Lincoln, NE – A pair of unbeaten teams will clash in Lincoln ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers host the Washington conference action.
Washington opened the campaign with a closer-than-expected, 30-27 victory over Eastern Washington, an FCS opponent. Last week, the Huskies were once again pushed to the limit at home, but they escaped with a 40-32 triumph over Hawaii.
"Really, really proud of our kids," said head coach Steve Sarkisian after the latest win. "I thought they responded extremely well. Came out, playing hard football, the brand of football we are accustomed to playing."
This weekend's tilt is the last for Sarkisian's team before Pac-12 Conference action begins.
As for Nebraska, it also enters with a 2-0 record after a 42-29 victory over Fresno State last Saturday in Lincoln. The Huskers, who trailed 20-14 early in the second half before mounting a comeback, were far more dominant in week one's romp over UT-Chattanooga (40-7), though the level of competition wasn't significant. Bo Pelini leads Nebraska in this, its first season as a member of the Big Ten Conference.
"I thought it was a good team win, but I also think it's a win that, in all three phases, did some things that obviously didn't help us win the football game," said Pelini after the triumph over Fresno State.
The all-time series between the Huskies and Huskers is deadlocked at 4-4-1. Last year, Nebraska beat Washington, 56-21, in Seattle during the regular season before UW avenged that loss with a 19-7 victory in the Holiday Bowl, breaking a streak of three straight Cornhusker triumphs.
Heading into this new season, many wondered how Washington would replace star quarterback Jake Locker, who was selected in the first round of the most recent NFL Draft. Sarkisian and his staff have put their faith in sophomore Keith Price, and he has certainly proven worthy of the role through two outings. Price isn't much of a threat as a runner, but he has completed 70 percent of his passes for 417 yards and seven touchdowns with only one interception. He leads a group of Huskies that are averaging 35.0 ppg and 358.0 total ypg.
Rather than rely on one receiver, Price has spread the ball around. Devin Aguilar has made the most of his six catches, racking up 139 receiving yards. As for the ground attack, Chris Polk spearheads the charge with 232 yards and a score on 45 carries.
There is both good news and bad news to report regarding the defensive play of Washington, which is yielding 29.5 ppg. On a positive note, the Huskies have been stellar against the run, holding foes to 43.0 ypg and only 2.2 yards per carry. Unfortunately, the team has struggled mightily against the pass, yielding 892 yards through two tilts.
In the win over Hawaii last week, Washington racked up 466 total yards and got four touchdowns from Price, who completed 18-of-25 passes for 315 yards. Aguilar had 131 yards receiving, but everyone was talking about Price after the contest.
"All I can say is: Keith Price is awesome, man," receiver James Johnson said.
Defensively, Washington left plenty of room for improvement in the win over Hawaii. The Huskies permitted four touchdowns to the Warriors, including three rushing scores, and allowed them to make good on 11-of-14 third-down conversion attempts.
Through Nebraska's first two contests, it is generating 41.0 ppg and 401.0 total ypg. Leading the offense is talented sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez, who has rushed for 301 yards and five touchdowns already. As a passer, Martinez has completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes (21-of-43) with just one touchdown and two interceptions, so he is far more dangerous with his legs than his arm.
On the other side of the ball, Nebraska has performed admirably, limiting foes to 18.0 ppg and 337.0 total ypg. The Huskers are holding foes to 3.5 yards per rushing attempt and have permitted a mere three touchdowns to opposing offenses in eight combined quarters. David Lawrence has been tremendous for the defense, as he has 24 total tackles to his credit. As for Cameron Meredith, he has two sacks and an interception already.
Against Fresno State, Martinez had a couple of big rushing touchdowns and the defense made a few big stops when needed, but the most impressive play for the Huskers was made by freshman Ameer Abdullah, who returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.
"Well we had a couple previous kickoff returns that were almost there," said Abdullah. "So really, we just protected the blocks and the ways. Everyone did a great job of clearing a hole for me. Coach told me, 'if you get caught by a kicker, you're going to get kicked off.' So I had to make a move and make a play."