2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 1 - EWU at Washington
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Sept. 3 at Washington 30 … Eastern Washington 27
CFN Analysis: There might be life without Jake Locker, but the Washington offense didn't exactly show it against Eastern Washington. Keith Price came up with a solid 17-of-25, 102-yard day with three scores, but there was absolutely nothing happening down the field. The key was the turnover margin with the D taking it away four times and the offense not making mistakes, and there weren't any turnovers; that was that only saving grace. Former SMU QB Bo Levi Mitchell lit up the Husky secondary for 473 yards and three touchdowns, but there were just enough stops, led by Desmond Trufant and his 11 tackles with a pick, to get by. Up next is Hawaii and its passing game – uh oh.
(AP) SEATTLE -- Growing up, Desmond Trufant made frequent trips to little Cheney, Wash. to watch brother Isaiah play defensive back for Eastern Washington.
Trufant did his part in ruining the Eagles' dream Saturday night.
Besieged by passes all night from Eastern quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, Trufant came up with the biggest defensive play of his Washington career, intercepting Mitchell's pass in the end zone with 29 seconds left and preserving the Huskies' 30-27 win over the defending FCS national champions.
The 69th pass of Mitchell's night came up inches short of clinching a huge upset with Trufant winning a jump-ball battle with 6-foot-5 Eastern receiver Brandon Kaufman, wrestling it away as the duo hit the purple turf in the end zone and providing a moment for the 58,000 in attendance to exhale.
"As a kid you always dream about getting the game-winning interception," Trufant said. "It's a great feeling."
Mitchell torched the Huskies' secondary, amassing 473 yards and three touchdowns while completing 39 of 69 passes. He also threw two interceptions.
Eastern's final drive started at its own 5 after a key punt from Kiel Rasp pinned the Eagles deep with 1:17 left and no time outs. Mitchell completed passes of 15, 32 and 23 yards and in barely 30 seconds the Eagles were at the Washington 25.
Eastern coach Beau Baldwin said the Eagles weren't going to sit back and wait for a field-goal attempt to try to force overtime. Mitchell's throw for Kaufman was like so many of his others, but Trufant was in perfect position and made the play Washington needed to preserve the win.
"I thought I put the ball where I wanted. I wanted to give it a little bit short where (Kaufman) could go get it," Mitchell said. "(Kaufman) saw something a little bit different in the corner and thought he should slow down. I'll take it on me. It's my fault. I could have put the ball in a different spot."
Washington quarterback Keith Price threw three touchdown passes in the first home start of his career and Chris Polk ran for 125 yards less than three weeks after having minor knee surgery.
Price threw touchdown passes of 7, 9 and 6 yards and was 17 of 25 for 102 yards. Erik Folk added field goals of 53, 47 and 40 yards for the Huskies in the final home opener at the venerable waterfront stadium before extensive renovations will send Washington across town to CenturyLink Field for the 2012 season. It's the first season opener the Huskies have won since 2007, which was former QB Jake Locker's first career game.
Polk had knee surgery Aug. 18 to clean up a meniscus tear. He said his knee was fine, but the rest of his body ached.
He was also honest that even with Eastern's credentials; he didn't expect this one to be as close as it was.
"I'm actually very surprised. Not to take anything away from Eastern. They're a very good team, but we felt real confident coming in," Polk said. "But they showed up. I'm just glad we came out on top."
Price, who suffered a sprained knee in the first half, saw his mobility hampered by the injury and needed the assistance of a brace to finish the game. He was confident he'd be able to play next week against Hawaii.
Same goes for wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who suffered a sprained ankle in the first quarter and never returned.
Kearse was confident in Trufant's ability to make the crucial play considering the number of fade routes thrown against him in practice.
"We run like 100 fades on Desmond in one-on-one's. He was definitely prepared for that moment," Kearse said. "And it helps. He got the look that we give him and he made a great play.'
