SEATTLE — One week after getting abused by Arizona in a 52-17 defeat, the University of Washington defense came up big in knocking off seventh-ranked and previously undefeated Oregon State 20-17 on Saturday night at CenturyLink Field.
It was Washington’s second home victory over a Top-10 team this season, following a 17-13 decision against Stanford back on Sept. 27. It was the fourth time in history that the Huskies have won twice in a single season against two Top-10 teams (the others were 1982, 1984 and 1991).
“Obviously we’re excited about the W,” said UW head coach Steve Sarkisian. “I thought our kids showed a great of resiliency. They faced a tremendous amount of adversity in the game, but they continued to show the mental and physical toughness that teams need to possess to beat a top-10 opponent.
“At the end of the day, I don’t know how pretty it was. That’s a good football team, but I’m proud of the character our guys possessed. Their ability to persevere when the game started to (go) in Oregon State’s favor.
“I thought our guys played with a real sense of purpose tonight,” he added.
On a night of early drizzle, but dry conditions for much of the game, Washington ended a three-game losing streak and evened its season mark at 4-4. The Huskies are finished facing ranked opponents, and could finish their regular season with an 8-4 mark by beating California, Utah, Colorado and Washington State in its remaining schedule.
The UW defense, maligned after giving up a season-high 533 yards in the loss to the Wildcats, finished with fourth interceptions of OSU quarterback Sean Mannion, and had three stands that forced the Beavers to turn the ball over on downs in the UW end of the field.
“Defensively we continued to come up with stops,” Sarkisian said. “And when you win the turnover battle 4-1, you give yourself a good chance to win the game.”
None of the defensive stands was more dramatic than Oregon State’s final possession, which followed a go-ahead 30-yard field goal by UW placekicker Travis Coons with 1:20 to play in the game.
Against backup Beaver quarterback Cody Vaz, who was summoned after Mannion tossed his fourth interception, the Huskies had to stop Oregon State’s final offensive march, which began at the OSU 36-yard line. It started poorly for Washington, with Vaz completing passes of 10 and 16 yards for a first down at the UW 38.
The Beavers were nearing field-goal range, and still had time to reach the end zone as Vaz brought them to the line of scrimmage.
But his next two passes were overthrown, and UW defensive end Talia Crichton came from the behind Vaz for a 4-yard sack, giving the Beavers a fourth-and-14 from the UW 42. A delay of game penalty against OSU — bizarre, because it followed a timeout — pushed the visitors back to the 42.
On fourth down, Vaz tried to find wide receiver Kevin Cummings down the middle, but the pass fell incomplete.
UW quarterback Keith Price took a knee for one play, and jubilant fans swarmed the field, just as they did against Stanford a month ago.
The Huskies scored first with a 45-yard Coons field goal late in the first quarter, and then added a 1-yard touchdown run by tailback Bishop Sankey with a little over four minutes to play before halftime, giving Washington a 10-0 lead at the break.
But the Beavers countered after halftime with a touchdown and a field goal to make the score 10-10 heading to the fourth quarter.
Sankey pushed the Huskies back into the lead with a 1-yard TD carry, but answered with a 29-yard touchdown reception by tight end and Meadowdale High School graduate Connor Hamlett.
The UW offense, which has taken its own share of criticism this season, then mounted a long drive for the go-ahead and ultimately game-winning field goal. Starting from the 25 after a kickoff touchback, Price found tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins up the right sideline for 20 yards.
The biggest play of the march came moments later. After a 3-yard Sankey carry and an incomplete pass, Price connected with wide receiver Kasen Williams on the right sideline. Williams made a leaping catch just inbounds for a 19-yard gain, and the Beavers were also penalized 15 yards for a “targeting” personal foul hit on Williams.
With a first-and-10 at the OSU 18, the Huskies moved to the 12 before the drive stalled. On fourth-and-4, Coons booted his second field goal of the game for the winning margin.
As good as they often were, the Huskies also committed some foolish mistakes. None was bigger than a personal foul penalty called on nose tackle Danny Shelton that negated a UW touchdown.
Linebacker John Timu had intercepted a Mannion pass over the middle and returned it approximately 60 yards for an apparent UW touchdown (Timu actually fumbled near the goal line, but the ball was recovered near the back of the end zone by teammate Princeton Fuimaono and a TD was signaled), setting off a celebration in the stadium.
But a penalty flag was thrown behind the play, and Shelton was called for a personal foul after throwing a blindside block on an OSU player. The Huskies ended up having to punt.