A 25-minute fourth quarter power outage was the biggest mishap to take place inside Husky Stadium Friday.
But only barely.
Washington (7-2) overcame them all.
Despite a first half filled with potentially fatal mistakes, UW outlasted No. 24 Oregon State — capping an 18-play, 92-yard, four-minute and 25-second march with a 22-yard field goal to seal an improbable 24-21 win.
“We have a goal of winning championships, and we talked about it at halftime,” UW coach Kalen DeBoer said late Friday night. “If you want to be a championship caliber team you have to find ways to battle and fight and win games like this — the physical ones, the ones that go back and forth, the ones that have the adversity that hits you. If the lights go out, throw that in there, too.”
The aforementioned first half adversity featured the following:
- A Michael Penix Jr. pick-six, in which Washington’s redshirt junior quarterback stared down wide receiver Jalen McMillan and telegraphed a gift — returned by linebacker Easton Mascarenas-Arnold 37 yards to give the Beavers a 14-7 lead late in the second quarter.
- 106 rushing yards and 4.8 yards per carry from the bruising Beavers, 81 of which came on 11 carries for true freshman Damien Martinez. Redshirt junior Deshaun Fenwick plunged forward for a 3-yard touchdown on Oregon State’s opening drive as well.
- A dropped snap by redshirt freshman punter Jack McCallister, who picked up the football and was promptly blocked for an eight-yard loss. (McCallister’s only other first-half punt sailed sideways for a modest 18-yard net.)
- Zero Washington sacks or forced turnovers, for a team that had earned a single takeaway in its previous four games — despite entering Friday ranking second in the Pac-12 with 25 sacks.
- A measly 35 UW rushing yards … 15 of which came on an end-around to wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk.
Considering the minefield of Husky mistakes, UW should have been buried by halftime. They could have cut the lights even earlier.
So how the heck did the Huskies win?
It’s a complicated answer. But it starts with a pair of fourth down stops.
“Those (stops) were ones that kept us in the game and kept us in that one-score disadvantage. But one score was all we needed to get back in it.”
Trailing 7-0 late in the first quarter, the Huskies abruptly ended a 12-play, 63-yard march. Massive UW defensive lineman Ulumoo Ale absorbed Martinez on third-and-1 for a one-yard loss, then cornerback Mishael Powell and edge Zion Tupuola-Fetui combined to swallow 239-pound wildcat quarterback Jack Colletto for no gain.
Oregon State’s next drive disintegrated in the red zone as well. Following the blocked punt, the Beavers opted to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the Husky 15 — with a persistent wind likely persuading coach Jonathan Smith to gamble again. On fourth down, quarterback Ben Gulbranson sailed a pass over Martinez’s head — resulting in a second consecutive Husky stop.
After which, Washington’s offense finally got going. The Huskies amassed a 15-play, 85-yard drive — thanks to a trio of unlikely conversions. On third-and-16, Penix found wide receiver Rome Odunze on a screen for a 27-yard gain. On third-and-11, he hit McMillan for 17 yards. On fourth-and-10, he found McMillan for 18 more. Senior running back Wayne Taulapapa capped things off by taking a wildcat snap and spinning into the end zone to tie the score at 7-7 with 4:23 left in the second quarter.
“We prepare for those (third-and-long) scenarios, knowing all great offenses end up in those situations at some point during the game,” said wide receiver Rome Odunze, who registered seven catches for 102 yards. “We want to have plays we’re confident in. We know we can go out there and execute and get those conversions no matter what the yardage is.”
So … despite the pick-six, and the poor punts, and the porous run defense, and the lack of a pass rush, and four untimely penalties, UW somehow trailed just 14-7 at halftime. The Huskies even outgained the Beavers 189-162 in that span.
But the mistakes weren’t left in the locker room.
Granted, UW tied the game midway through the third quarter — as Penix took a shotgun snap on third and goal (following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by left guard Troy Fautanu) and found tight end Jack Westover all alone in the corner of the end zone for an improbable 24-yard score.
But a facemask penalty shifted momentum.
On the following drive, Gulbranson took a snap from the Husky 42-yard line and was unceremoniously swarmed. Senior edge Jeremiah Martin dismantled left tackle Joshua Gray with a vicious spin move before engulfing Gulbranson at the 50-yard line. It should have prompted a second consecutive Beaver punt.
Martin was flagged for a wholly unnecessary facemask penalty instead. And two plays later, Fenwick paid it off — taking a wildcat snap and galloping into the end zone for a 19-yard score that gave Oregon State a 21-14 lead.
But the Huskies had yet another answer. UW ripped off a nine-play, 66-yard drive — featuring runs of 10 and 19 yards. Taulapapa tumbled into the end zone for his second touchdown, this one from four yards out, to tie it again at 21-21.
It was a lights-out drive.
Following a considerable power outage, then three consecutive punts, the Husky offense mounted a remarkable drive. UW amassed an 18-play, 92-yard march — including third down conversions to Devin Culp, Jalen McMillan and Cameron Davis.
“I’m proud of the way the guys were just resilient,” DeBoer said. “There came a point where we got close to midfield, and you knew, ‘Now we’re the aggressors.’ When you’re backed way up you worry about the punt into the wind and how much time is going to be left for their offense. There came a point where we got out of our own territory and you knew, ‘This is now in our court.’”
On third-and-6 from the Beavers’ 21-yard line, Davis extended to reel in a Penix pass for a critical six-yard gain — on a route that previously resulted in a Davis drop. Davis — who contributed 55 rushing yards, plus five catches for 27 yards — said “I wouldn’t say time slowed down. I just really locked in. I saw the ball had a little bit of wobble to it, so I guess that made me lock in a little bit more. But at the end of the day I just trusted my hands and my eyes.”
After Penix scrambled for a yard, wide receiver Giles Jackson took a pop pass around the right edge for 12 more yards. Following a pair of incompletions and a Penix kneel-down, kicker Peyton Henry drilled a 22-yard field goal to essentially end the game.
“At the start of the fourth quarter when it was still tied I was just visualizing being in that situation, mentally getting ready for it,” Henry said. “Because I knew it was going to come down to a single kick. So I was ready to go.”
Penix finished with 298 passing yards (58% completions) with a touchdown and an interception. Linebacker Cam Bright contributed a team-high 10 tackles and a second-half sack, while Washington’s defense held OSU to 69 rushing yards and 3.8 yards per carry in the second half. UW managed to go 11 for 18 on third down.
And when they needed to, the Huskies turned out the lights.