Trufant's interception was his second forced turnover of the game. Trufant stripped Matt Johnson on a punt return in the first quarter the created a short field for the Huskies and led to Price's 7-yard TD pass to Jonathan Amosa.
In the third quarter, with Eastern trailing 20-13, a punt bounced and hit Evan Zeger in the helmet and Washington recovered the fumble. Price converted the turnover into a 6-yard TD pass to freshman Kasen Williams and a 27-13 Huskies lead.
Eastern, who rallied from a 19-0 deficit to beat Delaware in the national championship game in January, wasn't finished. Mitchell hit Greg Herd on a 43-yard TD pass to cut the lead to 27-20 and later found Nicholas Edwards with 3:55 left to pull the Eagles within three.
Edwards finished with 12 catches, while Kaufman routed the Huskies' secondary with 10 catches for 140 yards.
"We kept doing damage and we could have won that game," Kaufman said.
Eastern Washington (0-0) at Washington (0-0) Sept. 3,
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Here's The Deal … Washington and Eastern Washington have never played. Heck, the Huskies are one of the last remaining schools to have never shared the field with an opponent from the FCS. Ever. That oddity changes on Saturday afternoon with a visit from the reigning FCS champions. The Huskies are out to build on last year's momentum, which included a first bowl game in eight years, an upset of heavily-favored Nebraska. If head coach Steve Sarkisian is going to keep his program surging north in the Pac-12, he'll have to do so without franchise QB Jake Locker who's now getting paid for his talents. Eastern Washington is ecstatic about this maiden chance to travel to Seattle, especially since almost half of its roster hails from the region. The 2010 Eagles gave the school its first-ever crown in football, capping a 13-2 campaign with a thrilling one-point victory over Delaware.
Why Eastern Washington Might Win: While RB Taiwan Jones will be impossible to replace, the Eagles have enough returning parts to once again be among the top offenses in the FCS. Washington's biggest challenge will be containing the lethal pitch-and-catch combo of Bo Levi Mitchell to Brandon Kaufman. The classic riverboat gambler behind center, Mitchell tossed 37 scoring strikes in his first year since transferring from SMU. His top three targets were sophomores, including the big-play Kaufman who caught 76 passes for 1,214 yards and 15 touchdowns. This passing attack is capable of quickly solving an average Huskies pass defense, and keeping Eastern Washington in the hunt throughout the game.
Why Washington Might Win: Aside from DE Renard Williams, Eastern Washington will lack the defensive stoppers to contain U-Dub's skill position players on offense. In RB Chris Polk and WR Jermaine Kearse, the Huskies boast a couple of next-level talents who'll toy with the Eagles D. Polk, in particular, is a force of nature about to parlay his junior year into possible early entry into the NFL. On defense, Washington should be able to control the line of scrimmage, and force Mitchell to operate on the move. The front four could be the program's nastiest in years, boasting all-league candidates in DT Alameda Ta'amu and DE Hau'oli Jamora. Even backups, like UCLA transfer Josh Shirley, are going to be nuisances in 2011.
What To Watch Out For: Faced with the unenviable task of filling Locker's cleats will be Keith Price. The sophomore built a lead on Nick Montana in the spring, and never looked back in August. Like his predecessor, he's a multi-dimensional threat, but not nearly as big, dangerous or experienced. He'll be learning on the fly, beginning with this weekend opener at Husky Stadium. While Week 1 certainly won't define the balance of the year for Price, it could set the tone for his confidence level for the next few weeks.
What Will Happen: Washington will start 2011 the way it concluded 2010 to post its fifth win in-a-row. For the Huskies these days, it's all about building on the winning attitude, making the victim not overly relevant. Their offense will provide the spark, getting a monster effort out of Polk to pull away at some point before halftime. Price won't need to be heroic on this day, throwing a touchdown pass and earning the first win of his career.
CFN Prediction: Washington 41 … Eastern Washington 21
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