By Rich Myhre Herald Writers
SEATTLE — The University of Washington offense had already given the team a 31-7 halftime lead on Saturday night, but in the third quarter the UW defense decided it was time to join the scoring party.
And the defense did it not just once, but twice in Washington’s 59-7 victory over the Buffaloes at Husky Stadium.
Early in the third quarter, a Colorado pass was tipped by Washington cornerback Marcus Peters and intercepted by teammate Tre Watson, who then tight-roped the UW sideline on an 84-yard touchdown return. It was the ninth-longest interception return in UW history.
For a defensive player, scoring a touchdown “is exciting,” Watson said. “We don’t get opportunities a lot to get our hands on balls. So once you do, you just have to make the most of it.”
Colorado’s next possession ended with an interception by safety Sean Parker, leading to another UW touchdown. But later in the period the Washington defense cashed in another TD.
This time it was Peters scooping up a fumble and running 53 yards for a touchdown.
Scoring a defensive touchdown “is the greatest thing in the world,” Peters said. “We see the offense score and put up points, so it’s (great) to see a defensive guy score.”
It was the first time the UW defense has scored twice in a game since a 2002 game against Oregon State.
Sankey rolls again
UW running back Bishop Sankey had another big game, albeit an abbreviated game.
Sankey finished with 143 yards on 23 carries with one touchdown, with all but 34 of those yards and five of the carries coming in the first half.
Sankey had a 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and now has 30 career rushing TDs. That puts him alone in third place on the UW’s all-time list, trailing only all-time leader Napoleon Kaufman with 34 and Joe Steele with 32.
Sankey is also fourth in career rushing yards with 2,932, having moved past first Vince Weathersby (2,811) and later Greg Lewis (2,903) in Saturday’s game.
Colorado was expected to be without junior wide receiver Paul Richardson, the team’s most explosive offensive player. Richardson, came into the game with 57 receptions for 984 yards and eight touchdowns in eight games, aggravated an ankle injury in last week’s game at UCLA and was in a walking boot on the field before the game.
Richardson made his presence known late in the first quarter, beating the UW secondary on a deep slant route for a leaping reception and a 53-yard touchdown.
Kevin King started the game at safety, becoming the first true freshman to start for the Huskies this season. King started at safety in place of senior Will Shamburger, who was in street clothes on the UW sideline with an undisclosed injury.
“Kevin went in and did a nice job,” said UW head coach Steve Sarkisian. “But he learned there’s some good receivers in this conference (it was King who got beat on Richardson’s TD). But that’s valuable experience he got tonight.”
Though it didn’t matter much in the game’s final outcome, both UW coach Steve Sarkisian and Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre made puzzling decisions during the game.
Midway through the second quarter, and with the Huskies facing a fourth-and-3 at the Colorado 9, Sarkisian opted to go for the first down rather than a field goal. UW quarterback Keith Price was pressured and ended up throwing the ball away.
“That was a bad play call,” Sarkisian admitted.
Even stranger was MacIntyre’s decision to attempt a field goal on fourth-and-1 at the UW 34-yard line with 48 seconds to play before halftime, and with Colorado trailing 24-7. The kick had enough distance, but was wide right. Making the decision worse, the Huskies had a short field and traveled 66 yards in six plays and 46 seconds for a touchdown and a 31-7 halftime lead.
Back in the NW
Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau is a true freshman from Tacoma. The 6-4, 210-pound Liufau, a product of Bellarmine Prep, completed 12 of 22 pass attempts for 160 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions.
Colorado defensive coordinator Kent Baer formerly held the same position at Washington during the Tyrone Willingham era.