Updated Nov 11, 2012 - 11:32 am
Price, Sankey lead Washington past Utah 34-15
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AP Sports Writer
SEATTLE (AP) - For the past few weeks, Steve Sarkisian believed Washington quarterback Keith Price was on the verge of a dynamic breakout game reminiscent of a year ago.
It finally came on Saturday night _ and just in time for the Huskies to become bowl eligible for the third straight season.
Price threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and Washington pulled away in the second half for a 34-15 win over Utah.
Washington (6-4, 4-3 Pac-12) became the last BCS conference team to top 21 points against an FBS opponent when Bishop Sankey scored on a 2-yard toss sweep late in the third quarter to give the Huskies a 27-15 lead.
Sankey finished with 162 yards on 36 carries and became just the 10th 1,000-yard rusher in Washington history, with two games remaining in the regular season. Sankey has 1,017 yards rushing after entering fall camp the Huskies' No. 3 running back.
But while Sankey's accomplishment was noteworthy, Price's reemergence was the story for Washington.
"He was much more the leader, the Keith that we grew to know and love a year ago. That guy was starting to come back," Sarkisian said.
"I'm happy for him," Sarkisian added. "It's been a grind for him this season and nobody works harder, nobody prepares more. ... He deserved to have a game like this to get going."
Price had struggled for most of the season, thanks in part to protection issues on the offensive line, and rarely looked like the dynamic star that threw for 33 touchdowns a season ago. Some of that spark was finally back against Utah. Price kept plays alive with his feet and, for the most part, was very accurate with his throws.
Price finished 24 of 33 for 277 yards, easily his best performance of the season. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins had seven catches for 99 yards to break the school record for receptions by a tight end that was previously held by Mark Bruener at 95. Seferian-Jenkins also pitched in with a handful of plays on the defensive line, where the Huskies have been depleted by injuries.
Kasen Williams finished with seven catches, including a beautiful toe-tapping 8-yard TD reception in the first half as Price was engulfed by a Utah blitz. Price connected with eight different receivers.
Asked afterward if he had his swagger back, Price chuckled.
"Yeah, a little bit. A little bit. I'm starting to get it back," Price said. "Obviously, one game doesn't define a season. I have to continue to be consistent. I have to continue hitting open targets and throwing the ball the way that I know how to throw the ball."
John White rushed for 142 yards for Utah, including a 46-yard TD spurt in the first quarter, but the Utes had zero offense otherwise. Travis Wilson was 8 of 23 for 55 yards and an interception. Utah had been 11-0 when White topped 100 yards rushing and, after scoring 49 points each of the past two weeks, the Utes were lost on offense. Utah has not won on the road since last November at Washington State.
According to STATS LLC, the 55 yards passing is tied for the second-fewest allowed by Washington's defense since 1996. Utah (4-6, 2-5) remained winless on the road and must win its final two games to be bowl eligible for the 10th straight season.
"The passing game only having 55 passing yards. I mean, that's really embarrassing for me," Wilson said. "I've just got to keep on working hard and make sure everyone keeps their head up and make sure everyone moves on from this, and we have a good week of practice."
Washington led 14-8 at halftime and got a break on the opening possession of the second half when Utah's risky attempt failed.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham took a chance and went for it on fourth and 1 from his own 43. White was met in the hole by Danny Shelton and John Timu, who intercepted Wilson late in the first half deep in Washington's end, and the ensuing measurement was short.
Washington quickly took advantage of the field position, with Price hitting Seferian-Jenkins for 24 yards down to the Utah 9 and finding DiAndre Campbell wide open on a quick throw against blitz pressure to give the Huskies a 21-8 lead. White scored on a 20-yard run midway through the third quarter to cut the Washington lead to 21-15, but Sankey's TD late in the quarter pushed the lead back to two scores.
"To get a stop and then to get a score was big for us," Sarkisian said. "And then to answer their score later in the ball game when they scored to generate some momentum, and we were able to go down and get one and separate ourselves again."
The Huskies capped the victory with a 16-play, 82-yard drive in the fourth quarter that drained nearly 9 minutes off the clock and was finished off by Sankey's second TD run.
The only time this season Washington had topped 21 points before Saturday was in a 52-17 blowout of FCS Portland State.
"We knew this was going to be a good opportunity on the offensive side to get our flow going," Williams said. "We've been improving each week, and this was one of those games where you could definitely see that improvement."
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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