Husky football review: Likes and dislikes about the 34-15 victory over Utah
Related column: Huskies get back old Keith Price
I'm going to break from my tradition of presenting three likes and three dislikes today. Why? Because I don't have three dislikes and don't want to resort to nitpicking a good performance. I made that mistake last week in my critique of the Seahawks game. I don't want to be pigeonholed into a structure and start complaining about things that don't really matter. These reviews are a big-picture look at things. We're not going to fetch a microscope and go hunting for minutia. The Huskies made more than one mistake, but I have just one significant dislike from this game. And I'm OK with that. I could find more than three likes, but I'll always stick to a maximum of three to remain succinct.
So, that said, here are my highs and lows from Washington's impressive victory on Saturday night:
1. Penalties remain a problem, . The Huskies committed eight penalties against Utah. They've committed 28 during their three-game winning streak, which is way too many. Three of those were personal foul calls. But in this game, more than the others, the Huskies were also the victims of some questionable flags. The worst was the 15-yard personal foul on Justin Glenn, which looked more like a flop by Utah wide receiver Luke Matthews. That bad call led to John White's 46-yard touchdown run, and the Utes led 8-0 early. Matthews' flop came on a third down, and if Glenn hadn't been flagged on that play, Utah would've punted, and White would've never had the chance to make that dash. Pac-12 officials have been too liberal calling penalties all season. Eight of the 20 most penalized teams in the nation reside in the Pac-12. With 80 penalties in 10 games, the Huskies are the 10th most penalized team. That's only fourth in the conference, though. UCLA is the most penalized team in the nation. USC is second, and Oregon is fourth. No wonder Pac-12 games have seemed so disjointed this season.
1. Keith Price was Keith Price, at last. Price got off to a mediocre start, but in the final three quarters, he was 19 of 24 for 245 yards with two touchdown passes and a touchdown run. Overall, he completed 24 of 33 passes for 277 yards. That's the Price we expected to see often this season, but he has struggled while dealing with an injury-ravaged offensive line, new receivers and a run game that took a while to get going. Price was trying to do so much that he regressed. But the quarterback hasn't stopped searching for answers, and coach Steve Sarkisian hasn't given up on him. Now, in November, it appears Price is returning to form. He had been playing better for several weeks, but his turnovers were still a major problem. On Saturday, he didn't turn the ball over against Utah. He completed passes to eight different receivers, but he made sure that Austin Seferian-Jenkins (seven catches, 99 yards) and Kasen Williams (seven catches, 73 yards, one touchdown) got their touches. The emergence of Bishop Sankey (36 carries, 162 yards, two touchdowns) and the running game has taken pressure off Price. He's beginning to look like the efficient quarterback that he was in 2011. He still needs to protect the ball better when he's running, though. There were a few moments Saturday when you feared he'd fumble again.
2. The Huskies played their most complete game. Washington outgained Utah 437-188. The offense surpassed 21 points against a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision team for the first time this season. Despite missing some important personnel on the defensive line, the defense continued its trend of impressive performances at CenturyLink Field. Freshman quarterback Travis Wilson was awful against the Huskies defense, completing only 8 of 23 passes for 55 yards. The special teams kept Utah's dangerous returner, Reggie Dunn, from impacting the game. All of the Huskies' key players showed up, and their complementary players did their jobs, too. The Huskies weren't perfect, but it's difficult to be dissatisfied with anything they did in this game.
3. The third-down numbers tell the tale. The Huskies converted 7 of 15 third-down attempts, which is right where you want to be if you're a good offense. And they limited Utah to only one conversion in 13 attempts, which is stellar defense that helps illuminate how the Huskies held the Utes to only 188 yards. This may have been Washington's most dominant defensive performance of the season. I won't say best because of what they did defensively in upset victories over Oregon State and Stanford. Those were more impressive because of the level of competition, but in terms of imposing their will on a Pac-12 foe, it's hard to argue against this game as their most dominant. And that doesn't just apply to the defense. The offense handled a very good Utah defense.
During their current three-game winning streak, the Huskies have beaten a team that was ranked in the top 10, ended their six-game road losing streak and blown out Utah, which was a slight favorite to win at CenturyLink Field. This is a legitimate winning streak, and the football team is clearly getting better.
At 6-4, Sarkisian is now expected to win eight games for the first time in his four seasons at Washington. It'll be a huge disappointment if the Huskies don't win their final two games, both on the road against struggling Colorado and Washington State. They have to get to 8-4, and then they'll likely play a bowl game against a team they can beat without turning in a superhuman performance. This has been a crazy, streaky season, but things are lining up well for the Huskies, and they must show the focus and maturity to take advantage of these opportunities.