SEATTLE (AP) — Washington's Pac-12 Conference opener against Stanford was already being considered the lynchpin in the Huskies' brutal early season schedule.
And that was before the Cardinal upset then-No. 2 USC last Saturday and vaulted themselves into the Top 10 of The Associated Press Top 25.
"Stanford looks like Stanford — big physical team, going to run the football, going to defend the run," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday.
The Huskies (2-1) will get a little extra time to prepare to host No. 9 Stanford on Sept. 27. Washington will enjoy its only bye week of the season this weekend before entering a Pac-12 gauntlet of the Cardinal, at No. 3 Oregon, home for No. 13 USC and at No. 22 Arizona to begin the conference season.
Washington is adjusting its scheduling, but not giving its players too much time off. The Huskies will practice normally for most of this week, take one day off, and then enter a typical game-week pattern starting Saturday in preparation for the rare Thursday night national telecast.
The Stanford game is of critical importance considering the stretch the Huskies face afterward.
"It's like we are heading into the second quarter. The first quarter is done, a long TV timeout here, and then we get to head into conference play and get the three teams that have had the best records in our conference the last four years combined," Sarkisian said.
Washington had the perfect remedy after being hammered by No. 3 LSU on the Bayou in a 41-3 loss two weekends ago. Against FCS Portland State on Saturday, the Huskies were able to find some offensive rhythm, scored in all three phases and got a chance to look at their depth with a number of backups getting extensive time in the second half.
Sarkisian was most pleased about running back Bishop Sankey getting 103 yards on just 14 carries and a pair of touchdowns. The run game had been struggling through the first two games.
With the run game making some progress, and facing lesser competition, quarterback Keith Price also had his best game of the young season, hitting on 14 of 19 passes and tossing three touchdowns as the Huskies rolled up a 45-0 halftime lead.
"So the way the game went was I think encouraging to them and to me that the way we started the ball game ... we started with a purpose, we played with a real sense of purpose and I thought we practiced that way last week — with a real sense of purpose," Sarkisian said. "We were able to carry that over to the ball game. And that was probably the most encouraging thing to the players as well as the coaches."
Sarkisian did not give details on injured players, other than to say he hopes to get some back in time for Stanford. One of his hopes for the bye week is to solidify the run game knowing how important it will be to have that working with such a brutal start to conference play.
"We have an idea of the runs we like now and I think we are starting to figure out what our guys do well. So now we can get a little more creative as far as running the ball and getting ourselves to a point of our runners are running with things they are good at," Sarkisian said.