After snapping a three-game losing streak with a 20-17 win over No. 7 Oregon State, Washington hopes to end another skid with its first road win Friday night at Cal.
The challenges don’t end for the Washington Huskies following Saturday night’s 20-17 win at CenturyLink Field over No. 7 Oregon State. They just change.
The Huskies beat the Beavers with a combination of physical defense, timely offense and solid special teams, an effort that followed a soul-searching week in which UW saw criticism lobbed at it from all angles. That included a column by John Canzano of The Oregonian in Portland that labeled the Huskies the “softest, least resilient” team in the Pac-12. Many players later cited the column as motivation.
“It definitely triggered home with a lot of guys on our team,” said quarterback Keith Price. “They felt disrespected, as they should.”
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was among the most vocal afterward about the column.
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“We saw someone call us out on our toughness and resilience,” he said. “Everyone saw it and we knocked them out. … They hit us a couple of times, but we knocked them out.”
In the process, the Huskies (4-4) took a big step toward eligibility for a bowl game for the third straight year.
Now, though, UW must show it can play well on the road, where the Huskies will play three of their last four regular-season games, beginning at 6 p.m. Friday at Cal.
“We have to understand we have to carry the emotion we have at home and bring it on the road with us,” said UW coach Steve Sarkisian, whose team is 0-3 on the road this season and 4-15 away from home since he took over as coach before the 2009 season.
Saturday night’s game was the second time this year UW beat a top-10 team at home with hard-hitting defense and just enough offense, a formula that also produced a 17-13 win over then-No. 8 Stanford last month. It’s the first time the Huskies have beaten two top-10 teams in one season since 1991, when they won a share of the national title.
Oregon State is the last ranked team Washington will play this regular season. After playing five ranked teams in its first eight games — and seven FBS teams that have a combined record of 44-12 — UW will finish with four opponents with losing records (a combined 9-24). That includes a 3-6 Cal team that lost 49-27 at Utah Saturday night.
The Huskies, who opened as a four-point underdog, will undoubtedly feel they are taking a lot of momentum to Berkeley after snapping a three-game losing streak in which they were outscored 128-52.
Cornerback Desmond Trufant said the Huskies needed the verbal prodding they received after a 52-17 loss at Arizona.
“Coach Sark challenged us early this week to believe in ourselves and even if you get hit, you’ve got to keep swinging back,” he said. “That was the plan (against Oregon State), to hit and come in and be physical, and we did that.”
A play that typified that effort was a first-half hit by safety Sean Parker that knocked OSU receiver Markus Wheaton out of the game and resulted in an interception — one of four against Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion.
Oregon State outgained the Huskies in total yards 427-293 (the second-fewest UW total this season), including 317-135 in the second half.
But interceptions of Mannion in the second half stopped two drives inside Husky territory and forced a field goal on another OSU trip to the end zone.
The Beavers scored 17 second-half points and twice tied the score. But the Huskies immediately responded each time to retake the lead, including the winning field goal from 30 yards by Travis Coons with 1:20 left.
UW stopped a final OSU drive that got as far as the Husky 38, a march led by Cody Vaz, Mannion’s backup. Mannion had missed the previous two games after minor knee surgery.
“They had a lot of opportunities, but at the end of the day when we had to make our plays, especially in the red zone, we made them,” Sarkisian said.
The ending was similar to the UW-Stanford game, and Oregon State coach Mike Riley thought the Huskies seemed comfortable late in a close game.
“They’d played a tough schedule,” Riley said. “So they were used to this.”
Now to figure out how to do it on the road.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.