SEATTLE — When University of Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant heard the number for the first time, his face showed chagrin.
“Seventy?” he asked incredulously when told that Eastern Washington University had thrown that many passes in a 30-27 loss to the Huskies on Saturday afternoon.
Actually, the number was only 69. But it was more than enough to set a record for passes thrown against a UW defense. The old record was 59, set by BYU’s Kevin Feterik in 1999.
“Definitely, they taxed us,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “Sixty-nine pass attempts is a crazy number. It was difficult for us to generate a pass rush because they got the ball out so quick.”
That number didn’t concern the Huskies as much as the results: 473 passing yards from EWU quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell on Saturday.
“As a defense, we have to get better,” Trufant said. “We’re not satisfied at all.”
The 473 passing yards marked the fourth-highest total against a UW defense. Arizona’s Willie Tuitama threw for a record 510 in 2007.
Part of UW’s issue had to do with injuries. Starting cornerback Quinton Richardson sat out the game with a high ankle sprain. His backup, Greg Ducre, struggled with cramps and didn’t play much in the second half. Nickel back Justin Glenn also sat out with cramps, although he ran back onto the field in the final minute.
“When they’re going four wides (receivers), it gets awfully thin when you get a bunch of corners hurt,” said UW defensive coordinator Nick Holt, adding that he was not looking for excuses. “You get your hands tied.”
UW running back Chris Polk, just 16 days removed from knee surgery, started and played efficiently for the Huskies on Saturday.
“I’m a competitor,” Polk said after rushing for 125 yards on 23 carries Saturday. “I’ll play with broken arms. I don’t want to miss any games. I don’t want my team to go to war without me.”
Polk was a huge part of UW’s offense Saturday, while backup Jesse Callier had a rather quiet 47 yards on 10 carries.
It made for a remarkable recovery for Polk, who was still hobbling around last weekend. He walked stairs at Husky Stadium on Monday, did some light workouts on Tuesday, practiced at a limited capacity Wednesday and was full-go during a Thursday non-contact practice.
Sarkisian said it was a pretty easy decision to start Polk, who had the meniscus in his left knee repaired a little over two weeks ago.
“He was 100 percent healthy and ready to go,” Sarkisian said.
Making a difference
The much-maligned special teams units of the Huskies got off to a good start to the 2011 season.
On UW’s first punt, Trufant made a perfectly-timed strip of return man Matt Johnson, and the ball bounced right into the arms of Huskies teammate Gregory Ducre. Without breaking stride, Ducre caught the ball and ran 23 yards into the end zone. But officials ruled that Johnson never had full possession of the punt, thereby disallowing any player from advancing the muffed ball.
Three plays later, the Huskies scored on a Keith Price-to-Jonathan Amosa 7-yard touchdown pass.
Another player who had a solid first half was kicker Erik Folk, who nailed field goals from 53 and 47 yards out and also had two kickoffs go into the end zone.
Another bright spot was punter Kiel Rasp, who handled all the duties after Sarkisian said he would split time with fellow senior Will Mahan. Rasp averaged 46.8 yards on five punts, had two inside the EWU 20-yard line, and should have had a third downed inside the 5 had teammates corralled a slowly bouncing ball.
But his most important kick came on the last one — a 55-yarder that the Eagles fair caught at their own 5-yard line with less than 90 seconds to go in the game.
The shuffle begins
As Sarkisian promised, the Huskies took advantage of their depth Saturday by substituting liberally throughout the game. The defense had 17 players see action in the first half alone.
The most immediate impact came from backup outside linebacker Garret Gilliland, who needed just two plays to intercept a Mitchell pass. With about five minutes remaining in the first half, Gilliland checked into the game in place of starter Princeton Fuimaono and dropped into coverage to intercept a pass over the middle. Three plays later, Folk hit a 53-yard field goal to give UW a 17-10 lead.
By the end of the game, 19 players saw time on defense.
Among the players who saw action Saturday were five true freshmen: Wide receiver Kasen Williams, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, safety James Sample, running back Bishop Sankey and defensive tackle Danny Shelton.
Kearse, Price hobbled
Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse came out of the game midway through the first quarter with a sprained left ankle and did not return.
“I didn’t want to take the risk of hurting it more,” said Kearse, adding that he expects to be available for this Saturday’s game against Hawaii.
Quarterback Keith Price also got hurt during the game, although he did not come out. Price sprained his right knee sometime in the second quarter and ended up wearing a brace for most of the afternoon.
“The brace was kind of stiff,” said Price, who completed 17 of 25 passes for 102 yards and three touchdowns. “I couldn’t move like I wanted to. But I had to play.”
Sarkisian said he thought of putting backup quarterback Nick Montana in the game but decided to let the hobbled Price go on. He added that Price had tests on the knee to prove it was only a sprain and that he was not worried about a more severe injury being discovered in the next day or two.
Price, who wore an ice bag on the knee after the game, shrugged off the injury.
“I’ll be ready for next week,” he said.
EWU was the Huskies’ first opponent from the Football Championship Series, what used to be called Division I-AA. … Among the people who attended Saturday’s game were Lakes High School offensive lineman Zach Banner, who is considered among the top recruits in the nation, and Scott Locker, whose son Jake spent five years at UW but is now playing with the Tennessee Titans.