Kragthorpe: Fast-paced offense works for ex-BYU quarterback
By Kurt Kragthrope
Tribune ColumnistFirst published Sep 03 2013 02:47PM
Celebrating the $280 million renovation of their stadium, the Washington Huskies demonstrated the value of an up-tempo offense when it is properly operated.
Everything that BYU’s offense wanted to do in a season opener, former Cougar quarterback Steve Sarkisian’s team succeeded in doing. Washington shredded Boise State’s defense with 592 total yards in a 38-6 victory that heralded the team’s return to Husky Stadium after a one-year absence during construction.
The reviews of the facility enhancements and the new offensive approach were equally glowing. Boise State’s defense is inexperienced, but Washington’s steamrolling of the Broncos was stunning after the Huskies ranked 10th in the Pac-12 and 97th nationally in total offense in 2012, averaging 355.2 yards.
Considering the perceived quality of opponent, and how Washington took control after leading 10-6 in the third quarter, the Huskies delivered the Pac-12’s most meaningful performance of the opening weekend.
"I don’t think I was surprised; I was pleased," Sarkisian said Tuesday. "The players had a good feel for what we were trying to get done in the game."
The Huskies played without star tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, suspended for the opener. Yet they were highly productive, with quarterback Keith Price passing for 324 yards and two touchdowns and Bishop Sankey rushing for 161 yards and two scores. Seferian-Jenkins’ replacements played well, as did sophomore receiver Jaydon Mickens, who caught nine passes for 109 yards.
Boise State coach Chris Petersen said Washington’s fast pace "handcuffed" his defense, which is just what the scheme is designed to do. Sarkisian liked the way the Huskies’ communication worked, enabling them to line up quickly, and their conditioning level impressed him. So did their execution, which ultimately determines whether or not the strategy works.
The Huskies ran 52 plays in the first half and converted 11 of 15 third-down chances in the game, while holding Boise State’s new spread offense to 346 total yards, with a longest play of 18 yards.
Now, assuming Boise State is any good, the view of the Huskies changes considerably. Washington is ranked No. 20 in this week’s AP Top 25 and should generate plenty of momentum going into back-to-back games with Stanford and Oregon in early October. The Huskies appear very capable of topping the seven-win ceiling of Sarkisian’s first four years in Seattle.
Washington is off this week, then plays Illinois at Soldier Field in Chicago before hosting Idaho State and Arizona to conclude September.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, a proponent of the up-tempo offense, said, "Sometimes, it takes a year or two to develop your system and your people."
Sarkisian’s offense obviously is ahead of the learning curve, unlike his old school’s.