By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
The third quarter changed the Apple Cup on Friday, and it was a screen pass from Keith Price to Bishop Sankey that changed the third quarter in Washington’s direction.
Washington State had taken a 10-3 lead into halftime, but that turned around in a hurry when the Huskies went on a 17-0 tear in the third quarter, lifting them to a 27-17 win at Husky Stadium.
“We played awesome in the third quarter,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “To get 17 points, to do what we were doing defensively, to get stops. The offense found their rhythm. They really played a tremendous second half.”
Sankey rushed for 80 of his 200 yards in the third quarter. And Price completed seven of his 15 passes, including his lone touchdown throw: an 18-yarder to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
And yet, the Cougars said things might have turned out differently if not for one crucial failure to get the Huskies off the field.
UW opened its first possession of the second half with a pair of runs that moved the ball 5 yards to the Washington 20. Then, needing 5 yards to avoid a three-and-out deep in their own territory, Price swung a short pass to Sankey, who took it 40 yards to the Washington State 40.
“That was a pretty big play,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “… We got them third and long. If we had kept them pinned back, it was going to increase the pressure on them and certainly the tempo of the second half. Then they converted, and that was a huge play for them.”
Five plays later, Washington evened the score. On their next possession, the Huskies took a lead they would never relinquish. On their last drive of the quarter, they added the field goal that put them ahead 20-10 heading into the fourth quarter.
“(The screen) was a big play,” WSU safety Deone Bucannon said. “But we should have forgotten that play and we should have focused on the plays after that to prevent them from scoring. That didn’t happen.”
Adding to the Cougars’ frustration was their belief that no strategy had changed. According to Leach and his defensive players, they were seeing the same plays they stopped in the first half. But now the Huskies were making them work.
“They didn’t make any halftime adjustments,” WSU linebacker Justin Sagote said. “They just kept running the same plays over and over, and then finally they just kept getting yards.”
The first half marked the first time this season the Huskies didn’t score a first-half touchdown.
“We felt good (at halftime),” Bucannon said. “But we understood as a team that it’s far from over. We should have come out in the second half with the same intensity that we had in the first half. Unfortunately we didn’t. But at the same time, we continued to fight, and I’ll fight with this team any day. We have a great mindset, and we had that same mindset going into the second half. Unfortunately, they made some more plays.”