SEATTLE — Blink during today’s Arizona-Washington game and you might miss a touchdown — or two.
Arizona (3-0), with its up-tempo offensive style, comes to Husky Stadium for a 4 p.m. kickoff that opens Pacific-12 Conference play for each team. The Wildcats embarrassed Washington last year with a 52-17 Tucson teeth-kicking. It was the low point of the Huskies’ season.
Washington would love to atone for that debacle in the desert, improve this year’s record to 4-0 and build some momentum before it encounters a tough stretch of schedule — at No. 5 Stanford, hosting No. 2 Oregon, at Arizona State.
Last year’s loss to Arizona led to the Huskies adding the up-tempo offense to their arsenal. The point was to improve quarterback Keith Price’s efficiency and make Washington’s offense more potent. But the switch also had its benefits for the defense, which has to practice against an up-tempo offense each day.
In college football, the up-tempo style of play “is really the norm now,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said, “… and you better be ready to defend it or what happened to us a year ago there will happen to you.”
Thus far, the Huskies’ up-tempo offense has been dynamic. Through three games, Price is completing 77 percent of his passes, 10 percent higher than his record-setting 2011. Multiple receivers have been involved. Debates about play-calls have subsided.
But the core of the up-tempo success for Washington, and for Arizona as well, comes rumbling out of the backfield.
The Huskies’ Bishop Sankey is starting to receive recognition as one of the best running backs in the nation. He’s gained 446 yards in the Huskies’ three games and is averaging 7.0 yards a carry.
National recognition is nothing new for Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, who led the country in rushing last season with 1,929 yards and scored 23 touchdowns. Like Sankey, he averages 7.0 yards per carry this season. If there’s a common term associated with Carey’s running style, it’s “angry.”
“Sankey has been a huge part of their success and Ka’Deem (Carey) has been a huge part of ours,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “That’s probably going to be the case for the rest of the season.”
Arizona is very focused on running the football. It has run for 967 yards this season and has passed for just 326. No one in the conference has thrown for fewer yards.
“This game is obviously a little unique in just the style that Arizona plays,” Sarkisian said. “They go so fast and they’re so dedicated to running the football and their commitment to remaining physical and really trying to wear you out from a conditioning standpoint.
“So to simulate that in a practice setting is sometimes a unique challenge, so we’ve really tried … to focus on the tempo and extend the drive to fatigue our guys, and I think they’ve responded really well to it.”