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September 2, 2012Seattle - 53,742 came out to CenturyLink Field Saturday evening to watch the Washington Huskies beat the San Diego State Aztecs 21-12 in the season opener.
Dressed in their usual gold pants, purple jerseys and gold helmets, the Huskies showed up to the stadium hungry to restore their reputation after the loss to Baylor in the Alamo Bowl.
This was the third time the Huskies have faced the Aztecs at home, and their third win.
A win is a win, but no one seemed too excited about it.
"It's good to be 1-0, but I think we're a better football team than this," head coach Steve Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian primarily blames himself for the "funky" play on the offensive side of the ball.
"I've called better games and I will call better games than I did tonight," Sarkisian said. "We got a little stale tonight and that was probably mostly me."
Sarkisian said he's seen quarterback Keith Price better than he was Saturday night, and that was partially a comfort-level issue.
But Sarkisian wasn't Price's worst critic.
Price didn't even realize he had completed 25-35 passes, the first time a Washington quarterback has completed 25 in a game since Jake Locker in 2009 against LSU.
"I just didn't perform the way I expected to," Price said. "I haven't played that bad in a ball game in a long time, so just got to get back on my horse."
Price went on to promise that he'll play better next week, when the Huskies travel to Baton Rouge to take on LSU.
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins went a little easier on his quarterback than Price did after the game.
When asked about his thoughts on Price's performance, which Price described as "terrible," Seferian-Jenkins defended his teammate.
"Keith's a battler, he's a tough guy on himself and he's his worst critic," Seferian-Jenkins said. "He's the leader of our team and he's going to have better games, he still had a pretty good game, he led us out there tonight we're going to get better."
One of the biggest talking points of the game, besides the somewhat "sputtering" offense, was the defense.
Sarkisian said they had to rely on their defense to win, which was a different style of game than they were accustomed to playing.
Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said they need to learn from what they did well and what they didn't do so well.
"There's plenty to clean up," Wilcox said. "We've got to finish plays."
Still, the defense was the star of this game.
"I'm so proud of the defense. They played a great game and they won the game for us, quite honestly," Price said.
Most notably on defense was sophomore defensive end Josh Shirley, who had four tackles, including a sack. Shirley had been explosive all throughout camp, and he transferred that energy to the game on Saturday.
Also of note was redshirt freshman linebacker Travis Feeney, who sacked quarterback Ryan Katz for a loss of 12 yards and a fumble which was then recovered by safety Justin Glenn.
Then there was cornerback Tre Watson, who recently was awarded a scholarship to the UW, who got a 34 yard interception in the first quarter.
Oh, and the 44 yard fumble return for a touchdown by safety Will Shamburger.
"Hats off to the defense for the way they played, and I think everybody's going to notice the way they played," Seferian-Jenkins said.
But, again, there's always room for improvement.
Wilcox thought they covered well, but they needed to do a better job keeping the pocket and finishing plays.
Seferian-Jenkins couldn't stress enough that it was the first game and the team would get better.
Travis Feeney was just excited that he got to play in his first game.
"We came out and did our thing," Feeney said.
In terms of improvement, Feeney said he personally needs to improve on his assignments and his effort and energy.
However, he also said the issues on defense can be fixed within the next week.
While Washington's offense may have lacked in the second half, San Diego State's defense improved.
"I was disappointed with the turnovers in the first half and the way the defense played. For an experienced group in the secondary and linemen, we weren't very aggressive," SDSU's head coach Rocky Long said. "We were a heck of a lot better in the second half."
The scoreboard would agree.
SDSU held UW's offense to a scoreless second half. The score going into halftime was UW 14, SDSU 6. UW's final touchdown was a defensive touchdown in the third quarter.
The Aztecs' offense had a few bright spots of their own.
Katz's 47 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tim Vizzi started the second quarter off with a bang. The following failed two point conversion, however, kept their score at six.
San Diego State's second and final touchdown came in the fourth quarter with a touchdown by running back Adam Muema. Another incomplete two point conversion would seal the score at UW 21, SDSU 12.
So in the end, the Huskies came out with the win.
It may not have been how they wanted it to look, and it may not be what they want to see on film later, but it was a win.
The defense was powerful and aggressive. The offense had some big plays, but didn't seem quite right. Both can, and should, get better.
But as Seferian-Jenkins said, it's better to be going to LSU with a 1-0 record than a 0-1 record.
TB Bishop Sankey had 66 yards on 22 carries. He also scored the first touchdown of the game on a two yard run. Sankey looked strong and fast this game, and stepped up to fill in Callier's spot when he got injured.
TB Jesse Callier injured his knee early in the game and was out in the second quarter. Sarkisian said he'll be having an MRI.
OL Ben Riva was replaced by Mike Criste when he injured his arm. Sarkisian said he may have fractured his forearm, and it's doubtful he will be playing soon.
CB Desmond Trufant was shaken up in the fourth quarter. Sarkisian said he tweaked his hamstring, but should be OK.
LB Princeton Fuimaono banged his head during the game, but Sarkisian said it isn't serious.
WR Kasen Williams caught six passes for 75 yards and one touchdown on an eight yard pass.
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins made nine catches for 82 yards.
True freshman nickel Shaq Thompson had three tackles, one of which happening in SDSU's first offensive play of the game.
WR Kevin Smith got in some minutes during Saturday's game after being out for quite some time with an ACL injury. He looked excited, and his teammates were excited, to have him back. Price said he is proud of Smith.
Two true freshmen, Jaydon Mickens and Shaq Thompson, started. Four other true freshmen, Kendyl Taylor, Pio Vatuvei, Korey Durkee and Erich Wilson II, also made their debuts with the Huskies.