Huskies: We’re No. 22!

  • By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
  • Sunday, October 16, 2011 3:41pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE — The University of Washington football team returned from obscurity on Sunday afternoon, when the Huskies were back in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 2009 and the second time in just over eight years.

The Huskies are ranked No. 22 in the AP poll, No. 24 in

the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 25 in the Harris Top 25. Washington was also ranked No. 25 in the first BCS standings.

The last time UW was ranked was in late September of 2009, after beating USC and six days before losing at Stanford.

But that No. 22 ranking in the AP poll doesn’t mean much to a UW team that this week has its sights set on the top of the standings.

The Huskies (5-1 overall, 3-0 in the Pacific-12 Conference) are currently one of three teams sporting perfect records in the Pac-12’s North Division. UW will travel to Stanford to face one of them this weekend, when the seventh-ranked Cardinal (6-0, 3-0) host the Huskies in an unlikely battle for first place.

“That’s the next step,” UW receiver James Johnson said after Saturday’s 52-24 win over Colorado, “so we’ve definitely got to get ready for this one.”

As if the challenge of facing an unbeaten, top-10 team wasn’t daunting enough, the Huskies are trying to take down a Stanford team that has outscored UW by an average of more than 30 points over the past two seasons. The last time the Huskies were ranked, No. 24 UW got pounded by Cardinal running back Toby Gerhart for 200 of his team’s 321 rushing yards in a 34-14 lashing at Stanford in 2009. Quarterback Andrew Luck and a stingy defense handed UW its worst home loss of the Steve Sarkisian era with a 41-0 decision last season.

The blowout losses have not been forgotten.

“Those games were tough,” UW senior linebacker Cort Dennison said. “But those were different years, too. This is a different football team this year; we have different players at different positions. I like our team where we’re at now, and we’ll continue to grow with each and every game.”

The most important player on the field is back, however, with Stanford’s Luck coming into the game as a Heisman Trophy favorite. He has completed 71 percent of his passes this season, with 18 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Luck, who has thrown for 1,710 yards, ranks third in the country in passing efficiency (180.55).
“Anytime I see one of their games on TV, I’m definitely watching it a little closer than the other games, just to see him,” said UW free safety Justin Glenn, a junior from Mukilteo. “People always talk about how good he is, and he’s a great quarterback. He does a great job of always finding the open guy and just running their offense, of making things work.

“I’ll definitely be spending a few more hours in the film room this week, just getting ready for what they’re going to throw at us.”

But Luck is not the only thing about the Cardinal that might be keeping the Huskies up at night this week. Stanford’s offensive line averages 298 pounds per man and features two All-America candidates in 6-foot-6, 304-pound tackle Jonathan Martin and 6-5, 310-pound guard David DeCastro.

“We’ve got to go against one of the best O-lines we’ve ever played against,” said UW defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu, who anchors the Husky defensive line at 330 pounds. “It will be a big challenge for our defense — a really big challenge, especially for our D-line.”

The 22nd-ranked Huskies — bet that sounds good, huh, UW fans? — are heading into Stanford on quite a roll. They’ve won three consecutive games and outscored their past two opponents by an aggregate score of 83-38. It’s the first UW team in history to score at least 30 points in each of their first six games.
In the first half of Saturday’s 52-24 win over Colorado, the Huskies scored touchdowns on each of their first five possessions while marching to an eventual 38-10 halftime lead.

Ta’amu aptly described UW’s offense in the first half of that game as “unstoppable.”

The Huskies may have to play up to that adjective if they’re going to hang with Luck and Co. this Saturday. It might have seemed unthinkable when the 2011 season began, but a UW offense led by first-year starting quarterback Keith Price has hung at least 30 points on every opponent this season.

Maybe that’s why Price isn’t surprised that the Huskies are in position to play for first place this Saturday.
“I thought so, but I don’t know if you guys (in the media) thought so,” he said after completing 21 of 28 passes for 257 yards and four touchdowns in Saturday’s win over Colorado. “I definitely thought so. We’re just going to go in, we’re going to prepare, and hopefully the results are good.”

Most outsiders might believe that the Huskies might have a tall task in front of them this week, but many of those same people never thought UW would still be in the hunt for a Pac-12 North title this time of year.
“First place will take care of itself,” Dennison said. “We realize that they’re a great football team, and they’re ranked very high for a reason. But at the same time, we can play football too, and we’ve showed it this year. We’ve just got to bring it, play in and play out.”

The Huskies are No. 24 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 25 in the Harris Top 25. The last time UW was ranked was in late September 2009, after beating USC and six days before the loss at Stanford. … With his stellar performance Saturday, Price now ranks fifth in the nation in passing efficiency (177.91). Only Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, with 22, has more touchdown passes than Price’s 21 this season.

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