GAME: San Diego State (8-5-0, 4-3-0, Mountain West, 2011) Washington (7-6-0, 4-4-0 Pac-12, 2011). WHEN: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field. MEETING: 3rd(Washington leads 2-0). COACHES: Rocky Long, San Diego State; Steve Sarkisian, Washington. RANKINGS: Both unranked;. LINE: UW by 14 1/2. TV: Pac-12 Network. RADIO: KJR-950 AM, 102.9 FM
Steve Sarkisian's Washington Huskies begin their 2012 season Saturday night at their new temporary home -- CenturyLink Field -- against San Diego State of the Mountain West, a school the Huskies have faced twice and not since 1997. With RB Chris Polk having skipped to the NFL, junior quarterback Keith Price will become the offensive focus of Sarkisian's fourth UW team.
Price ranked third in 2011 among returning Pac-12 quarterbacks with 235.6 passing yards per game. He threw for 3,063 yards and a school-record 33 TDs in 2011 and finished the season by accounting for seven touchdowns in the Alamo Bowl.
Junior safety Sean Parker is the most notable returning player on a Washington defense that set records for futility in 2011. Parker was the Pac-12's sixth-leading tackler with 91 total and the only underclassman to rank among the conference's top 10.
Sarkisian owns a 19-19 record in three seasons at UW and has led the Huskies to bowl games in each of the past two seasons. Getting to a third consecutive bowl will be difficult considering that Washington plays five teams ranked in the preseason Top 25, including No. 1 Louisiana State (next week in Baton Rouge).
As for replacing Polk, a first-team All-Pac-12 running back who finished his career with 4,049 yards rushing (No. 2 in school history), Sarkisian has listed Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey as co-starters.
"They are each going to get carries by series," Sarkisian said this week. "If I feel like one guy might be laboring, you will see the other guy jump in. And you will see them in there together."
Neither Callier nor Sankey have carried the ball much, Callier 47 times last year, Sankey 28. Which is why Sarkisian will watch closely to see how each handles an increased workload.
"We will get a better feel for them as the game goes on," said Sarkisian. "Who can carry the ball three or four times? What does their body language look like? When they carry the ball, what's their burst look like?"
Polk almost seemed to prefer barreling into tacklers. Callier and Sankey are finesse runners who, according to Sarkisian, will seek daylight.
"They're very similar," said Sarkisian. "They are complete backs. I think sometimes when backs aren't 220 pounds they get labeled as scatbacks. But they run with power. They are also excellent pass protectors and both have a very high football IQ. I don't think they are one dimensional. They almost look alike at times in their nature on the field. We will see what it looks like on game day."
Callier, a sophomore, served as Polk's primary backup in 2011, but made the most noise as a kick returner (his 23.0-yard average ranks eighth in UW history). He had his best rushing game against Colorado when he gained 81 yards on 10 carries.
Sankey, also a sophomore, had his top game against Colorado, rushing for 71 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Following Washington's 67-56 loss to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl last December, Sarkisian overhauled his coaching staff, firing defensive coordinator Nick Holt, who oversaw a unit that allowed a school-record 453.3 yards per game, allowed 40 or more points seven times, 50+ points four times and 60+ twice.
Even with the UW having added new defensive coaches, such ghoulish numbers may prompt San Diego State coach Rocky Long to test an idea that he's considered for some time: never punting any time his team gets past midfield.
"Additional plays wold allow you to score a lot more points," Long told The San Diego Union. "It also puts a whole lot of pressure on the defense."
Long said last week he doesn't know if will refrain from punting whenever the Aztecs get inside Husky territory.
"We're still considering whether we're going to do that or not," Long said. "But that's the way we've practiced from day one in camp."
SERIES: Dates to Oct. 2, 1982, when the No. 1-ranked Huskies defeated the Aztecs 46-25 in front of 55,528 in Seattle in a game in which Vince Newsome's 43-yard INT return for a touchdown sparked a 28-point UW avalanche in the final 18 minutes, 22 seconds. The clubs last met in Seattle Sept. 13, 1997, the No. 2-ranked Huskies winning 36-13, with Brock Huard throwing two TD passes to Jerome Pathon and the UW defense holding San Diego State to -7 yards.
