Princeton Fuimaono (37), Danny Shelton (71), and Shaq Thompson (7) bring down Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey in the second quarter of Washington's 31-13 win against Arizona.
Princeton Fuimaono (37), Danny Shelton (71), and Shaq Thompson (7) bring down Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey in the second quarter of Washington's 31-13 win against Arizona.Photo by Joshua Bessex
Shaq Thompson doesn’t have to be reminded of what Arizona did to the Washington football team last season. He’s been thinking about it for a whole year, and now he’s given the Wildcats something to think about.
One year after getting shredded by an up-tempo Arizona offense, the UW defense answered back with a dominating performance, led by Thompson and linebacker Princeton Fuimaono, to boost the No. 16 Huskies (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) to a 31-13 win over Arizona (3-1, 0-1).
The Huskies gave up 533 yards and 52 points to the Wildcats last season, and the chaos created by the high tempo turned the Huskies against each other on defense. They bickered and argued as the Wildcats continued to rack up yardage at will.
Not so this year. The UW kept a lid on the Wildcats, constricting quarterback B.J. Denker to the pocket and stuffing Ka’Deem Carey, who led the nation in rushing last season, at the line of scrimmage. Rich Rodriguez’s offense, which gave the Huskies fits last year, only collected 318 yards compared to the UW’s 409.
“This was a big win for us,” Thompson said. “We had the whole year to think about what they did to us last year. We never forgot that, and we came out here and executed.”
Thompson was everywhere, pestering Denker and Carey in the back field and patrolling the middle of the field. The sophomore linebacker had eight tackles in the first quarter en route to 13 on the night, which tied Fuimaono for the team lead.
With rain steadily falling and wind swirling, the UW defense wasted no time in stamping out memories from last season. On the very first pass of the game, safety Sean Parker picked off Denker at the Arizona 43-yard line and returned it to the Wildcat 35. Denker didn’t complete a single pass in the first quarter and ended the night at 14-of-35 with 119 yards through the air.
The Huskies quickly capitalized on an interception from Parker that ended Arizona’s first drive by going 35 yards in four plays into the end zone. Keith Price found Kevin Smith near the sideline, and Smith ran it in for a seven-yard touchdown, the first of his career. The UW missed the extra point attempt after the snap sailed through the fingers of kicker Travis Coons.
Price threw an interception on the next drive when Shaquille Richardson picked him off at the Arizona 45-yard line. But the defense was there to bail the quarterback out. The Huskies forced a three-and-out immediately after the interception and kept the Wildcats to only one first down in the first quarter.
After halftime, the UW offense finally gained footing on the slick turf, behind running back Bishop Sankey. To start the third quarter, the Huskies were pinned on their own five-yard line, but Sankey quickly got the UW going with an 11-yard run on first down. The Huskies methodically marched down the field, getting a key third-down conversion from a completion from Price to wide receiver Kasen Williams in the process, then into the end zone on a one-yard touchdown pass from Price to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins that put the Huskies up 18-6.
With wind and rain beating down on Husky Stadium, passing yardage was at a premium, so Sankey carried the load for the UW. The junior rushed for 162 yards and one touchdown on a career-high 40 carries that set a UW record for carried in a single game.
“Bishop was awesome,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “He didn’t change, his focus was there, his body language didn’t change from the first carry to the last carry.”
Sankey’s emergence as one of the top running backs in the nation has been a healthy by-product of the UW’s switch to the no-huddle offense. The defense’s impressive start to the season could also be filed in that category. Middle linebacker John Timu said the Huskies were much more prepared for Arizona’s up-tempo offense that burned them last season in Tucson, Ariz. This is the first time the UW is 4-0 since 2001, and while the new offense has certainly put up eye-popping numbers, it’s the defense that sets a hard-hitting tone for the Huskies, and it’s exactly what carried the Huskies past the Wildcats on Saturday. And it’ll likely be what carries the Huskies to their ultimate goal, which is to win the Pac-12 North.
“We’ve been average,” Timu said. “I think a lot of guys know what the feeling is, and we’re kind of tired of it.”
Reach Sports Editor Thuc Nhi Nguyen at email@example.com. Twitter: @thucnhi21
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