SEATTLE -- After spending the season's opening month beating up on suspect competition, both Washington and Arizona looked like potential Pac-12 contenders. After Saturday night, that was the case for only one.
Washington (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) proved its dominant performances in nonconference play were no fluke, outslugging Arizona (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) by a score of 31-13 behind 161 yards from running back Bishop Sankey in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
"I have never been 4-0," Washington offensive tackle Ben Riva said. "This is awesome. It feels great, and I am proud of everyone. We just got to keep it rolling."
The Huskies scored on a 1-yard run by Sankey late in the third quarter to move ahead by two scores. The Wildcats never again threatened against Shaq Thompson (13 tackles) and the Washington defense.
Both teams relied heavily on their star running backs, but Sankey outshone Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey, who led the nation in rushing a season ago. Sankey toted the ball a career-high 40 times, but Carey nearly matched him, notching 30 carries for 132 yards and a score.
Washington coach Steve Sarkisian attributed both teams' reliance on the run to a downpour that drenched Husky Stadium on Saturday evening.
"The weather had an impact on both teams," he said. "It was kind of one of those grind-it-out, meat-and-potato games where both teams had to run the ball, and both defenses knew it."
The two teams traded long touchdown drives to start the second half. The Huskies capped a 14-play march with a 1-yard pass from Keith Price to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Arizona scored on a 7-yard dash by B.J. Denker on the 15th play of its drive.
Through the air, however, Denker struggled mightily to move the ball against a stingy Washington defense. He rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown, but completed just 14-of-35 passes for 119 yards.
Denker also tossed a critical interception into the hands of Marcus Peters midway through the fourth quarter, abruptly halting Arizona's last real chance to get back in it.
"There were times he competed really well, and there were some egregious errors," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said of his senior quarterback. "It's pretty obvious when you see things and you are like, 'Gosh, you shouldn't do that.'"
Denker's lack of success forced the Wildcats to rely on Carey, and Washington's plan to slow him down worked as well as could be expected.
"We were trying to wait 'em out. And we're good at that," Sarkisian said. "We knew they were going to ground-and-pound, and we wanted to make sure we tackled and didn't let them make the big play."
The play on the field matched the inclement weather in the first half. Neither team found much traction offensively in heavy rain and wind, but the Washington defense made sure the Huskies went into halftime on top.
Washington wasted no time striking first. Safety Sean Parker intercepted Denker's first pass of the game and the Huskies put it in the end zone four plays later when Price evaded the Wildcats' pass rush to find Kevin Smith. A bad snap on the extra point attempt left the score at 6-0.
The Washington defense forced four more three-and-outs before the Huskies scored again. This time, it came because of another bad snap, one that slipped through the hands of Arizona punter Drew Riggleman and out the back of the end zone for a safety.
Kasen Williams kept Washington's momentum rolling, returning the ensuing kickoff 48 yards deep into Wildcats territory. The Huskies went three-and-out but were already in range for Travis Coons to kick a 42-yard field goal and make it 11-0.
Arizona made a dent in the Husky defense on its final drive of the second quarter. Denker ran for 33 yards on a fourth-down keeper and Carey punched it in the end zone with six seconds left in the half on a 3-yard run.
The Wildcats, however, weren't able to carry a strong close to the first half into the third quarter.
"In the second half, I didn't think we tackled as well and we didn't get off blocks well," Rodriguez said. "They broke more tackles in the second half than we had given up all season."
NOTES: Wind gusts of up to 30 mph were expected during the first half. ... Smith's first-quarter touchdown was the first in the senior's career. ... Arizona was held to a season-low 149 first-half yards. ... Sankey, who entered the game as the nation's second leading rusher, broke Corey Dillon's school record for carries in a game. … Washington improved to 4-0 for the first time since 2001.