CORVALLIS, Ore. – Just before kickoff, the Washington football team looked like it was done being roadkill. The players looked as energized as they have all season, bouncing and dancing and shouting in unison, a pack of Huskies ready to be unleashed.
For a struggling road team, they looked awfully confident.
And then they put together a game unlike any other in the Steve Sarkisian era.
It started with John Ross’ 62-yard return on the opening kickoff and didn’t end until Deontae Cooper zipped into the open field multiple times, punctuating his comeback from three anterior cruciate knee-ligament surgeries.
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It didn’t end until the Huskies had pulverized their road woes. Oregon State was collateral damage in an emphatic 69-27 Washington victory Saturday before a Reser Stadium crowd of 43,779 that started thinning at halftime.
Washington (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12) hadn’t played a road game like this, not during the Sarkisian regime. Sark’s teams were 7-19 on the road entering the game, and with starting quarterback Keith Price not playing because of a shoulder injury, there was diminished hope that this would be the road breakthrough.
But redshirt freshman quarterback Cyler Miles played like a veteran in his first career start, and running back Bishop Sankey continued his record-setting season, and the Husky defense shut down Oregon State’s prolific passing offense. The Huskies were superior on offense, defense and special teams as they won in Corvallis for the first time since 2003.
After losses at Stanford, Arizona State and UCLA, the Huskies also won their first conference game away from Husky Stadium this season. They got rid of their road phobia, at least for a night. Considering all the consternation over the program’s direction in recent weeks, it was a powerful and well-timed statement.
During the week, Sarkisian challenged his team to play with better energy and focus. On Wednesday, he was doing cardio at the team facility as his players were going through a workout. He was so impressed by their intensity that he pointed it out during a team meeting the next day. Then, the Huskies went out and had one of their best practices.
The coach had a sense his team would be ready.
But ready to annihilate?
“I don’t know if you can ever predict this,” Sarkisian said. “I felt like we were going to come out and play well. That’s all you can ask for as a coach and see if you can win.”
No, Oregon State (6-5, 4-4) isn’t a great team, though the Beavers are bowl eligible. They have lost four straight games. The Huskies’ road triumph might not resonate like their win at USC in 2010, or the “God’s Play” game at Cal in 2010. But in terms of dominance, it was something special. It was atypical. And perhaps in the future, it will be looked upon as the night the Huskies stopped being road victims.
Miles was steady in his first start. He was in control all night, completing 15 of 24 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. He used his legs when necessary, but his game wasn’t dependent on his running ability. He guided an offense that was as high-powered as ever, amassing 692 yards.
“I assumed it would be closer, but we were out there playing,” Miles said. “Playing to the best of our ability.”
Sankey ran for 179 yards and three touchdowns, tying Napoleon Kaufman’s school record with 34 career rushing touchdowns. Sankey now has 1,575 rushing yards this season, leaving him 120 shy of Corey Dillon’s season record.
Then Cooper, whose longest carry of the season was 9 yards, entered the game in the second half and broke loose for runs of 68 and 70 yards. He finished with 166 yards and two touchdowns. For the game, the Huskies ran for 530 yards, the second-most in school history, including 141 yards and two touchdowns from Dwayne Washington. How unstoppable was the Huskies’ run game? They scored 42 points in the second half — and threw only five passes.
Cornerback Marcus Peters led a defense that was just as impressive as the offense. He collected three of the four turnovers the Huskies forced, intercepting two of Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion’s passes and recovering a fumble.
Mannion completed only 20 of 41 passes for 229 yards. The Washington defense forced the quarterback into, by far, his worst performance of the season. Entering the game, Mannion was averaging 386 passing yards and hadn’t thrown for fewer than 271 in a game.
For all the road headaches the Huskies have had, this was a refreshing and resounding change. They led 48-0 after three quarters.
“Obviously, we hadn’t had a road win in a while,” Miles said. “It’s a great feeling. Hopefully, we can build on it.”
The energized Huskies danced on the sideline before the game. And then they danced all over Oregon State.
|Most points scored|
|Most points scored in a game by the Huskies since 1945:|
|65-7||UC Santa Barbara||1971|
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @JerryBrewer