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Originally published Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 6:55 PM

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Defense rules the day in UW's 57-play scrimmage

UW had 13 possessions during a 57-play scrimmage that concluded practice, its most significant live action of the spring, and the defense dominated.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Washington quarterback Keith Price wanted to use his legs to get around the corner during the team's scrimmage Saturday afternoon at Husky Stadium.

But just about every time he did, a defensive lineman was already there, usually ends Josh Shirley or Hau'oli Jamora.

"We've got a lot of speed on the edge so it's making it a little harder for me to get out," said Price, a sophomore who is competing with redshirt freshman Nick Montana to replace Jake Locker as the team's quarterback.

It was virtually impossible most of Saturday during a scrimmage dominated by the defense.

UW had 13 possessions during a 57-play scrimmage that concluded practice, its most significant live action of the spring. On seven possessions, the offense went three-and-out, and in one 19-play stretch, the offense had minus-21 yards. The defense had seven sacks, and the No. 1 defense gave up only one touchdown, a 55-yard run by Chris Polk on the final play.

"I loved the fact we were able to rush the passer," said UW coach Steve Sarkisian. "That put a smile on my face today to see Shirley and Jamora and those guys coming off the edge."

Shirley, a redshirt freshman who came to UW after being dismissed at UCLA following his arrest in a theft case, had four sacks. Jamora had one but was also a constant presence.

After the offense began the scrimmage with five possessions that netted just one first down, Sarkisian gathered it for a quick meeting. Sarkisian has said that with Locker gone, the offense is still searching for leaders to emerge, and Price acknowledged that Saturday's scrimmage was another stiff test.

"We've just got to be mentally tough," Price said. "When we've got bad drives we've just got to keep going. I think it's a lot of bickering going on right now, and I've got to do a better job settling everyone down in the huddle. ... It's just everybody getting all riled up. It's nothing serious, but everybody wants their say-so and I've got to do a better job just settling stuff down. That's what my job is."

The offense regrouped a little from there as Montana led two scoring drives against the No. 2 defense, one on a 1-yard run by Polk (the team had few RB options available because of injuries) and another on a 10-yard pass to true freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

The No. 1 offense then got its only score of the day on its last drive when Price hit tight end Michael Hartvigson for 25 yards before Polk's highlight-reel run in which he juked safety Nate Fellner and stiff-armed cornerback Desmond Trufant on his way to the end zone.

That, however, was the only time the No. 1 offense got past midfield.

"It's good to have good drives like that (at the end)," Montana said. "It builds the whole offense's confidence, and I think that's what we needed in the beginning; we were lacking a little bit of confidence."

The defense, meanwhile, seems to have it in droves. Eight starters return from the unit that finished the 2010 season by shutting down Nebraska in a 19-7 win in the Holiday Bowl.

UW returns the bulk of its players up front, including senior defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu and end Everrette Thompson, who has bulked up to 265 pounds from 244 last season. Jamora, a sophomore, had a breakout game in the Holiday Bowl and appears to be picking up where he left off. The revelation has been Shirley, who often plays in a five-man defensive-line alignment, teaming with Jamora to rush off the edge.

"That brings a whole different dimension to the defense when you've got some speed rushers that can contain, especially a mobile quarterback," Price said.

Added Sarkisian of Shirley's play: "That was really encouraging, because we see a lot of elusive quarterbacks, and we've got to be able to try and contain those guys. We've been hurt the past couple of years by quarterbacks getting out on the edge, and I think Josh presents some real bonuses for us coming off the edge that way."

Price quarterbacked the No. 1 offense the entire way, at times working against the No. 1 defense and at times against the No. 2 defense, and was 5 for 10 for 59 yards. Montana guided the No. 2 offense (against both the No. 1 and No. 2 defense) and was 7 for 13 for 83 yards and a touchdown.

Sarkisian, asked if either QB is making a move to be the starter, said "I'm not even thinking that way. I'm just compiling information."

That information tells him that each still has some growing to do.

"They are trying to think so much and trying to be so right that at times we are not playing with the rhythm that I know they are capable of playing with, whether it be getting the calls in at the line of scrimmage, or getting the ball out of their hands," he said. "So we'll have to continue to put them in those situations to find ways to throw the ball away, to not take some of those sacks, to get the ball out and anticipate those throws. But that's just part of the process."

Polk was the leading rusher with 66 yards on eight carries and Johri Fogerson had 50 yards on three, 40 coming on a run against the No. 2 defense to set up Polk's first TD. But otherwise, the rushing game was shut down much of the day as the defense dominated up front against an offensive line playing without starting left tackle Senio Kelemete, likely out for the spring with a plantar fascia injury.

That has the No. 1 offensive line currently going with four players who are either true sophomores or redshirt freshmen.

The practice was the ninth of 15 UW will hold this spring. UW's Spring Game is April 30 at 11 a.m.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

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