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Game Scout: Arizona at Washington

The SportsXchange

KICKOFF: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

GAME DATE: 9/28/13

SITE: Husky Stadium, Seattle, Wash.

TV: FOX

SERIES: Washington leads the series with Arizona 18-10-1. The Wildcats dominated last year's meeting 52-17, and the home team has won five in a row in the series.

RANKINGS: Washington, No. 16

KEYS TO THE GAME

Don't tell senior quarterback B.J. Denker that Arizona's "real" season starts now.

The Wildcats are 3-0, having defeated a trio of inferior teams -- lower-division Northern Arizona, UNLV and Texas San Antonio -- but now comes the Pac-12 season and a much-more difficult challenge right off the bat. Arizona opens at No. 16 Washington on Saturday.

But Denker isn't about to apologize for the 3-0 start.

"Our real season started Week 1," he said.

"There are no pretend games in football. You only get 12. But, yes, this is Pac-12 play. We know this is a bigger deal. This is going to be the best team we've played. So our focus is more intense, but we've been playing since Week 1. There are no fake games in football.

"You can't just go out on the field and expect a victory because somebody will come and smack you in the mouth."

So the Wildcats have nicely taken care of business so far, but this is the prove-it portion of their schedule. Washington has looked very good so far, beating Boise State 38-6, winning at Illinois by 10 and blasting Idaho State.

"We have to have a good week in practice," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "I told our players that we need our best week of practice."

Arizona had a surprisingly easy time of it last season vs. the Huskies, winning 52-17 in Tucson. Washington got on the board first with a field goal and then the Cats scored the next 24 points to take control.

"It was probably the most complete game we played last year in all three phases," Rodriguez said. "We ran the ball well right at the start, we got a couple of turnovers, got a punt return for a touchdown. We played really, really well.

"Our guys probably got a little confidence from that, but it's a different year, different team."

Washington's defense appears to be much improved and the offense, which has great skill around quarterback Keith Price, is humming along behind more of an emphasis on an up-tempo attack.

"It's stressful to go against," Rodriguez said.

The Huskies had trouble defending up-tempo spread teams all last season.

The 52 points scored by Arizona was tied for the most allowed by the Washington defense -- Oregon also dropped 52 on it -- in 2012. The Huskies have been practicing against their up-tempo offense since the summer. They have also already played two no-huddle offenses in Boise State and Idaho State.

The game against Arizona is crucial for 16th-ranked Washington. The next week, the Huskies travel to No. 5 Stanford before hosting No. 2 Oregon and then going to recently ranked Arizona State.

To move to 4-0 before that run would provide Washington some cushion. The Huskies stated goal this season is to win the Pac-12 North, which means they need to finish ahead of Stanford and Oregon. That would be very difficult with a loss to Arizona.

"I felt like Arizona's tempo got us, and this is part of the reason we're doing what we're doing offensively is to prepare for this game," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. "So that when teams go to this up-tempo style against us, we don't become uncomfortable on defense. We remain comfortable. It's an arena that we're used to being in, we're used to excelling in, so this up-tempo style people are playing in is really the norm now."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Huskies

--S Sean Parker is a senior who will be a key to filling holes against the run this week versus the Wildcats. Arizona runs the ball almost 80 percent of the time.

--LB John Timu, who is a captain and plays in the middle, missed the second half against Illinois and last week because of a bruised shoulder. He is expected back this week.

--TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins said he was "embarrassed" by how he played in Week 2, his season debut, and played better in Week 3. The preseason All-American will be needed Saturday.

Wildcats

--RB Ka'Deem Carey is averaging 149.5 rushing yards through two games, but he won't appear in the NCAA stats until after the Washington game, when he will qualify by having played in 75 percent of his team's games. Carey is trying to win back-to-back rushing titles, and one of his main competitors could be the Huskies' Bishop Sankey.

--QB B.J. Denker has started four games at Arizona, but this will be his most difficult challenge by far, which includes a raucous Husky Stadium. He is coming off his best game of the season, when he completed 14 of 21 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions, against UTSA. He ran 10 times for 90 yards, including a 35-yarder. He has very good wheels, having scored this season on two runs of 35 yards, plus a 30-yarder.

--S Tra'Mayne Bondurant has been the team's biggest defensive playmaker so far. He has three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), three tackles for loss, six pass break-ups, and he is tied for the team lead with 19 stops. He could be called upon to help stop Washington TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins this week. The Wildcats struggled against elite tight ends last season.

--LB Scooby Wright has done well as a true freshman who has started the first three games of his career. Wright is a high-motor player who is tied for the team lead with 19 tackles. He was only a two-star recruit, but he has the makings of an all-conference linebacker.
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