September 26, 2011

Huskies persevere through injuries

The Washington Huskies are banged up and bruised through four weeks. But at 3-1, including 1-0 in the Pacific-12 Conference, coach Steve Sarkisian knows that it's not going to get any easier.

"It's good to be 1-0, but we understand how much work we still need to get done," Sarkisian said at his Monday press conference. "These games are only going to become more difficult as we head to Salt Lake City to play a very good Utah team."

The Huskies were already injury-riddled going into Saturday's game against California, but things got even worse, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

The most serious injury occurred to sophomore defensive end Hau'oli Jamora who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and will miss the rest of the season. Sarkisian said that he is hopeful Jamora will be granted a medical redshirt, but his loss is certainly going to affect the Huskies.

"He's going to be missed in more ways than one, not just rushing the passer, but what he brings to the team on a day-to-day basis," Sarkisian said.

The injury that looked the most serious on Saturday was freshman linebacker John Timu who left the game in an ambulance, but his injury is not as serious as first thought. Sarkisian likened it to "whiplash from a car accident," saying he will just have to battle soreness.

Washington's secondary has its injury issues as well with Greg Ducre, who is day to day with a concussion. Nate Fellner is "on track" to return soon, and Taz Stevenson is still very questionable.

The Huskies have their bye week to get some rest following Saturday's game at Utah, but the Utes pose a tough road test before the Huskies get that rest.

"They play hard, they play with great effort, and we're anticipating a tremendous atmosphere Saturday night," Sarkisian said.
Utah joins Colorado as conference newcomers, but Sarkisian has some history with the program dating back to his days as a BYU quarterback.

"I was awful, quite honestly," Sarkisian said. "I threw four picks my junior year, three in the first half."

Sarkisian also played and worked with Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow, giving the two teams even more history.

The other Husky with ties to Utah is senior linebacker Cort Dennison, who grew up in Salt Lake City.

"It's (the University of Utah) actually like a block and a half away from my high school. I grew up going to Utah football games," Dennison said.

Despite how close he was to the college, it would have been expected that he would stick around and play football close to home, but for Dennison, that's not the way it happened.

Dennison said that Utah's recruitment of him was "not as serious as some schools."

On Saturday, Dennison will be using the motivation of not being recruited by Utah. He reiterated that he couldn't be happier where he is in Washington and wouldn't change a thing, but he did have something to say about the lack of interest from his home school.

"Sometimes you get looked at, you know as an underdog and stuff but those kind of things just motivate me and I like when people doubt me or whatever the case may be," he said.

Both Dennison and Sarkisian know about the atmosphere in Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, which means the Huskies shouldn't underestimate its smaller size.

"It's not the biggest of venues in our conference, but they've got great fans," Sarkisian said. "They do a nice job. They understand the game. It will be a great atmosphere."

Other than talking about the upcoming game, Sarkisian continued to rave about quarterback Keith Price, saying that he saw great things in Price even when he was still coaching at USC.

"I knew how talented he was," Sarkisian said. "At the time I was at SC and we were just recruiting (Matt) Barkley, and they were in the same league, so I knew about Keith."

Through four games, Price leads the country with 14 touchdown passes and one more touchdown would put him in the top 10 for a single season in Washington school history.

Some of Price's success has been because opposing defenses are keying in on tailback Chris Polk, but Sarkisian says that defenses have to choose one or the other to stop.

"In time what I think is going to happen is somebody one of these days is going to come and say 'Let's stop Keith Price' and that's when Chris Polk can really open up and do the things he's doing. But until then if people are going to keep focusing on making sure they can stop No. 1, then 17 with the weapons he's got around him, can make some plays," Sarkisian said.

Even with teams trying to stop Polk, he has gained over 100 yards of offense in each of the Huskies' first four games. Three times, he has rushed for more than 100 yards and once he used his pass catching ability combined with his running to go over 100 yards.

The Huskies are going to continue to score points with their extensive group of playmakers; the only question will be if they can stay healthy.

The Huskies lost Deonte Cooper before the season started, Jesse Callier has been battling knee injuries, and Johri Fogerson suffered a nerve contusion in his knee on Saturday.

Price has also taken plenty of shots and has sprained both knees, but has battled through the pain and hasn't missed an offensive snap.

Banged up as they may be, the Huskies are off to their best start since 2006 and will look to go 2-0 in the Pac-12 if they can win a tough road game against Utah.

Follow UDubNation's Mitchell Larsen on Twitter @MLarsen_Rivals

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