No. 17 Huskies Get Final Tuneup vs. Idaho State
SEATTLE (AP) — Keith Price needed to be scared only one time by a lower-division opponent.
It came in the first start of his sophomore season at Washington back in 2011. Price, the Huskies quarterback, played well that day against Eastern Washington, throwing for three touchdowns, but was left watching as the Huskies needed a late interception to avoid a loss to the Eagles from the FCS.
With that history, Price is the last player on the roster of No. 17 Washington who’s going to overlook Idaho State, the Huskies’ opponent on Saturday.
“I’m definitely not looking past them,” Price said. “I had a scare already and that’s all I needed. I’m not looking past them by any means.”
Saturday is the final tuneup for Washington (2-0) after blowing out Boise State and knocking off Illinois 34-24 last Saturday, and before beginning Pac-12 Conference play with a brutal four-game run. The Huskies start with Arizona at home, before going to No. 5 Stanford, hosting No. 2 Oregon and closing out the run at No. 23 Arizona State.
That’s all in the future though.
“The one thing about this game, as with every game . is it’s about the process and embracing the process. It’s not about who the opponent is on Saturday,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said.
Idaho State (2-0) will at the very least test the Huskies pass rush and pass defense. The Bengals lead all of the FCS in yards passing through two games, both easy victories over Division II teams Dixie State and Western State. But making the jump from Division II opposition to a team ranked in the AP Top 25 is quite the challenge for the Bengals.
Here are five things to watch in the first meeting between the Huskies and Bengals:
SUPER SANKEY: If everything goes as desired for Washington, running back Bishop Sankey will be giving way early to his backups. The question is how many yards can Sankey possibly pile up while he’s on the field. Sankey currently leads the country in rushing averaging with 184.5 yards per game. It’s doubtful he’ll be on the field long enough to pad his stats against the Bengals. “He sees holes that I know I wouldn’t be able to see and he squeezes and finds a way to maneuver his body through those holes,” Price said. “He’s an excellent back.”
RED ZONE EFFICIENCY: It’s hard to find much fault in Washington’s offensive production so far with 592 total yards vs. Boise State and 615 vs. Illinois. But Sarkisian is not satisfied with the field goals Washington has settled for at times. The Huskies are 9 of 10 this season scoring inside their opponents’ 20 but three times have settled for field goals, all of them inside 35 yards.
STAY HEALTHY: When Idaho State made the trip to Nebraska last season it was a costly loss physically and mentally. The Bengals lost two players to major knee injuries in the 73-7 loss to the Cornhuskers and came out with a mental block that coach Mike Kramer said this week his team was never able to overcome. With Big Sky Conference play starting next week, the Bengals want to stay healthy. The same could be said for the Huskies. Washington middle linebacker John Timu is already nursing a bruised shoulder suffered against Illinois and they don’t need any more injury concerns before Pac-12 play.
CHUCK THE BALL: Washington’s pass rush and pass defense will get challenged by the Bengals. Idaho State QB Justin Arias leads the FCS in yards passing per game at 434 and has thrown just one interception in 98 pass attempts. The Huskies were able to shut down Illinois’ pass game last week and will be tested again.
NO LET DOWN: Washington realizes it has something good going. The Huskies have not started a season 3-0 since 2001 and have a real shot at being 4-0 headed into an Oct. 5 showdown at Stanford. All the good built in two strong performances to start the season would be lost with a struggle against the Bengals. The Huskies say they’re well aware of what has happened to schools like Oregon State, Kansas State and Connecticut facing FCS teams already this season. “We know they’re hungry,” Price said. “We know they’re a very aggressive defense. We just have to do what we do minus the penalties and we’ll be fine.”
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