Greg Hansen: Wildcats out-play, out-coach Huskies

2012-10-21T00:00:00Z 2012-10-21T00:11:14Z Greg Hansen: Wildcats out-play, out-coach HuskiesGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 21, 2012 12:00 am  • 

On the first carry of the second half Saturday night, Ka'Deem Carey and his facemask had a violent collision with the 42-yard line. Blood spurted from his lip, smearing his white game pants and also messing up his pink, breast cancer-awareness gloves.

Carey was so upset - "I am not a fumbler," he said after a recent practice - that he walked straightaway to the bench, threw his gloves and helmet to the turf and worried that Arizona's 31-17 lead was forever endangered.

By the time four trainers patched up Carey's lip and checked his vital signs, the Wildcats had sacked Washington QB Keith Price, forcing and recovering a fumble and moved to the Huskies' 17-yard line.

It had taken all of 2 minutes and 16 seconds. Such is the pace of Arizona football in 2012.

Carey walked quickly to the side of UA coach Rich Rodriguez, who turned and motioned him back into the game. The Wildcats scored on the next play - it seemed like they were scoring on the next play all night - and the Huskies were done.

Arizona won 52-17, Carey's fumble was forgotten on a night he gained 172 yards, and the Wildcats were thoroughly impressive in an outing that suggests those near-misses against Oregon State and Stanford were legit, and that RichRod's first UA offense is neither a fluke nor a schematic freak, but something for opponents to dread.

Only Oregon has stopped them.

The Wildcats were terrific, on both sides of the ball, radiating confidence and potency. Now when you run your finger down the remaining five games there is only one, Saturday against USC, that doesn't seem winnable.

And on top of all that, the year's largest crowd, 50,148, showed up and, except for the ever-fickle Zona Zoo, stayed until the Huskies were hopelessly behind.

Do you know what the difference was Saturday? It was coaching as much as it was playing; the first led to the latter.

Instead of punching at the size- and depth-challenged UA defense, instead of basing their attack around a power game and game-changing tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, instead of working the clock and taking the ball out of Matt Scott's hands, the Huskies mostly allowed Price to stand in the pocket, throw 52 passes, get sacked four times and improvise.

Washington's 38-year-old head coach, Steve Sarkisian, who is in Year 4 of a rebuilding job, should be eons ahead of RichRod's re-do at Arizona, but on Saturday night RichRod and his staff, older and surely wiser, put on a clinic.

The first five times Arizona had possession, it went:

75 yards in 1:55. Touchdown.

81 yards in 2:55. Field goal.

41 yards in 3:46. Touchdown.

62 yards in 2:38. Touchdown.

75 yards in 1:04. Touchdown.

It was as though the Huskies hadn't studied game film at all.

"The plan is always a fast tempo," said Carey. "We want to run the ball and get them tired - and that's what we're doing."

RichRod dictated the terms so fully that it makes you wonder if Sarkisian, who earned his reputation (and the UW job) while watching Pete Carroll's USC teams clobber everyone, understands that he doesn't have Reggie Bush and all of those NFL-bound Trojan linebackers in his lineup.

This was to be the year Washington's defense would figure out a way to stop Arizona.

In January, Sarkisian fired his entire defensive staff - which cost $1.1 million in severance pay - and hired 35-year-old Tennessee assistant Justin Wilcox for $750,000 to figure out a way to stop someone.

A year ago, the Huskies allowed 67 points to Baylor, 65 to Stanford and 51 to Nebraska. After Wilcox was hired, the Huskies gave 30-year-old Cal defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi $350,000 a year (plus a $100,000 bonus), and sprinkled money on two other defensive assistants.

You can't blame Washington for changing defensive staffs, but perhaps it is a bit too green collectively. Arizona's 50-something defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, whose first-year defense doesn't have the size, depth or experience of the UW defense, limited the Huskies to 380 yards Saturday. That was 98 yards below the UA's yearly average.

Casteel and RichRod understand the value of experience; UA defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich, who turned 65 last week, has turned what looked to be a seriously undermanned line into a useful group. On Saturday night, they outplayed the more veteran and bigger Huskies.

Over the last six seasons, including Arizona's 2007 48-41 victory in Seattle, the Wildcats have now averaged 42 points and 478 yards against the Huskies, and haven't been held below 31 points or 424 yards by any of Sarkisian's four defenses, under any coordinator.

In two of those games, Matt Scott was superb. In 2010, he was an emergency starter for Nick Foles, beating the Huskies 44-14 by completing 18 of 22 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns.

On Saturday, Scott had similar numbers, 14 of 22 for 256 yards and four touchdowns. He is, if nothing else, the Husky slayer.

"Our conditioning is better than a lot of teams out there," said Scott. "I think we just wanted to get them tired."

The only regret is that the Wildcats aren't scheduled to play Washington in 2013 or 2014. By the time they meet again, in 2015, Sarkisian and his staff might have grown enough to figure out a better plan to stop the Wildcats.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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