By Brent Stecker
The Washington Huskies did not mess around with FCS member Idaho State on Saturday, as reflected by the 56-0 final score.
The No. 17 Huskies excelled in all facets in the game – they held the Bengals scoreless, sacked quarterback Justin Arias seven times, intercepted him twice and scored on offense with eight different players. Additionally, they only had to punt once, and even then they were on Idaho State's side of the field, allowing Travis Coons to pin the ball inside the 10 with ease.
Though penalties continued to plague Washington, nearly everything else to take away from its blowout victory over the Bengals is positive.
Keith Price has completed 77 percent of his passes, thrown seven touchdowns to one interception and has averaged 293 passing yards through three games. (AP)
1. Keith Price is locked in.
Through three games, Price appears to have put his poor 2012 season well behind him, and he might even make his stellar 2011 look pedestrian by comparison. He's completed 77 percent of his passes (67 for 87), thrown for seven touchdowns, and has been intercepted just once. Heading into the season, it wasn't exactly a foregone conclusion that Price would adapt easily to the Huskies' new fast-paced, no-huddle offense. By Week 4, it's clear that the system fits Price like a glove.
2. This defense has the ability to intimidate.
One series during the second quarter was a perfect example of what the Huskies can do on defense when everything is clicking. With Washington leading 35-0, the Bengals were at risk of a three-and-out on a third-and-5 from their own 30. The Huskies' defense and crowd worked together to draw a false start, and the Bengals were so flustered that they followed up with a delay-of-game penalty.
When the Bengals finally got the play off, Arias was intercepted by Gregory Ducre, who returned it for a touchdown. Unfortunately for Washington, a holding call overturned the pick-six and gave the ball back to Idaho State, but it didn't take away from its impressive display of defensive dominance.
3. Cyler Miles to John Ross is a fun combination.
In his first stint of extended playing time, redshirt freshman quarterback Cyler Miles gave a peek into the Huskies' future, completing five of seven attempts for for 97 yards and a touchdown while rushing for a game-high 89 yards on four carries (including a 61-yard run that fell just four yards short of a score).
But perhaps the most exciting part of his performance was the one pass he completed to John Ross, a simple screen that the explosive freshman took 57 yards for the first touchdown in either players' career. That one play was an exciting one for Huskies' fans, as it was just the first of what could be many Miles-Ross connections that result in touchdowns in the near future.
Three things we're still trying to figure out:
1. How will the Huskies use their running backs?
When Bishop Sankey (77 yards, one touchdown) took the rest of the game off after four carries, it provided an opportunity for Jesse Callier, Dwayne Washington, Deontae Cooper and Ryan McDaniel to all try their hand at being the featured back. Each performed well by rushing for at least 46 yards, and Callier and Cooper both found the end zone, proving that coach Steve Sarkisian has been right to want to utilize the team's depth in the backfield more. It's still unclear exactly how he will do so, however. But if he was aiming to not tip his hand before entering Pac-12 play, then job well done.
2. Will one receiver step into the spotlight?
Much like at running back, Washington has a number of receivers who can make big-time plays. But whereas Sankey has emerged as the top guy in the backfield, the Huskies have yet to see one receiver separate himself from the pack.
Kasen Williams (204 yards, 11 receptions) and Kevin Smith (201 yards, 11 receptions) are the Huskies' two leading receivers, but Williams has found the end zone just once this year and Smith is still looking for his first touchdown. Jaydon Mickens is right there with them at 199 yards and a touchdown on 20 receptions.
That all three receivers are at or near the 200-yard mark through three games is a good sign, but the Huskies' offense could be that much more potent if one established himself as a go-to wideout.
3. What will this win mean in the long run?
The 3-0 Huskies have looked impressive so far, and the performance they had against Idaho State was exactly what was expected heading into the game. It's hard to know what the win over the Bengals will mean, if anything, in the grand scheme of things, though. Depending on how the rest of the season turns out, this game could be the point where it all started to click, or it could be just a 56-0 blip on the radar. Either way, it's not a bad way to head into league competition.