SEATTLE — Like the season opener three weeks ago, the University of Washington started Saturday’s game against Idaho State with an early turnover.
And like the Boise State game back on Aug. 31, the Huskies shrugged off their opening-drive miscue to turn in a thoroughly dominating performance against Idaho State, crushing the visiting Bengals 56-0 on a mostly sunny afternoon at Husky Stadium.
Washington, the nation’s 17th-ranked team, fumbled away the football on the fourth play from scrimmage, but then scored touchdowns on its next six possessions for a 42-0, halftime lead. The Huskies added solo TDs in both the third and fourth quarters, but clearly stopped short of piling it on against the overmatched Bengals, an FCS team from the Big Sky Conference.
“We took care of business the way I thought we were capable of doing it,” UW head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “Were we perfect? No. But there were a lot of positives.”
Idaho State brought a 2-0 record into the game, but the Huskies proved a bit more stout than Dixie State (Utah) and Western State Colorado. By the end of the first quarter Washington had three touchdowns, 12 first downs and 260 yards of offense. Idaho State had no points, no first downs and minus-12 yards of offense.
Also by then UW running back Bishop Sankey, the nation’s leading rusher at 184.5 yards a game, was on the sidelines to stay, having gained 77 yards on four carries with a touchdown before getting the rest of the afternoon off. The Huskies rotated backups through the remaining 31⁄2 quarters, giving carries to Jesse Callier, Deontae Cooper, Dwayne Washington and Ryan McDaniel.
Starting quarterback Keith Price, meanwhile, was excused late in the second quarter, already having completed 16 of 21 passing attempts for 213 yards and three touchdowns.
The Huskies played a few starters into the third quarter, but by late in the period the subs were playing exclusively. By the time the game ended, Washington had sent in all 75 players that were eligible to play, including four walk-on freshmen.
It was almost amusing afterward to hear Sarkisian say that he had been “concerned” before the game.
“Sometimes these weeks are hard,” he explained. “You look around the country and you see other (favored) teams getting beat in these types of games. So I was concerned all the way up until we took the field, and it’s the last thing I talked about before we took the field.”
His players evidently took those words to heart. The Huskies totaled a season-best 680 yards of offense, a season-best 370 rushing yards, matched their season high with 30 first downs (they also had 30 against Illinois last week), and got eight touchdowns from eight different players.
“With this type of (no-huddle) offense, you’ll get big yards like that,” UW wide receiver Kevin Smith said. “Our playmakers are making big plays. We’ve got running backs running down the field and our receivers catching the ball. That’s the way this offense goes.”
“We’re fast and we’re moving,” added offensive guard Dexter Charles, a graduate of Stanwood High School. “We’re all coming together and we’re all working, and it’s going good.”
On the defensive side of the ball, it was Washington’s first shutout since the 2009 Apple Cup, a 30-0 win against Washington State, and the most one-sided shutout since a 66-0 victory over Oregon in 1974.
“Defensively, it was just a tremendous game,” Sarkisian said. “(Idaho State) was coming in with a bunch of yards (in the first two games), just like Illinois last week, and we shut them down and shut them out. It was a great game for the defense.”
If there was a blemish for the Huskies, it was a season-high 16 penalties for 130 yards. Eight of those penalties came in the first quarter, including five false-start penalties, three by right guard Colin Tanigawa. Including the Boise State and Illinois games, Washington has been penalized 36 times for 295 yards in three games, and those are certainly troubling numbers.
Sarkisian called the penalties “a glaring issue and they need to be rectified. And we’ll fix it. We’ve fixed a lot of things in this program over the last five years, and we’ll fix the penalties, believe me.”
On the upside, the Huskies are 3-0 heading into next Saturday’s Pacific-12 Conference opener against Arizona at Husky Stadium.
“I feel great about where we’re at,” Sarkisian said. “The goal is to win the Pac-12 North (Division) and that journey begins next Saturday. These three wins are good for us. They’re building blocks and a foundation for the season. But the real season starts next Saturday.”