Unofficially it was Quarterback Weekend in Greater Seattle and the statistical winner among three QBs isn’t even in town anymore.
Saturday (Sept. 24) the star was Keith Price, playing as though he could become one of the elite QBs in Washington Husky history. As it should be, much is being made of the junior’s superb passing game (19 for 25 for 292 yards and three touchdowns).
Many observers, however, may have thought Price’s best moment against California came when he opted to run. Well past the line of scrimmage he almost comically feigned a shovel pass to his right. Obviously a forward pass is impermissible past the scrimmage line, but a Bear defender bought the fake (aren’t they supposed to be way smart at Cal), allowing Price to pick up extra yards. Let me know if you’ve ever seen that play before.
The Huskies dispatched Cal 31-23, not just due to Price’s heroics but because of somebody on the sidelines. Disparaged all season, Nick Holt, the defense coordinator, finally proved that his incessant sound and fury could signify something. Taking a cue from the emotive mentor, the Dawg defense sustained a goal-line stand with time running out, stuffing Cal on four plays and improving the team to 3-1, 1-0 in league competition.
Sunday was supposed to belong to Tarvaris Jackson, the Seahawks starter who has seemed less a QB than a stalking victim this young season. Instead the best pro quarterback with local ties was in Nashville leading the Tennessee Titans to a 17-14 win against Denver in front of a national TV audience. Matt Hasselbeck’s stats: 27 for 36, 311 yards, and a pair of touchdown passes, the clinching air score coming late after a 95-yard drive.
Jackson’s home-field opener featured his best work of the year as well as, not incidentally, the Hawks’ first win: 13-10, against division opponent Arizona, yet. The quarterback was as reluctant as usual to wander out of the pocket and wait for receivers to get open. It was ironic, then, that he scored the club’s one touchdown on an improbable 11-yard scramble during the third quarter.
The collective star for the home club was a defense that shut out the Cardinals during the second half and clinched the effort with Cam Chancellor’s interception of a Kevin Kolb pass late in the game.
The win leaves the club at 1-2 and arguably in the hunt against 2-1 San Francisco, but many fans will remain unconvinced that Jackson is the man to steer the team to the playoffs. He was a respectable 18 for 31 for 171 yards and an interception, but one can but imagine what Hasselbeck might’ve done with Seahawks receivers, especially with the addition of smooth Sidney Rice, debuting with eight grabs for 109 yards.
The other key factor in the win was the simple reality that the Hawks finally were playing at home. They meet Atlanta next week at the Clink. It’s probably a must-win even given the brief season so far because Seattle then plays a pair in the Eastern time zone, which might as well be on Mars for this agoraphobic organization.
Steve Sarkisian’s UW players, meanwhile, have plenty of reason to feel confident going into an away game against new conference foe Utah. The stout defense at the end of the Cal game coupled with the leadership shown by Price (the latter, albeit, the beneficiary of the head coach’s superb play-calling) should lead fans to anticipate a better finish than last year’s bowl-qualifying 6-6. Unfortunately under the new league alignment the Dawgs have to live in the same division as Oregon and Stanford.
Sarkisian might actually rather switch division opponents with the Hawks and play Arizona, San Francisco, and St. Louis. Hawk coach Pete Carroll would never go for it though, possibly because Oregon and Stanford might be able to beat his Seahawks.