Huskies back after bye week, ready for Colorado

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by KING 5 SPORTS & Associated Press

NWCN.com

Posted on October 10, 2011 at 11:01 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 10 at 11:01 PM

SEATTLE -- Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian sat as a fan and watched Colorado play Stanford during the Huskies' bye week. He saw familiar images.

Sarkisian said Colorado, Washington's opponent this Saturday, reminded him of the Huskies from two years ago. That's when Sarkisian was brought in to replace Tyrone Willingham and boost a program that was winless the prior year.

At 1-5, Colorado is bumping along in its first season as part of the Pac-12. Washington has turned things around enough that it is 4-1 to start the year and hovering just outside the AP Top 25 following its bye week.

"They're trying to find a way to get over the hump and win some of these tight ball games," Sarkisian said of the Buffaloes.

Colorado has a mix of new coaching staff and fresh recruits plus players left from the previous coaching staff. It's the same blend Sarkisian managed through his first season with the Huskies, a year that ended with a 5-7 record.

"You're changing a culture," Sarkisian said. "I think they've played already 13 freshmen this year. You're trying to bring the team together and play with the mindset and beliefs you have as a coach. Very similar."

Washington's ascension since the coaching change has been so rapid there were questions Monday about whether the Huskies would be overconfident. They are double-digit favorites and playing at home, where they are 3-0 already this season.

"I just don't think we're at a stage as a football team to be overconfident at all," Sarkisian said. "We use the analogy if we're mountain climbers, we're pretty inexperienced climbers right now. I don't think we're at a point where we can look down to see what we've accomplished yet, and I don't think we're at a point to look up to see how much further we have to go.

"We have to focus on our very next step. We just don't have enough experience on the mountain right now to be feeling too good because one false step and we can slide back down."

When they were the struggling team in 2009, the Huskies upset then third-ranked USC 16-13. It was a victory that Sarkisian felt he needed to win over players who might not have immediately bought into what Sarkisian was selling after he left USC to become the Huskies' head coach.

Washington will try to avoid being the win that gets Colorado redirected. Therefore, the Huskies are wary.

"Beating SC here the third game of the year was helpful for our locker room ...," Sarkisian said. "But it's an ongoing challenge. I think we found much more consistency. I think that's one of the tough things when you're getting started."

Washington will be bringing a largely healthy team to the field Saturday, a benefit of the bye week.

Starting quarterback Keith Price had sprained both knees and an ankle in the season's first five weeks. He spent all last week resting his legs, though he still was dressed for each practice.

"This is the best I felt all season," Price said.

Price didn't feel right being forced to rest.

"It felt uncomfortable," Price said. "I felt like doing something but coaches were just telling me to lay low."

Price, safety Nate Fellner and tailback Jesse Callier are back to full health. Freshman wide receiver Kasen Williams is still working to recover from a sprained ankle.

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