPN700 & SIRIUS/XM 85
  • Series Record: Washington leads 6-0
  • Last Meeting: 1979 (Washington 41, Utah 7)
  • Kickoff Weather: Sunny and breezy, temps in the mid 80s

The Utes and Huskies haven't played each other since 1979, and Saturday's contest will be the first meeting played in Salt Lake City. And as a side note, Washington is the only Pac-12 school that Utah has never beaten (0-6).

Kickoff for Pac-12 football in Rice-Eccles Stadium is only four days away, so let's take an inside look at the Washington Huskies and how they have fared so far this season.

Washington Huskies
University: University of Washington
Enrollment: 42,907
Established: 1861
Conference: Pac-12 North
Location: Seattle, WA
Mascot: Harry the Husky
Nickname: Huskies
Fight song: Bow Down to Washington
Colors: Purple and Gold            

Season to dateWashington opened Pac-12 play with a 31-23 victory over California last Saturday to improve to 3-1 on the season. The Huskies made a huge goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter, holding the Bears out of the end zone after they drove all the way to the UW two-yard line.

The only blemish in the standings for the Huskies came against then No. 11 Nebraska, 51-38. Washington was able to pile up 420 yards of offense against the Cornhuskers, but three turnovers proved too much to overcome.

Coaching Staff

Former BYU quarterback Steve Sarkisian was introduced as the new head coach of the Washington football team in December of 2008. From the start, Sarkisian made it clear that he didn't think it would take long to turn the program around and get it back to the high level of success that UW football has enjoyed throughout its history.

In just two years, he has re-established the kind of tough, exciting environment that was then, and is again now, so closely associated with the Husky football. In 2010, Sarkisian's second season in Seattle, the Huskies made another clear step forward, finishing third in the Pac-10 and beating an 18th-ranked Nebraska squad, 19-7 in the Holiday Bowl.

Offense

Having to replace four year starter Jake Locker, the eighth pick in the NFL draft, Sarkisian handed the reigns to sophomore quarterback Keith Price. Fans in Seattle must already be saying "Jake who?" as Price is off to a record breaking season at UW. Price has thrown 14 touchdowns in just four games, tying him with Bowling Green's Matt Schilz for the national lead. Price needs just one more TD pass to place him in the top 10 in UW single-season history.

"He's a playmaker," Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said. "What sets him apart is his ability to make plays when the protection breaks down. He is exceptional throwing on the move, and finding open receivers when a play breaks down. He is also a very capable runner."

When looking downfield, Price has plenty of targets to throw to. Junior James Johnson leads the team with 14 receptions, while senior Devin Aguilar is a big play threat every time he touches the ball, piling up 253 yards on 13 catches (19.5 yards per reception). Senior Jermaine Kearse was 2nd-team All-Pac-10 in 2010, but has been slowed this season with a knee injury suffered in the season opener against Eastern Washington.

Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins gives the offense a completely new outlook with a dynamic tight end. Price has connected with the true freshman nine times this season, with three of them going for scores.

Junior running back Chris Polk's presence on the field causes great concern for opposing defenses, which aids in UW's efficiency in the passing attack. Polk has rushed for 100-yards 14 times in his career, including three times this season. In 2010, Polk rushed for 1,415 yards, the second-highest single-season total in UW history.

Defense

For how good the Washington offense has been, the defense has been equally as bad. The Huskies are last in the Pac-12 and 117th in the country (out of 120 teams) in pass defense, giving up 327.5 yards per game through the air. They are also 11th in the conference in scoring defense, giving up 33.3 points per game.

Although playing pass-heavy teams Hawaii, Eastern Washington and Cal doesn't help in the stat sheet, the defense has done just enough to guide the Huskies to a 3-1 start to the season, including a critical goal-line stand against Cal.

While the defense has given up a lot of yards, Washington is playing exceptionally well in the red zone. The Huskies have only allowed touchdowns on 11 of 20 red zone opportunities, including holding Cal to just one touchdown in five drives inside the red zone.

Keep an eye on Salt Lake City native and Judge Memorial graduate Cort Dennison. The senior linebacker averages 8.5 tackles per game, and has a sack and a forced fumble this season.

Special Teams

The stark difference between this year's Washington team compared to years past? The excellent play from the special teams.

Against Eastern Washington, the Huskies forced two punt-coverage turnovers, made three field goals and had a long kickoff return to aid them in a 30-27 win.

Senior placekicker Erik Folk is 6-7 in field goals this season, with his only miss coming from 52 yards.

Wrap up

Now in the Pac-12, the Utes will face storied programs with long lists of accolades each week. Washington has won 15 Pac-10 Conference Championships, seven Rose Bowl Titles, and has won the national championship four times. Impressive.

Sarkisian looks to have righted the ship, coaching the Huskies to their first bowl game in eight years in 2010, and has them off to a terrific 3-1 start this season.

Email: rojackson@ksl.com

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Robert Jackson Sports Director

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