With several early quick strikes, the Huskies came closer to resembling a good football team in a 40-32 victory over Hawaii at Husky Stadium.
All week, the Washington football team howled right with you, agreeing that its season opener should’ve ended with tomatoes being tossed and vowing to come back with a performance worthy of a bow.
The Huskies were disappointed, embarrassed even, and coach Steve Sarkisian took every opportunity to express how much. Still, you wondered if their problems were simple enough to be solved by strong words, butt-kicking and extra attention to detail.
And then they came out like famished Dawgs on Saturday afternoon.
Don’t consider it a quick fix — the Huskies struggled plenty as the game progressed — but with several early quick strikes, they came closer to resembling a good football team in a 40-32 victory over Hawaii at Husky Stadium.
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This was progress after exiting last week’s Eastern Washington game with an unimpressive, pride-numbing win. Credit a flurry of big plays on offense for putting the Huskies and their followers in better spirits.
The game began with two long passes to freshman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the first for 30 yards, the second for 47. The excitement didn’t stop for an entire half, and by then, Washington had a 28-14 lead and 370 offensive yards.
In one of the finest spurts of offense in Sarkisian’s tenure, the Huskies averaged 10 yards a play in that first half. Against Eastern Washington, they gained at least 10 yards on only six offensive plays. Their longest pass in that game went for 10 yards. They had only two explosive plays (plays that gain 20 or more yards), both on Chris Polk runs.
Much of the week’s conversation centered on the Huskies’ defensive woes against Eastern, but the offense was almost as disappointing. It led to a depressing overreaction: What if quarterback Keith Price can’t throw deep, and the Huskies are destined to produce a season of dink-and-dunk disdain?
Uh, never mind.
Six of the Huskies’ first seven plays went for at least 10 yards. The only exception was Polk’s 2-yard touchdown run, which capped a three-play, 79-yard game-opening blast. Hawaii dared Washington to throw the ball down the field. The Huskies grinned at the thought.
“They were bringing their safeties up, trying to stop the run and get us to throw the ball,” said Price, who completed 18 of 25 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns, with his lone blemish being an interception that Hawaii safety Richard Torres returned 99 yards for a touchdown. “It looked like, ‘Hey, show us you can throw the ball deep.’ So we did.”
Price’s accuracy and confidence throwing downfield defied the tape that Hawaii coach Greg McMackin had seen on the young quarterback. It startled the Warriors, and by the time they adjusted, the score was 21-0.
“You know, we weren’t expecting as much of that because he had thrown it short (against Eastern Washington), and they did some shifting and motions that we hadn’t seen,” McMackin said. “That first quarter, we didn’t do as well of a job as we should have adjusting to that.”
It was like a video game for the Huskies: 17 yards to Kevin Smith, 20 yards to Jermaine Kearse, 59 yards to Devin Aguilar. The offense relented in the second half; only 96 of the Huskies’ 466 total yards came after halftime. Nevertheless, the Huskies showed how explosive they can be.
They harped on it all week. More explosive plays. Gotta have more explosive plays. They knew they were capable. And they knew that, after last week’s poor showing, the opportunities would be available.
“I think we got a few,” Seferian-Jenkins deadpanned before smiling.
Humble as always, Price would only allow that “it was a little better than last week.” He’s still focused on improvement. Before the game-opening 30-yard pass to Seferian-Jenkins, Price remembered missing Kearse on a throw during his only start last season against Oregon. He told himself, “I’m not going to miss this time.” He didn’t, and four touchdowns later, he had enjoyed his first huge statistical game.
But ask Price what’s holding the offense back from being consistently dangerous, and he says, “Me. The more I improve, the more the offense will improve.”
Scary thought: He’s right. Even scarier: You have every reason to believe he will get better.
Price made significant progress from Week 1 to 2. Even though the defense allowed 32 points and 388 yards to Hawaii, the Huskies gave a better overall performance and improved to 2-0 this season.
Is this team an undisputed success? No, but at least it’s undefeated.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer