PROVO, Utah — Winning games with elite defense is second nature to Washington. The Huskies are quickly silencing doubters who expected them to take a step back this season.
Relentless defensive pressure and efficient offense blended together perfectly for No. 22 Washington in a 45-19 victory over BYU on Saturday. The Huskies forced three BYU turnovers and scored a pair of touchdowns off those defensive plays.
In four games, Washington has allowed just 18.3 points per contest and held each opponent under 400 yards of total offense. The Huskies’ defense resembles past units that led the Pac-12 in scoring defense and total defense each of the previous four seasons.
“We got people that are going to show up and work and we’re going to execute when we’re out there,” linebacker Brandon Wellington said. “Sometimes, it’s not going to be pretty but we’re going to figure out a way to get it done.”
Jacob Eason found a way to get it done on offense. Eason, a Lake Stevens High School graduate, threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns while completing 24 of 28 pass attempts. The Huskies (3-1) totaled 477 yards on offense behind his efficient performance.
Aaron Fuller, Eason’s top target, tallied 91 yards on eight catches. Fuller had one touchdown catch and returned a punt 88 yards for another score.
Eason put together his second straight 200-yard passing game. Washington has won all three games this season in which he has passed for at least 200 yards.
“There’s always something that’s better from week to week,” Huskies coach Chris Petersen said. “We emphasize it and he’s on it.”
Zach Wilson threw for 277 yards and a touchdown on 26 of 42 passing to lead BYU. It wasn’t nearly enough to help the Cougars (2-2) prevent the Huskies from dominating in all three phases of the game.
Three BYU drives ended with turnovers. Two others ended in failed fourth down conversions.
“They put us in a really tough spot,” Cougars coach Kalani Sitake said. “They got ahead of us, and whenever we tried to gain momentum, they were able to stop it.”
Washington took control behind a productive first quarter from Eason. He threw for 99 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while completing 90% of his pass attempts during the quarter. Eason capped each of his team’s two drives with a 17-yard TD pass — one to Richard Newton, the other to Fuller — to put the Huskies up 14-3.
Following Lopini Katoa’s 48-yard return to midfield, BYU marched down to the Washington 20 on its second drive. It ended when Wilson coughed up a costly fumble on a sack. Wellington scooped up the loose ball and returned it 69 yards to extend the Huskies’ lead to 21-3 late in the first quarter.
“They’re returning Pac-12 champs, they’re gonna be a really good team this season,” tight end Matt Bushman said. “But our mistakes just made them look like world beaters.”
The Cougars’ offense found some life in the second quarter. Emmanuel Esukpa punched in a 1-yard run and Jake Oldroyd made a career-long 54 yard field goal just before halftime to cut Washington’s lead to 24-12. Oldroyd’s field goal was the first from 50 or more yards for BYU since 2006.
Everything unraveled for BYU after halftime.
Andre Baccellia slipped free of a tackle and caught a 35-yard TD pass from Eason, and Fuller returned a BYU punt 88 yards to give Washington a 38-12 lead with 10:37 remaining in the third quarter. Trent McDuffie forced and then recovered a fumble from Dax Milne at the Huskies 48 to set up Baccellia’s touchdown.
Washington outscored the Cougars 21-7 in the third quarter after struggling in that quarter during each of the team’s previous two games.
“You always want to come out after halftime with some juice and I think we did that today,” Eason said.
Washington running back Salvon Ahmed did not make the trip to Provo after re-aggravating a lower leg injury last week. Ahmed is day-to-day, although Petersen said he is making good progress in his recovery and could potentially be ready to go against USC.
Sean McGrew filled in and ran for 110 yards on 18 carries in his first start. The Huskies also got 80 yards and a TD on 16 carries from Newton.
“That’s how you want it,” Petersen said. “You cannot just have one good player at that position. That’s been our mantra around here for a long time. It’s just too physical of a game.”