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Huskies rout Colorado behind offensive explosion

UW sophomore quarterback Keith Price was an efficient 21-28 for 257 yards and four touchdowns Saturday against Colorado. Photo by Saskia Capell

All Keith Price could do after yet another four-touchdown day was smile. Not like that’s unusual, though.

Fueled by a nearly perfect offensive performance in the first half and playing their most complete game of the season, the ever-smiling Price and the Huskies (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) defeated the Colorado Buffaloes (1-5, 0-3) 52-24 Saturday afternoon at Husky Stadium.

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UW freshman Bishop Sankey continues to see increased playing time, as he ripped off runs of 33 and 24 yards against Colorado on Saturday.

If there were any lingering doubts about the legitimacy of the success of both Price and the UW offense so far this season, they were put to rest. Quickly.

The Huskies had scored 30 or more points in each of their first five games this year for the first time since their national championship season of 1991. They had that total by halftime Saturday — taking a 38-10 lead into the locker room — with the offense firing on all cylinders behind the almost comically efficient play of Price, who went 18-of-23 for 230 yards and with four touchdowns in the first half.

“Keith was just feeding everyone,” said senior receiver Jermaine Kearse, who finished with five receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown. “Everyone was just making plays when the opportunities came, and that’s what we wanted to do.”

The Huskies got off to a scalding start, scoring touchdowns on their first five possessions of the game before kicking a field goal on the last play of the half.

It all began with a bit of foreshadowing worthy of Shakespeare. Price completed a 25-yard dart to receiver James Johnson on the game’s first play, and the Huskies scored shortly thereafter on a 17-yard toss from Price to Kearse. They never looked back.

Early on, though, it appeared the Colorado offense might be equally potent. It answered the UW’s opening score with a 70-yard drive of its own, capped by a 5-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Hansen to reserve receiver Kyle Cefalo.

But the Buffaloes’ hopes were seemingly dashed when star running back Rodney Stewart, who rushed for 42 yards on Colorado’s first two possessions, left the game with a sprained knee late in the first quarter.

“It seems like we can’t catch a break,” Hansen said. “We can’t keep getting guys hurt — it just hurts us even more.”

The Huskies had no such issues on offense. They scored next on a 22-yard end-around to Kevin Smith, his first career touchdown and the first rushing touchdown by a Husky not named Jake Locker or Chris Polk since Sept. 12, 2009. After the defense forced a Colorado punt, true freshman running back Bishop Sankey sprinted off left tackle for a 33-yard gain that helped set up an 11-yard touchdown pass from Price to another true freshman, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, making the score 21-7.

It was Seferian-Jenkins’ fourth touchdown catch of the season, already a tie for 10th among tight ends in UW history.

After a Colorado field goal cut the lead 21-10, Price continued his virtuosic display. He completed four of five passes on the Huskies’ ensuing 70-yard drive, capped by a 14-yard toss to Polk. The junior finished with 118 yards on 18 carries, his fifth 100-yard game of the season.

The UW offense was so prolific that head coach Steve Sarkisian was having flashbacks to his days as the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at USC, where he piloted some of the most explosive offenses in the country.

“I’ve been on both sides, where every play looks good on the call sheet — like it did there for awhile [today] — and when you’re struggling, and none of them look good,” Sarkisian said of his play-calling. “But that felt, today, when you get that rhythm going — pretty reminiscent [of my days at USC], I guess.”

The first-half explosion ended with Price’s fourth touchdown pass to his fourth different receiver — a 4-yard throw to Devin Aguilar — and 41-yard field goal by Erik Folk on the final play of the half.

Price summed up the display best.

“We were just rolling,” he said. “We had a lot of fun. … The line did a great job of protecting me, and the receivers got open. … We were running the ball pretty good, and we were throwing the ball pretty good.”

For all intents and purposes, the game was already over when the whistle blew to start the second half. The Buffaloes started to move the ball more effectively, but the UW defense stifled them when it counted, tallying four sacks and 10 tackles for loss on the day.

The Huskies’ lead afforded Sarkisian the opportunity to put in much of his second-team offense later in the second half — including redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Montana, who replaced Price. Price finished 21-for-28 for 257 yards with a minute left in the third quarter.

Montana’s debut did not play out as he probably dreamed it would. Buffalo linebacker David Goldberg sacked him on his first snap of the game, forcing a fumble that Colorado ultimately recovered.

“Welcome to college football,” Sarkisian said.

The UW victory sets up one of the Pac-12 North games of the year in the next weekend when the Huskies travel to Palo Alto, Calif., to face Andrew Luck and an undefeated 7th-ranked Stanford squad.

Luck is probably licking his chops at the prospect of facing a still-vulnerable UW pass defense. But if Price, Polk, and the potpourri of weapons at Sarkisian’s disposal play like they did in the first half today, it might not matter.

“It hasn’t been this way in a long time for myself personally,” Sarkisian said. “When you’re calling plays with this football team right now, I’m not calling plays for a specific guy. We’re calling the best plays for the moment and not concerned on who might be the guy who’s going to make the play. We have such belief in the guys on our football team right now and them making plays, and today it showed up.”

Reach reporter Kevin Dowd at sports@dailyuw.com.

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