It might sound a bit strange, but if all goes well for No. 17 Washington on Saturday — and there’s every reason to believe it will — Bishop Sankey might no longer be leading the country in rushing by the time UW’s game against Idaho State is over.
A week ago, Sankey, the UW junior, carried the ball a career-high 35 times in the Huskies’ victory over Illinois. He finished with a career-high 208 yards rushing, which catapulted him into the limelight this week with his nation-leading 184.5 yards per game.
Ideally, the Huskies (2-0) will be able to push others into productive roles against the Bengals (2-0), an FCS program from the Big Sky Conference, while keeping Sankey fresh for UW’s Pac-12 Conference opener next week against 3-0 Arizona.
“Thirty-five carries is not the number we want for Bishop Sankey every week,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “That’s too many carries for him over the longevity of the season.”
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Backup running back Jesse Callier re-emerged as a force for UW against Illinois after missing the past year with a major knee injury, and he figures to carry even more of the workload against Idaho State. The same goes for fellow junior Deontae Cooper and redshirt freshman Dwayne Washington, who lost two fumbles in his only two carries a week ago.
Through two games, the Huskies are averaging 270.5 yards per game on the ground — nearly double their average of 142.4 from 2012.
“With the amount we run the football, we need the depth at that position,” Sarkisian said. “We’re not where we want to be yet. We would like to have some guys contribute even more.”
Kickoff against Idaho State is set for noon at Husky Stadium. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
The Bengals are guaranteed to make $450,000 with their visit to UW, a standard payout by a major-conference program to an FCS team.
One betting line had UW as a 53-point favorite to open the week.
The Huskies, with their new up-tempo offense, rank No. 4 in the nation with an average of 603.5 yards of total offense. Idaho State, with wins over Division II schools Dixie State and Western State-Colorado, ranks No. 4 in FCS with an average of 552.4 yards.
Idaho State quarterback Justin Arias leads the FCS in total offense at 453 yards per game, and Sarkisian said the Bengals will try to operate their up-tempo offense at about the same pace as the Huskies.
Washington, meanwhile, is hardly satisfied with its offense despite the 2-0 start.
“We can never get complacent with the new no-huddle offense,” junior receiver Kasen Williams said. “There’s obviously things we can do, and I think there’s a lot of weapons we haven’t shown yet. … It’s going to be hard to stop us when we get this thing really right.”
Sarkisian has harped on his offense’s mixed results in the red zone.
Last week, the Huskies scored points on all four of their trips inside the Illinois 20-yard line, but UW settled for Travis Coons field goals on two of those drives.
Sarkisian wants more than three points from those trips.
“Obviously, the red-zone efficiency is not where we want to be and need to be,” Sarkisian said.
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @a_jude