Dominating start, commanding finish drives Washington over Arizona

SEATTLE — Soaking-wet black socks were strewn about the Washington locker room at halftime. The smell, Keith Price said, was awfully sour.

The mood was anything but.

Despite a dominating start, the 16th-ranked Huskies led by just five points at halftime in their Pac-12 Conference opener against Arizona. It could’ve been much more. And yet, in the locker room, the Huskies insisted there was a sense of cool confidence to match all the cool, wet feet.

That confidence, once again, carried over to the third quarter, when the Huskies stomped down the field and stamped out the signature drive in their 31-13 victory over the Wildcats at Husky Stadium on Saturday.

“We were in a good place (at halftime),” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “We didn’t panic.”

Bishop Sankey had six of his record-setting 40 carries on the opening drive of the third quarter, in which the Huskies (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) used an efficient, 14-play, 95-yard drive to regain momentum. Price’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Austin Seferian-Jenkins extended UW’s lead to 18-6, and there wasn’t much doubt about the outcome after that, even if the frequent downpours made things difficult at times.

“It was crazy, man,” said Price, UW’s senior quarterback. “I’ve never seen weather like this.”

New black socks were placed at the players’ lockers during halftime. Sarkisian said he gave the players a little extra time to get dry and get changed, before coaches offered, essentially, a simple one-step adjustment on offense.

That involved using a two-tight-end formation, which helped free up Sankey for an 11-yard run on the first play of the third quarter.

Two plays later, Price found a wide-open Seferian-Jenkins for a key 20-yard gain early in the drive. On the only third-down play of the drive, Price hit a diving Kasen Williams for 15 yards, and the Huskies were humming after that.

Washington had similar third-quarter drives against Boise State and Illinois earlier in the season, and the Huskies credit their new up-tempo offense for the surging, second-half successes.

“It’s just the mindset we have,” Price said. “In the third and fourth quarter, teams get worn out a bit. Our offensive line is doing a good job — a real good job in both the run game and pass protection, and I think the results are evident.”

The workload was greater than ever for Sankey, who finished with 161 yards and one touchdowns. His 40 carries broke Corey Dillon’s UW record of 38 set against Washington State in 1996.

“We knew coming into the game that both teams were going to want to run the football,” Sarkisian said.

The UW defense, steamrolled a year ago in Arizona’s 52-17 rout in Tucson, held Arizona without a first down in the first quarter Saturday, stuffing the nation’s reigning rushing leader, Ka’Deem Carey, early.

On the game’s third play from scrimmage, UW safety Sean Parker intercepted Arizona’s B.J. Denker. That set up UW’s first touchdown four plays later, with Price scrambling, spinning and finding senior receiver Kevin Smith for a 7-yard touchdown reception.

Arizona botched a punt in the end zone for a safety and Travis Coons hit a 42-yard field goal to help UW to an 11-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Carey scored from 3 yards out with six seconds left in the half to cap a 14-play, 84-yard drive for the Wildcats. Arizona’s missed point-after attempt left UW with an 11-6 lead.

Carey finished with 132 yards on 30 carries, and UW’s Marcus Peters had a key interception off Denker with 7:36 left.

“It feels great,” UW nose tackle Danny Shelton said. “Anytime you can come out in the conference opener and fight, it feels great. Everybody’s excited.”

Price finished 14 of 25 for 165 yards and two touchdowns. He threw a first-half interception, his first turnover since UW’s first play of the season against Boise State.

Afterward, UW players jumped and cheered in the locker room. Sarkisian joined in the mosh pit and someone stepped on his left foot. He walked with a slow, heavy limp after that.

Otherwise, the Huskies are healthy, happy and humming along as they hit the heart of their schedule, starting with a date next Saturday at No. 5 Stanford.