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Dawgs On Having Nation's 3rd-Ranked O: We're Not Surprised

Sep 23, 2013

The No. 16 Huskies (3-0) have gained 500 yards in three consecutive games for the first time in 124 years of football.

By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing

SEATTLE -- The Huskies are averaging 629 yards of offense per game. That’s third in the nation behind Baylor and Oregon.

This is the first time in 124 years of Husky football that UW has gained 500 yards in three straight games and 600 yards in two straight.

The Dawgs (3-0) are averaging 42.7 points per game, 18th in the country, entering Saturday’s 4 p.m. game against Arizona (3-0) at Husky Stadium. Quarterback Keith Price is eighth in the nation in passing efficiency. He is completing 77 percent of his throws with seven touchdowns and one interception.

And, no, Price and his play-caller are not surprised by any of it.

"Not really," Price said this afternoon, following another fast-paced, morning practice. "Even throughout the spring, throughout fall camp, we’ve had a lot of explosive plays. We were averaging 22, 23 explosive plays (gains of more than 15 yards) a practice - and we running close to 100 plays a practice.

"I knew we had an explosive team. It’s kind of fun to play against other people to see how explosive we really are."

Coach Steve Sarkisian said all so far is going exactly as he planned when he went full bore into making the super-speed, no-huddle scheme the base offense starting in April.

"I’m not surprised. I’m pleased," Sarkisian said.

"Offensively, we are really starting to find our stride in our ability to distribute the football and still remain physical up front at the point of attack with the offensive line.

"And I think is playing at a relatively high level right now. Take away probably not a particularly great play call on the first pass of the year and he’s played almost flawless for us.

"The system is doing what I hoped it would do, which is emphasize our skill positions."

And how.

Twelve different receivers have caught passes this season for the 16th-ranked team in the country. The Huskies’ leading pass catcher right now is not leading returner receiver Kasen Williams nor preseason All-American tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. It’s sophomore Jaydon Mickens. He has 20 catches, nine more than Williams and Kevin Smith.

The leader in yards per catch is not any of those guys. It’s Bishop Sankey, who in his day job is the nation’s second-leading rusher at 148.7 yards per game. Sankey is averaging 18.8 yards per catch, thanks to his wide-open, 31-yard catch and run for touchdown out of the right flat against Illinois. Sankey was Price’s fifth read on the play, exemplifying Sarkisian’s point about the offensive line’s play up front.

Price was sacked 38 times in 13 games last season, about three sacks per game. He’s only been dumped three times total in three games this season. The offensive line had started eight different guys and three different combinations by this time last year. This season, left tackle Micah Hatchie, left guard Dexter Charles, center Mike Criste, right guard Colin Tanigawa and right tackle Ben Riva have been the same starters each week.

"Our protection is vastly improved up front," Sarkisian said.

The leader in touchdown receptions? It’s a converted wide receiver and backup tight end. Joshua Perkins' catch for a score in last weekend's 56-0 cruise past Idaho State was his second TD catch in three games — and second of his career.

"You just feed ‘em the ball," Price said of all the options he has abounding right now in the passing game. "You are still disciplined in your reads, you just throw accurate balls — and you let them run with it."

Ka’Deem Carey, the nation’s rushing leader in 2012, and his fast-paced offense get most of the attention at Arizona. But the Wildcats have been stingy on defense so far this season, albeit against non-conference competition below the caliber of Washington’s.

U of A’s experienced unit — 10 of the 11 starters on defense are juniors and seniors — has allowed 26 points total and surrendered an average of 310 yards per game in wins over Northern Arizona 35-0, at UNLV 58-13 and two weeks ago over Texas-San Antonio 38-13.

"This will be a tremendous test for us," Sarkisian said. "Arizona’s got a veteran defense. They know what they are doing. They are extremely well-coached. It’s going to be a great challenge for us."