SEATTLE — One of Steve Sarkisian’s biggest accomplishments since arriving at Washington is making a trip to a bowl game a regular thing again.It’s getting beyond the plateau of seven wins that has eluded the Huskies in Sarkisian’s four previous seasons.
The Huskies can become bowl eligible with one win in their final four games, a stretch that begins on Saturday with Washington hosting Colorado. But the game holds more importance for the Huskies (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) if they are to finally leap past the seven-win rut they’ve been stuck in. With road games still looming at UCLA and Oregon State, and the rivalry finale against Washington State, if the Huskies are going to get to eight wins in the regular season, they can’t afford a slip up against the Buffaloes.
“We’ve got four football games ahead of us we feel are very winnable if we do it the right way, if we prepare the right way, and it starts this week with Colorado, a team that in my opinion is getting better,” Sarkisian said.
Colorado (3-5, 0-5) enters Saturday having lost 13 straight conference games since beating Washington State 35-34 on Sept. 22, 2012. Twelve of the 13 losses have been by at least 20 points, including a 38-3 setback against Washington last season.
Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre believes the Buffaloes are getting closer to finally breaking that losing string.
“We’re going to keep working at it and I think it’s just a sense of a little bit more focus in practice situations and on game day,” MacIntyre said. “As you start getting into those situations, you kind of get excited when you get down there. You’ve got to be able to control your emotions so I think those are two areas that we can work at.”
Here are five things to watch when the Huskies host the Buffaloes:
SENSATIONAL SANKEY: If Bishop Sankey is going to break the all-time single-season rushing record at Washington he could use at least one more big game to help his cause. His best chance will be Saturday against a Colorado defense that is giving up nearly 200 yards per game on the ground and saw the Arizona combo of QB B.J. Denker and RB Ka’Deem Carey run for a combined 311 yards two weeks ago. Last time Sankey was on the field, he was tearing up California’s porous defense for a career-high 241 yards. He’s got 1,162 yards through eight games and needs 534 yards rushing the rest of the season to better Corey Dillon’s school record set in 1996.
WELCOME HOME: QB Sefo Liufau will make the third start of his career just a short drive from where he was a high school star in Tacoma, Wash. Liufau threw for a season-best 247 yards and completed 25 of 36 passes and had a touchdown last week against UCLA. He’s completing nearly 65 percent of his passes and has kept Colorado competitive the last two weeks against Arizona and the Bruins. Liufau is excited for the chance to play in front of so much family and so many friends, but he has been so busy as the Buffaloes starter he hasn’t had a chance to miss home.
HEALTHY PRICE: For Washington QB Keith Price, the bye week came at the perfect time. His injured right thumb was already starting to feel better against California when he threw for 376 yards and two touchdowns. But Price said this week he’s feeling better than he has since before the Huskies’ game at Stanford on Oct. 5 when he first injured his thumb. That was the start of a brutal stretch for Price where he got battered by the defenses of Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State.
RECEIVING RICHARDSON: Even though the Buffaloes aren’t winning, they have one of the top wide receivers in the Pac-12 in Paul Richardson. Through eight games, Richardson has 57 receptions and is averaging 123 yards per game receiving, good for second in the conference and fifth in the country.
BUSY SCHEDULE: Saturday’s game starts a busy final stretch for the Huskies with short turnarounds. The first comes next week with a Friday game at UCLA. After playing at Oregon State on Saturday, the Huskies host Washington State on the Friday after Thanksgiving. “We’ll tweak a few things but it will be relatively standard for us. It shouldn’t affect us too much,” Sarkisian said.