That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you throw a housewarming.
It was the most anticipated season-opener in memory. And just about everything went right for the Huskies in their glittery, gorgeous new home.
They racked up nearly 600 yards of offense, unveiling a warp-speed spread offense. Their defense was sublime, and didn’t allow a touchdown. No one blows out Boise State — the Broncos had never before lost by more than 14 points under head coach Chris Petersen — but it’s tough to call 38-6 anything but a blowout.
It was the perfect start to a now-all-the-more promising season, one in which a rose-colored sky may be the limit.
Yes, it’s a bit early to discuss the postseason. And a trip to Pasadena would mean getting past Oregon, which, well, it’s been a while. But the Huskies know the stakes this season are high, and the expectations sure didn’t do them any harm Saturday.
“We felt a lot of pressure,” said linebacker Shaq Thompson, who collected nine tackles against Boise State. “We lost the bowl game. We knew we had to come back and get this win.”
Victory didn’t come without suspense. The Huskies dominated the first half on the stat sheet, but the Broncos kept it close on the scoreboard. Despite Price and his offense topping 300 total yards in the first 30 minutes, Boise State trailed only 10-3 at the intermission.
Midway through the third quarter, it was 17-6, with Boise State driving in UW territory. They had a fourth-and-one from the 35-yard line. An eye that’s been watching the past, oh, 10 years of Husky football probably expected a quick conversion.
Not this time. Bronco running back Jay Ajayi took a handoff and was promptly met behind the line of scrimmage by Josh Shirley and Thompson. Three minutes later, Josh Perkins hauled in an 18-yard touchdown — his first career catch — and the Huskies could breathe with ease. The Broncos were never again a factor.
Last season, the Huskies improved from 106th to 31st nationally in total defense. That’s a jump from atrocious to above-average. On Saturday, Thompson, safety Sean Parker, who notched a first-quarter interception, and the rest of the gang gave every indication a leap from above-average to great may be in the offing.
Petersen thought so, at least. And after guiding a top-20 defense each of the past five seasons at Boise State, he should know.
“I think Washington will be one of the better defenses out there,” he said.
Offensively, the UW’s explosion had plenty to do with the usual suspects — 324 yards and two scores passing from Keith Price, 161 yards on the ground from Bishop Sankey — but also owed a debt to freshman John Ross and sophomore Jaydon Mickens.
The pair of sub-6-foot waterbugs combined to catch 13 passes, and added a critical dimension to the Huskies’ go-go attack, allowing them to take advantage of the smallest slivers of open space.
“The more we push each other, the more we’re going to make this team better,” Mickens said. “We dominated together, as a unit.”
Mickens and Ross, one might notice, look an awful lot like the sorts of players who have helped Oregon become the Pac-12’s most dominant team the past decade. That’s not a coincidence. In their increasingly desperate attempt to beat ‘em, the Huskies have increasingly decided to join ‘em.
Switch purple and gold with chrome, black, green, yellow, gray, and white, and a reasonable fan could have confused the UW’s offense with Oregon’s, from the pace to the play-calling. Would the Huskies have dipped into the alternate-uniform pool without the Ducks’ influence? Would they have spent an amount greater than the GDP of Finland on a new stadium? Competition benefits everyone involved, and the UW is doing its damndest to narrow the gap between Seattle and Eugene.
One game is just that, but this one game gave every indication the Huskies are better equipped than ever to challenge their tormentors to the south.
And when the Dawgs and Ducks meet six weeks from now, the UW will again have at its disposal All-American tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who was suspended Saturday for an offseason DUI. That prospect should have the rest of the UW’s schedule feeling a bit queasy.
The UW hung 38 points and 592 yards on a top-20 team without its best player. With him?
“Once he gets back,” Price said with a knowing grin, “it’s going to be scary.”
Reach columnist Kevin Dowd at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @KevinDowd
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