It was a 21-12 win over San Diego State in front of 53,742 at CenturyLink Field, a victory aided greatly by some curious calls by Aztecs coach Rocky Long, who eschewed kicking extra points or field goals all night.
It started off like a rout.
It ended surprisingly tense.
Ultimately, the Washington Huskies survived, even if for the second straight year they left their fans with more heartburn than anticipated in the season opener.
This time, it was a 21-12 win over San Diego State in front of 53,742 at CenturyLink Field, a victory aided greatly by some curious calls by Aztecs coach Rocky Long, who eschewed kicking extra points or field goals all night.
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Two failed two-point attempts and a failed fourth-down conversion late in the game when a field goal might have been the percentage play loomed large when the game ended.
“It’s good to be 1-0, but I think we are a better football team than this,” said UW coach Steve Sarkisian.
At least it didn’t take a last-minute interception for UW, as it did in a win over Eastern Washington in 2011.
Washington’s new-look defense often lived up to its billing as vastly improved, holding the Aztecs to only a trick-play touchdown through the first three quarters.
Indeed, UW quarterback Keith Price later said “the defense won the game for us.”
It had to because the offense didn’t get much done after a 14-point first quarter, allowing the Aztecs to creep back in it.
Sarkisian said the offense got “stale” and blamed his play-calling and said it wasn’t Price’s best game even though he completed 25 of 35 passes for 222 yards.
Price agreed, saying San Diego State’s constant pressure “got to me a little bit. Obviously I didn’t perform the way that I expected to. I haven’t played that bad of a ballgame in a long time.”
It didn’t help that the running attack turned stagnant, especially after an early injury to starting tailback Jesse Callier, who suffered a potentially serious knee injury. Sarkisian said he will have an MRI to determine the damage.
UW, in the first game of the post-Chris Polk era, had just 106 yards on 31 carries, and only 32 yards on 17 carries in the second half.
“We tried maybe a bit too hard offensively,” Sarkisian said. “We got out of ourselves and held onto the ball too much at quarterback. And a credit to SDSU, they did a nice job of pressuring us.”
Price and the Huskies will surely have to play a lot better to escape with a victory this week when they travel to LSU.
The Huskies took a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter when the game seemed like it might be over early.
Then, even after the offense sputtered a bit, the Huskies appeared in command when they took a 21-6 lead with 10:13 to play in the third quarter on a 44-yard fumble return for a score by Will Shamburger.
On the play, San Diego State receiver Colin Lockett was hit hard by Talia Crichton and Princeton Fuimaono as he struggled for yards and the ball came out. Shamburger picked it up and raced for an easy score (the play was reviewed but allowed to stand).
It looked like Washington might turn it into a complete rout when Travis Feeney forced quarterback Ryan Katz into a fumble that Justin Glenn recovered at the 19.
But Bishop Sankey fumbled the ball away at the 8.
San Diego State finally got its offense going in the fourth quarter and cut the lead to 21-12 when Adam Muema scored on a 1-yard run with 12:06 left. But the Aztecs again failed on a two-point attempt, and the Huskies still held a two-possession lead.
The drive was keyed by a 28-yard pass from Katz to Dominique Sandifer on a fourth-and-10 from the UW 32. On the play, UW cornerback and team captain Desmond Trufant left with an unspecified leg injury.
On its next possession, Washington punted.
Again, the Aztecs marched down the field.
And again, Long made a somewhat curious call, deciding to go for it on fourth-and-six at the UW 8-yard-line rather than a field goal that would have made it a one-score game.
The play failed on an incomplete pass from Katz to tight end Gavin Escobar, who fell down under some minor contact with safety Justin Glenn with just under five minutes remaining.
Long said his lack of confidence in his kicking game and a general philosophy of wanting to be aggressive led to the unusual decisions.
UW then picked up a couple of first downs on its next drive to run out most of the clock and preserve the win.
|The Huskies are 2-2 in season-opening games under coach Steve Sarkisian.|
|Opp. off. yds|
|2012||San Diego St.||W, 21-12||328||327|
|2011||E. Washington||W, 30-27||250||504|
|2010||at BYU||L, 23-17||394||408|