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A gathering place for sports analysis and opinion with Seattle Times sports columnist Jerry Brewer.

September 28, 2012 at 9:29 AM

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Husky football review: Three likes and dislikes about Washington's 17-13 victory over Stanford

Related column: Bigger upset is that the Huskies won with defense

We'll resist the temptation to write nothing but positives about one of the best wins of the Steve Sarkisian era. The Huskies are still a mixed bag, but they're a mixed bag with a 3-1 record and an attention-grabbing victory over the No. 8 team in the nation.

Here's the bad and the good from Washington's 17-13 victory over Stanford on Thursday night.

Dislikes

1. The makeshift Washington offensive line didn't protect Keith Price. Price was sacked three times, but he was pressured, hurried and hit all game. The quarterback managed to throw for 177 yards and a touchdown, but he completed just 19 of 37 passes and threw an interception, which Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy returned for a touchdown. It's almost inevitable that a Husky offensive line decimated by injuries and leaning on green players will struggle. And you have to give the O-line credit for fighting through their struggles in this game, holding up during key situations and opening the holes that allowed Bishop Sankey to rush for 144 yards. But overall, pitted against the best front seven in the Pac-12, the line offered another performance that made you wince too many times.

2. The teams combined to convert only 9 of 35 third-down attempts. They combined for 18 punts, too. It was a nasty game at times -- a mud wrestling match. And though both teams played great defense, their offenses blew some manageable opportunities, too. The story of the game for both offenses in a single anecdote? Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes, who was playing his first road game, tossed a simple, three-yard dump off to a running back. And it landed a yard short. Yeah, ugly. Mud wrestling.

3. The Huskies couldn't get the ball in Austin Seferian-Jenkins' hands more. ASJ caught just two passes for 10 yards. He had a team-best 20 receptions and 211 yards entering the game. He played OK, but as a receiving threat, he was the victim of poor pass protection that threw off Washington's entire passing attack. The Huskies also didn't try more quick-hitting stuff with Seferian-Jenkins, which was a surprise.

Likes

1. Yes, Sankey hit triple digits rushing for a second straight game, but this was his true coming-out party. Sankey ran for 144 yards, and his 61-yard scamper on fourth-and-1 to end the third quarter rescued the wobbly Huskies from losing touch in the game. It was an incredible, bold play call by Sarkisian, and timing of the quick snap was perfect, just beating the end of the quarter. And Sankey proved his big-play ability. Sarkisian has been saying for weeks that he believes Sankey has great home-run potential when he gets to the second level of the defense. Finally, he got the opportunity. He made one good juke and dashed to the end zone. But it wasn't just that one rush. Take it away, and Sankey still ran for 83 yards. He looked like a good Pac-12 running back on this night.

2. Kasen Williams was a beast. Williams scored the game-winning touchdown, breaking a tackle and rumbled into the end zone despite bobbling the ball once and nearly fumbling it at the goal line. The sophomore wide receiver finished with 10 receptions for 129 yards. He won some key battles with his physical, athletic style.

3. Lastly but most importantly, the Huskies defense owned the night. They were spectacular across the board, as I mentioned in my column linked on top of this post. New defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox had an incredible game plan, and his players executed it. The Huskies allowed Stanford to convert only 5 of 18 third-down tries. The most telling stat of how far the Huskies have come: They allowed 446 rushing yards in a 65-21 loss to Stanford last season. They gave up 65 rushing yards on Thursday night. With Desmond Trufant, who had the game-icing interception (again), serving as a shutdown corner and keeping Stanford receiver Ty Montgomery under control, the Huskies were able to bring more defenders into the box and stop the run. The defense was tough enough, which inspired the entire team to be tough enough. Yes, the Cardinal have a vanilla offense, but you've seen it work at the highest level. This time, the Huskies overwhelmed them. And for as long as Wilcox is here, there's hope this showing will be more trend than aberration.

Overall assessment

It feels as if the Huskies actually opened the season Thursday night. Their first three games were full of injury misfortune and concerning performance. Many people were not enthusiastic about this team, and it was surprising to see a crowd of less than 60,000 (55,941) attend a game against a top-10 squad.

Nevertheless, those who did come to CenturyLink Field, the Huskies' temporary home while Husky Stadium undergoes renovation, made it a loud and enjoyable ex experience. It ended with the Dawg Pack leading a storm-the-field effort.

The Huskies made a huge statement by rallying from a 13-3 deficit and showing resolve to go with their big plays. It wasn't just that they win a huge Pac-12 game. It was that they played in a manner that will create a buzz, too. For Huskies fans, nothing creates a buzz better than playing great defense. The crowd became electric because it could cheer for plenty of hard hits and third-down stops. The Huskies have plenty to clean up, but that was the kind of defense-dominant effort that helped form Washington's tradition.

Welcome back, Huskies. To the season, and perhaps, to consistent defensive relevance.


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