Black Magic! Revived Huskies Stun No. 7 Beavers
Oct. 27, 2012
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - Ultimately - through the misty rain, the heroes in all back, the thrills to, and through, the end - it came down to a most personal fundamental for these Huskies.
"We needed it for our own well-being. Pride is a powerful thing. You earn pride," coach Steve Sarkisian said.
"And we earned it tonight."
That, plus a second win over a top-10 team in five games.
With UW left for dead like tumbleweeds in the Arizona desert seven days earlier, Kasen Williams made a brilliant, leaping catch over two defenders while getting hit hard near the head to convert a key third-down pass from Keith Price. That set up Travis Coons' go-ahead, 30-yard field goal with 80 seconds remaining.
Talia Crichton then threw down Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz on third down, forcing a fourth-and-19 pass that sailed far incomplete. And darn it if these supposedly flat-lined Huskies didn't revive again with a 20-17 homecoming victory over some stunned, seventh-ranked Beavers.
Yes, there was enough purple, gold -- and black -- magic Saturday night at CenturyLink Field to make Harry Potter a Husky.
Just ask Williams.
"That's the second top-10 opponent taken down at home this year, man," said the sophomore, who saved his two biggest catches for the game's two biggest moments.
UW students stormed the field from the south end zone for the second time in a month to celebrate the Dawgs ruining Oregon State's undefeated season - and resuscitating their own. UW (4-4, 2-3 Pac-12) ended its three-game losing streak, winning for the first time since it beat eighth-ranked Stanford Sept. 27.
They were in all black that night, too.
This is the fourth time in the Husky football history Washington has beaten two top-10 teams in the same season. The other times: 1982, '84, and the national-championship season of '91.
This was also the first time since November 1982 (in a win over 9-0 Arizona State) that the Huskies beat a previously undefeated team past the halfway point of the season.
Did someone say resilient? The Dawgs have had losing streaks of at least three games in each of coach Steve Sarkisian's four seasons. They are now 8-1 in the group of games immediately after those skids.
"I'm proud of their ability to respond when they are challenged," Sarkisian said. "And they keep doing it."
Price completed 18 of 30 passes on mostly short and quick throws for 194 yards while being sacked twice. Sarkisian was encouraged that with the game on the line, the previously doubting passer lofted two jump balls that let the dynamic, 6-foot-2 Williams leap to make game-changing plays late.
"We knew our manhood was being tested," Price said. "It was just about having pride and changing what people thought about our team."
The week began with Sarkisian passing out copies in the locker room of a column that appeared in the Portland newspaper The Oregonian that labeled UW as "soft" and the "least resilient team in the Pac-12" following Washington's 52-17 loss at Arizona.
"The article was in our locker room. We just had to come out and not just executive - but dominate," said John Timu, the linebacker who played like he had a chip on his shoulder with six tackles, a sack and two, diving pass break ups.
A test of pride?
"Oh, yes, definitely, especially through the article we were reading what they said about us," Timu said. "Probably the worst thing you can be called in football is soft. And we took that personally.
"We weren't just going to let that go by."
After planting the seed with the article, Sarkisian did his part by carrying out a game plan that called for the Huskies to punch the Beavers in the mouth to begin the game - or go down swinging while trying.
Nine of UW's first 10 plays were runs. And it resulted in a 3-0 lead that said far more than a routine field goal suggests.
"A bit of an attitude that we wanted to get done," Sarkisian said.
After Price found Michael Hartvigson on a catch and run for 31 yards, a career high for backup tight end, Sankey ran it in from the 1 on fourth and goal to put the Huskies up 10-0.
The Beavers were fifth in the nation allowing just 80.8 yards rushing coming in. Washington gained 84 on the ground by halftime, and led 10-0.
Did Arizona really happen to these same Huskies?
One play epitomized the half - and perhaps the entire night - for the Huskies' defense. Mannion hit leading, big-play receiver Markus Wheaton down the sideline at the UW 20. But Sean Parker obliterated Wheaton with a shoulder-to-under-the-chin hit, jarring the ball loose. Fellow safety Justin Glenn showed the reaction time of combat pilot John Glenn and redirected his hands onto the ball before it hit the ground for a remarkable interception.
"Actually, I just set the tone for the whole game," Parker said.
That crushing hit and Parker's diving interception on a pass Mannion threw barely off the turf in the end zone kept the first-half shutout intact.
It was the first time this season Oregon State had been held scoreless in the first half.
"That guy right there play a good game," Huskies defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox deadpanned, pointing at Parker outside the locker room afterward. "I'm proud of you."
But Oregon State scored the only 10 points of the third quarter by going to the run and shorter passes by Mannion - including a wide-receiver screen that Brandin Coons turned into a 54-yard touchdown.
But as Saturday proved, these Huskies won't stay down forever.
They took a 17-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter after Marcus Peters intercepted a pass Mannion three yards behind his receiver across the middle.
Price then completed his first deep throw of the game, 29 yards with another outstanding, leaping catch by Williams on the far sideline to the 1. Sankey, who finished with 92 yards on 25 carries, ran it in from there for his second rushing touchdown of the wild night.
Vaz, who had won Oregon State's last two games while Mannion was recovering from knee surgery, replaced Mannion after that interception. He quickly moved the Beavers into position for a 29-yard touchdown pass to Connor Hamlett, who broke behind two Huskies into the end zone. The game was tied again with 5 minutes to go.
Then on third and 7 at midfield, Price looked at two Beavers closing on Williams. The coverage read told Price to throw it somewhere else.
His heart said to throw it up to No. 2.
Williams leaped above the two Beavers for the ball then absorbed a shot so wicked from safety Antony Watkins that Watkins was called for a 15-yard penalty for targeting the head. That made a 19-yard catch a 34-yard gain and UW had it at the Oregon State 18.
"I've been telling Keith, `Just give me a chance for me to make plays for you,'" Williams said. "I tell him all the time my job is to make him look good.
"I think I accomplished that tonight," he said, grinning.
The catch and flag set up Coons, a first-year junior-college transfer, to make his first pressure-packed field goal of the season. He nailed it from dead center, 30 yards out with 1:20 left.
Oregon State got across midfield before Crichton stormed in on Vaz to make it fourth and 19. Vaz then threw for Kevin Cummings down the middle near the 10, but UW's Greg Ducre's coverage was tight and the ball skipped far past both of them to seal Washington's reviving victory.
"Definitely it's weird. We go from getting blown out to beating a top-10 team," Price said. "We have a resilient group of guys, man. I'm just proud of them, the way that we're battling."
Battling. And learning.
"We wanted to make a statement - to ourselves. We wanted to prove to ourselves what kind of team we can be," said senior cornerback Desmond Trufant, who was again all over the field making plays.
"I think we did that tonight."
INSIDE THE DAWGS: The game essentially boiled down to this: "Ultimately, when you win the turnover battle 4-1 you have a pretty good chance to win the game," Sarkisian said. In their three-game losing streak, the Huskies were minus-7 in turnover margin. And Oregon State was undefeated while leading the Pac-12 at plus-10 in turnovers coming in. ... The defense has allowed six touchdowns on defense allowed in five home games. ... But the next game is back on the road: Friday at Berkeley against California. The Golden Bears (3-6, 2-4) lost 49-27 Saturday night at Utah.