Weather Can't Derail Progress Through Process

SEATTLE - B.J. Denker admitted it was a first. With the temperature listed at 60 degrees at kickoff and winds coming from the southeast at 16 miles an hour, life at Husky Stadium was not going to come easy. It was his first Pac-12 road start, and the Arizona quarterback had more than the Washington Huskies or the crowd to deal with. He had to deal with holding onto the ball first.

"The rain was coming down hard," Denker said after the Huskies defeated UA 31-13 Saturday night. "It was cold. The ball was slippery. First half was the worst…first time playing on the road in this atmosphere…my execution part, mentally, was probably not as sharp as I wanted it to be."

No amount of playing with wet footballs or screaming babies in their ears could possibly acclimate Arizona for what they saw Saturday. Perhaps it was a bit of retribution for the 52-17 pounding the Wildcats put on Washington last season in Tucson. This was the Huskies' way of saying, 'Welcome to our house', except their house had the thermometer set to 40 and sideways rain ripping through it.

"The weather in the first half, I don't know if I've been in part a game like that," added Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian. "I've been in games and there's been rain, I've been in games where there's been wind, but the combination of the two tonight, that's as much as we've seen. And we just tried to - no pun intended - weather the storm of what was there."

With Denker and Sarkisian both from Torrance, California, their unfamiliarity with 'Husky Weather' was not surprising. But only one was playing in it; the other one had to find a way to get his players in a position to deal with it.

Sarkisian's answer? Ground and pound.

"I don't know if we're going to have another game this year where we rush the ball 61 times," he said. "That's a lot of rush attempts.

But when, as the late Jim Murray would have described the conditions as being so bad there were 'whitecaps in the toilets', you improvise.

"That's why he had four last week," Sarkisian quipped when asked about Bishop Sankey's school record 40 carries.

Four carries, 40 carries - Sankey's effort Saturday was representative of Washington collective mindset - anyone, anywhere, anytime. And really, for as much as Washington's fans revel in conditions that would make most Wildcats crawl back home with their soggy tails between their legs - the wind and rain created an atmosphere where both teams had to persevere.

"One of those games that the weather had an impact on both teams," Sarkisian said. "It made it one of those grind it out, meat-and-potato games where both teams had to run the ball and both defenses knew it."

Yet, when you look at the balance sheet coming out of Saturday's win, you can find a little something for everyone. Sankey's Herculean effort will garner the most headlines, but Washington safety Sean Parker set the tone by picking off Denker's first pass of the game, an interception UW's offense converted into Kevin Smith's first career touchdown reception. And then there was Marcus Peters' theft in the fourth quarter that put to rest any thoughts of a Wildcats comeback.

And oh, by the way - while the Huskies have scored six touchdowns off of seven turnovers, they have given up zero points every time their offense has given the ball away.

Travis Coons had a masterful day in the kicking game in weather that would fill most hearts with dread, especially those whose task it is to alter field position. All five of his punts on the night ended up inside Arizona's own 20.

The Huskies debuted an all-purple look for the first time since 1989 - the infamous Sal Aunese Colorado game - but with brand-new Chrome helmets, a look Washington receiver Kasen Williams termed 'sexy'.

Even sexier is the fact that Washington has never played from behind in 2013, and every time the opposition has tried to make a run at them - like the way Arizona scored a late second-quarter touchdown to draw UW's lead to 11-6 going into the half - the Huskies made their adjustments in the locker room and came out with a spring in their step and a game plan to match. Against Boise State they took their second half opening drive straight down the field for a touchdown. Same versus Illinois, except in that drive they didn't even have to pass.

And Saturday night against Arizona, having just given up a score to an offense that had five-straight three-and-outs to start the game, Washington's offense found themselves backed up to their own 5-yard line up only five points. They had somehow allowed the 'Cats to scratch and claw and hang around.

But then Sankey put together a couple of runs. Then Keith Price found Austin Seferian-Jenkins to get them out of the hole. With some room to operate, Price went back to marshaling his troops with a balanced attack to eventually find ASJ from one-yard out to cap an impressive drive lasting nearly five minutes.

"In the second half, I didn't think we tackled as well and we didn't get off blocks well," Arizona Head Coach Rich Rodriguez said. "I think that was a big part of it, getting off blocks. They broke more tackles in the second half than we had given up all season, I think."

It's the same formula, the same process that tore Boise State to bits in the second half of Washington's 38-6 win. It was the same process that helped the Huskies to overcome some second-half adversity against Illinois in Chicago to finish the game the right way.

After the rain had moved past Husky Stadium and both teams were left to dry out and wonder what they could have done better, only one side walked away empty handed. "We never really made them face any adversity," Rodriguez said, arguably paying Washington the biggest compliment he could give them. "You have to give them credit for that."

Not even Mother Nature could derail the Huskies march toward their first 4-0 start since 2001, as much as it tried to. And true to the nature of this Washington team, they were already watching the Stanford-Washington State game, getting a jump ahead on next week's preparation.

"From my memory, it's going to be a physical game," UW nose tackle Danny Shelton said when asked about the Cardinal. "They're a good team."

It's clear the Huskies have bought fully into a preparation process that begins Sunday and doesn't stop until there is four zeros on the clock the following Saturday night.

And then it starts all over again - no matter how wet or cold you might be from the game before.

"We're going to start preparing right now and we're going to do the right things tonight and stay safe," said Shelton. "We're going to watch some film."


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