The headline in the initial wire-service report Saturday night summed up the national recognition of Washington’s running back:
“Price, Stankey lead Huskies past Illini, 34-24.”
It was likely just a simple typo, but the misspelling of Bishop Sankey’s last name underscores how unfamiliar much of the college football world is with the nation’s rushing leader.
Not that Sankey is paying much attention to any of that.
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The unassuming junior set career highs with 208 yards on 35 carries, plus two touchdowns, in the Huskies’ nonconference college football victory over Illinois in Chicago. Through two games, he is averaging 184.5 yards rushing — 20.2 yards more per game than the nation’s No. 2 rusher, Rutgers’ Paul James (164.3).
“There’s not a lot of flash and flair,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “He just does his job really well.”
Sankey doesn’t seem to notice, or care, who is paying attention to the job he’s doing for the Huskies (2-0), who moved up two spots to No. 17 on Sunday in The Associated Press poll.
“I’m just happy with what we’ve done and how we’re continuing with our success in the ground game,” he said Saturday night. “You can’t really worry about external stuff. Sometimes that’s more of a distraction than anything. I just try to stay focused and try to play within myself.”
It’s not just a small sample size, either.
Sankey has surpassed 200 yards rushing twice in UW’s last three games. He had 205 yards in UW’s bowl-game loss to Boise State in December (and then 161 yards in the win over the Broncos on Aug. 31). His performance against Illinois made him just the fourth UW running back to have multiple 200-yard games, joining Napoleon Kaufman (with three), Corey Dillon (two) and Louis Rankin (two).
“I lost track, honestly,” Sankey said of his carries Saturday. “You’re just out there and the flow’s going and the adrenaline’s pumping.”
In his past seven games, Sankey has rushed for 1,142 yards — an average of 163. Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey averaged 148.4 yards in 13 games to lead the nation in 2012.
Dillon holds UW’s record with an average of 141.3 yards during his 1,695-yard season in 1996.
Sankey passed Jake Locker on Saturday for 13th place on UW’s career rushing list with 1,995 yards. At this pace, Sankey would easily move past Joe Steele (3,168 yards) for third place by season’s end. Chris Polk is second with 4,049.
“We’re lucky to have him. He’s a really good player,” Sarkisian said. “It’s more than just the way he plays the game — it’s his attitude every day (and) it’s the person that he is.”
Seeking its first 3-0 start since 2001, UW hosts FCS Idaho State (2-0) at noon Saturday at Husky Stadium. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
The Huskies’ new no-huddle offense is averaging 603.5 yards, fourth-best in the nation. Rejuvenated senior quarterback Keith Price was 28 of 35 for 342 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers against the Illini. He has back-to-back 300-yard passing games for the first time in his career.
“We are all just thinking about moving forward and on to the next game and constantly getting better,” Sankey said. “We can’t get complacent.”
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org