Sankey back as nation’s leading rusher; national respect for UW shows in AP poll; a primer on ASU

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Bishop Sankey regained the national rushing lead this weekend with 167 yards and two touchdowns against Oregon. His Huskies stayed in the nation’s top 20, landing at No. 20 in the new Associated Press Top 25 (Joe Nicholson/Red Box Pictures).

Bishop Sankey is back atop the nation. And his Huskies have gained the country’s respect.

Sankey’s 167 yards rushing with two touchdowns against Oregon, each of which brought UW to within seven points of the second-ranked Ducks in the second half, leave the junior running back with 899 yards rushing and 149.8 yards rushing per game this season. Sankey is back leading the nation in both those categories.

His nine touchdowns rushing are tied for second-most in the country, one behind Jahwan Edwards of Ball State and Marion Grice of Arizona State — the latter of which is Washington’s opponent Saturday at 3 p.m. in Tempe, Ariz.

The Huskies (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12 North) dropped four spots to No. 20 in the latest Associated Press Top 25. In signs of the national respect the Dawgs have gained after a disputed, late loss at then-No. 5 Stanford and then Saturday’s game in which UW trailed Oregon 31-24 with 14 minutes to go, Washington joins Georgia as the two highest-ranked, two-loss teams.

This is the first time since the first half of the 2003 season that the Huskies have been ranked for three or more weeks in a row.

Despite the consecutive losses to the leaders of the Pac-12 North, the Huskies have dropped just five places total in the last two AP polls. That shows national perception matches what the Huskies believe about themselves.

Immediately after the loss to Oregon, coach Steve Sarkisian told his players in their new Husky Stadium locker room to not lose sight of the fact they are a better team than in any of their previous four seasons he has been UW’s coach. Good enough, in fact, to play with the nation’s elite.

Sarkisian’s message was that the Huskies should not feel a loss to the second-ranked Ducks that turned on two, first-half turnovers and the lack of pressure on Oregon’s masterful quarterback Marcus Mariota means they have suddenly regressed sharply from their 4-0 start.

"We know we’re a good team," Sankey said Saturday night. "As Coach Sark said, we feel like we went toe to toe for 3 1/2 quarters with them. We just had little mistakes — mistakes you can’t have against a team like Oregon.

"Everybody’s hurting right now. We wanted to win this game, bad. But we have a 24-hour rule, win or lose, and coming back in (today) it’s go time again. Back to the drawing board."

The early read on Arizona State (4-2, 2-1): The Sun Devils rebounded from a 37-34 loss to Notre Dame in Arlington, Texas, the previous week by pounding Colorado 54-13 Saturday night in Tempe. ASU led 25-0 in the first quarter and 47-6 at halftime. It finished with 532 yards to send the Buffaloes to their 11th consecutive Pac-12 defeat.

Arizona State beat Wisconsin at home last month in a disputed finish, lost 42-28 at Stanford and rolled over USC at home 62-41 in the game that got Lane Kiffin the next morning fired by the Trojans.

The Sun Devils are third in the Pac-12 behind Oregon and UCLA in scoring offense at 44.2 points per game. They are fifth in the league in total offense at 496.5 yards per game, two places behind UW (526.8).

Junior quarterback Taylor Kelly is averaging 327.5 yards passing per game, third-best in the conference. He has completed 62 percent of his throws with 16 touchdowns against six interceptions. ASU relies more on the pass than the run.

Sankey may grin when he learns the Sun Devils’ defense has been susceptible to the run; it is ninth in the Pac-12 allowing 168.8 yards rushing per game.

Arizona State is the least penalized team in the league so far, with just 21 accepted penalties against it. Washington is the Pac-12 most-flagged team, with 58 accepted fouls.