“I anticipate it being nuts,” UA QB B.J. Denker says about renovated Husky Stadium, which added more seats and removed the track around the field.
The Arizona Wildcats get it.
It rains a lot in Seattle, Husky Stadium is loud, and coach Steve Sarkisian’s Washington team is good — some would say very good.
But the UA isn’t traveling to Washington particularly scared about the challenges that lie ahead.
“It’s not like the old Roman days,” UA coach Rich Rodriguez said with a smirk. “They’re not going to have guns and knives. It’s just a football game.”
Sure, but it’s going to be the hardest football game the UA has played this season. Washington enters Saturday’s game 3-0 and ranked 16th in The Associated Press Top 25. The Huskies’ offense averages 629 yards per game — third-most in the country — while its defense gives up just 279 yards per game.
“This will be a good opportunity to gauge if we’ve gotten better in certain areas,” Rodriguez said. “I told our players that we need our best week of practice.
“They can’t eat us, so we’re gonna go play.”
Here’s a closer look at three of the biggest tests the Wildcats will face Saturday against UW:
1. The crowd noise If you pass by Kindall/Sancet Stadium this week and hear the Washington fight song blaring or a tape of a baby hysterically crying or of a dog barking, don’t be alarmed.
Rodriguez’s staff will break out all the stops this week to try to prepare the UA for the noise that awaits them at Husky Stadium. Washington’s home field was already known as one of loudest in the country and will be even rowdier this season.
Washington renovated its stadium over the past year. It added more seats and removed the track that went around the field. It will all create an even louder environment.
“I anticipate it being nuts,” quarterback B.J. Denker said. “We expect that. We’ve been working on silent counts and playing with our speakers and putting in noise. I’ve heard a lot of stories about it. We were talking about it with the teammates that have played in that stadium, and they told me it was probably the loudest place they’ve ever played at.”
Denker and the UA have played only one road game this season — in a half-empty Sam Boyd Stadium. The Wildcats brought a few thousand UA fans with them to their win over UNLV.
Saturday in Seattle will be different.
“I heard it’s pretty loud, but I wear two headset things, so all I hear is coach (Calvin) Magee and coach (Rod) Smith,” Rodriguez said. “I’m sure it will be very loud, and we try to prep our guys for that.”
2. Rain. In case you haven’t heard, it tends to rain quite a bit in Seattle. There’s a 53 percent chance of precipitation Saturday night, according to the AccuWeather.com forecast.
The Wildcats already played in wet conditions once this season, against NAU, and handled it fine. Washington plays on FieldTurf — just like the UA — so it shouldn’t be too big an adjustment for Rodriguez’s crew.
To help prepare, Arizona is soaking its footballs in water this week.
It could make airing the ball out a little tougher but shouldn’t change much else.
“I don’t think it prevents us from playing fast,” Denker said. “We’ve been working with wet footballs, and it definitely has an effect from a quarterback standpoint of throwing the football. Ball security is going to be extra important.
“But with our running game, it should help. (Daniel Jenkins) and Ka’Deem (Carey) only make one or two cuts and go. So they aren’t going to be slipping on the field. I think we’ll be fine.”
3. Washington’s talent. The noise may not be a factor, and the rain could always stay away, but there’s one thing Arizona knows it must deal with on Saturday: Washington is really good.
Quarterback Keith Price leads the Pac-12 in passing efficiency. He’s thrown for 879 yards, seven touchdowns and has been intercepted just once.
Running back Bishop Sankey averages a conference-best 148.7 rushing yards per game. He’s averaging 7 yards per carry and has found the end zone four times.
Watching tape of last year’s 52-17 UA win over the Huskies won’t help much. Sarkisian and Washington have switched to an up-tempo offense and look much different than they did a season ago.
To get ahead, Rodriguez said the Wildcats began preparing for Washington during its bye week last week, which is earlier than normal.
Defensively, the Huskies are third in scoring defense and total defense. Junior defensive ends Josh Shirley and Hau’oil Kikaha each have three sacks in three games.
“It will definitely be a good test for our young guys,” UA senior running back Daniel Jenkins said. “I’m hoping our senior leadership will step up and focus and get everyone on the same page.”