HEAD COACH: Steve Sarkisian (19-19-0) is in his fourth season as head coach of the Huskies. After producing a 5-7 record in his first season (2009), Sarkisian guided the Huskies to a 7-6 record in 2010, which ended with a 19-7 victory over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. That marked Washington's first postseason game since the 2002 Sun Bowl. Sarkisian coached the Huskies to another 7-6 record in 2011 and a berth opposite Baylor in the Alamo Bowl. Prior to joining the Huskies, Sarkisian served as a USC assistant under Pete Carroll (2001-03, 2005-08). He also worked as an Oakland Raiders assistant in 2004. Sarkisian played quarterback at Brigham Young University and later played in the Canadian Football League.UW STATS / NOTES
- SEASON SUMMARY (2011): Record: 7-6-0. Home: 6-1-0. Road: 1-4-0. Neutral: 0-1. Vs. Pac-12: 5-4-0. Vs. Pac-12 North: 2-3-0. Vs. Pac-12 South: 3-1-0. Vs. Non-Conference: 2-2-0.
- Points For: 434 (33.4). Rushing Yards Per Game: 154.3. Passing Yards Per Game: 255.5. Total Offense Per Game: 409.8.
- Points Against: 467 (35.9). Opp. Rushing Yards Per Game: 168.7. Opp. Passing Yards Per Game: 284.6. Total Defense Per Game: 453.3.
- Huskies received votes in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches' polls in the preseason, finishing just out of the top 25 in each case (26th by the coaches and 27th in the AP).
- UW is 82-34-6 all-time in season openers, good for a mark of .697. Since 1989, Washington has posted a 12-10 record in season openers - 7-1 at home, 5-8 on the road, 0-1 at neutral sites.
- Washington has played all but three (Colorado State, New Mexico and UNLV) members of the 10 schools that comprise the Mountain West Conference. Huskies are 12-8 against current MWC members: 2-6 vs. Air Force; 1-0 vs. Boise State; 2-1 vs. Fresno State; 3-1 vs. Hawaii; 2-0 vs. San Diego State; 2-0 vs. Wyoming.
- UW wide receiver Kevin Smith, who sustained an ACL injury in the Alamo Bowl, is expected to play against San Diego State.
- At the Huskies' annual "Raise the Woof!" preseason celebration, captains for the 2012 season were unveiled. This season, thanks to a tie in the player voting, five captains were selected. On offense, junior QB Keith Price (Compton, CA.) and senior center Drew Schaefer (Sammamish, WA.) were selected. On defense, three were named: junior safety Sean Parker (Los Angeles), sophomore linebacker John Timu (Long Beach, CA.) and senior cornerback Desmond Trufant (Tacoma). All five are serving as UW captains for the first time.
|Tackles||Dennison 128, Parker 91, 2 with 64|
|Sacks||Shirley 8.5, Ta'amu 3.5, Hudson 3.5|
|Interceptions||Parker 4, Trufant 2, 4 with 1|
|Passes Defensed||Trufant 16, Parker 6, 3 with 5|
|Forced Fumbles||Fuimaono 2, Trufant 2, Timu 2|
|Fumbles Recovered||Trufant 2, Ducre 2|
HEAD COACH: Rocky Long: Became the 18th head coach in Aztec football history in January 2011, and went on to take the squad to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in the program's Division I history. Long is also the first SDSU head coach to lead the team to a bowl game in his debut season. In 2011, he helped three players earn All-America honors, including RB Ronnie Hillman, who was a third-team pick by the Associated Press, TE Gavin Escobar and CB Larry Parker. The trio was among the record seven Aztecs named first-team all-Mountain West. Long joined San Diego State as defensive coordinator in December 2008. Prior to that, he served as head coach at New Mexico from 1998-2008, where he amassed the most victories of any Mountain West head coach in the conference's history.
COMING UP: The Huskies play the first of five ranked opponents next week when they travel to Baton Rouge, LA., to face the LSU Tigers. The Huskies return to CenturyLink Field Sept. 15 to face Portland State.University of Washington 2012 Schedule/Results
|Date||Opponent||UW Rnk||Opp Rnk||W/L||Score||Rec.|
|9/1/12||vs. SD State||---||---||---||---||---|
|9/15/12||vs. Port. State||---||---||---||---||---|