Final Score: Oregon St. 38 Washington 21
Last year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Oregon St. was in the midst of a disappointing season that would not include a bowl bid, but the Beavers rose up and routed USC 36-7. This year, an ever worse season that saw the last chance for a bowl game end two weeks ago, the Beavers again prepared for Turkey Day with an upset, this time belting bowl-bound Washington by 17 points.
It was apparent the football gods were smiling on Oregon St. late in the third quarter, when the Beavers, holding a 17-14 lead, dodged several bullets. Then, with the Huskies in position to pull within 3 points, Ryan Murphy's interceptions at the goal line, and the ensuing 99 yard touchdown drive, delivered a decisive 38-17 win for the crowd of 42,766 on a cold, but only slightly damp, Senior Day and Dad's Day.
"I think that was big time," Oregon St. coach Mike Riley said of Murphy's interception. "For a freshman player, he has a lot of good instincts. He's playing a coverage where he knew the weakness of that coverage was going to be inside, but he made it strong. He just hung in there with it, and when the guy tried to get in to the inside, he wouldn't let him go, and made a big-time play. That was a big-time play."
Initially, it looked like another long day for Beaver Nation was in store when Washington easily drove 70 yards in less than 4 minutes to take a 7 point lead. Chris Polk had 39 of those yards on 7 carries, as the Huskies planned to go heavily with the ground game, with Nick Montana making his first collegiate start at quarterback, in order to rest regular starter Keith Price's bruised and battered knees and ankle. Montana did cap the drive with a 4 yard touchdown pass to Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
But the Beavers came roaring back. Sean Mannion found senior WR James Rodgers for a 25 yard gain, and then a 6 yard touchdown, below, that tied Rodgers with Mike Hass for the most receptions in Oregon St. history, 220, and also pulled Rodgers within 1 of James Newson's record for receiving touchdowns.
"James is in good company now with all those guys up there, Mike Hass, Sammie Stroughter, James Newson," Riley said. "I don't want to forget anybody. There's just been a bunch of them, and we're proud of everything James has done, and what he's meant to the program. His impact on the field is obvious, but his impact in all of our lives is a real thing. We're glad to see him get that record today."
Jordan Poyer picked off Montana on the next drive, above, and Rodgers took sole possession of the reception record on the next play. Then, running the fly sweep, Rodgers handed off to Marcus Wheaton on a reverse, and Wheaton romped 56 yards down to the Washington 6 yard line, below.
Mannion capped the drive with a 6 yard scoring toss to Micah Hatfield, above. It was Hatfield's first collegiate career catch.
Washington recovered from the Beaver Blitzkreig with an 80 yard drive that took over 6 and a half minutes, carrying well into the second quarter, before Montana again hooked up with Seferian-Jenkins for a touchdown, below, this one from 5 yards out, and the Huskies tied it at 14 apiece.
Rodgers extended his reception record to 222 catches on the ensuing drive, but Jordan Jenking dropped Mannion's next pass, and Oregon St. had to settle for pinning Washington on their own 9 yard line on Johnny Hekker's punt. The Huskies went three and punt, though only after Montana was flagged for grounding the ball.
Oregon St. opened up the playbook to a degree not seen in a long time in this game, but things went wrong on the first play of the next drive. Off of a fly sweep action, Rodgers looked to pass, but was sacked instead. Not only that, he suffered a sprained left ankle that ended his day. While the severity won't be known until at least early next week, Rodgers wasn't ruled out of returning for the Civil War next week.
That might have been the emotional jolt that signaled an Oregon St. collapse. Instead, sparked by a 14 yard completion to Wheaton, the Beavers drove into position for Trevor Romaine to regain a 17-14 lead going to halftime, with a 24 yard field goal, below.
The Beavers couldn't accomplish anything with the first possession of the second half, going 3 and punt, but a holding penalty squelched the Huskies' first second half drive as well.
Completions to Jovan Stevenson for 18 yards, and 2 to Wheaton, for 10 and 22 yards, had Oregon St. on the Washington 11 yard line. But Sean Parker picked off Mannion to turn the Beavers away after they had driven 75 yards.
Washington couldn't get a drive going, and punted, but on Oregon St.'s first play, a completion to TE Joe Halahuni was spoiled when John Timu ripped the ball loose setting the Huskies up inside Beaver territory.
Then the bullet dodging commenced.
Oregon St. turned Seferian-Jenkins loose, but despite being 15 yards beyond everyone, he dropped a sure touchdown pass at the Beaver 40. Nevertheless, Washington drove to the Oregon St. 21 yard line, but the drive stalled. Montana missed another crack at a sure touchdown on the drive, over-throwing a wide open receiver. To further frustrate Husky fans, normally reliable kicker Eric Folk, one of the best in the conference, pushed a 39 yard field goal way to the right as the third quarter ended, and Oregon St. retained the 17-14 lead.
Mannion found Obum Gwacham on consecutive plays for an 11 yard gain, and then a spectacular 58 yard catch and run, above, down to the Washington 3. Stevenson capped the drive with the first of what would be 3 touchdown runs in the fourth quarter to put the Beavers up 24-14.
Jovan Stevenson ran for 3 touchdowns for Oregon St. against Washington.
DE Scott Crichton clobbered Montana on the first play of the next drive, and Andrew Seumalo recovered Montana's fumble on the Washington 15 yard line. Stevenson romped into the end zone for a 31-14 Oregon St. lead with 11:27 left.
With that, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian officially declared the Montana experiment a failure, and inserted Price into the game. Price, below, put together an 85 yard scoring drive that was capped by a 20 yard touchdown catch by Devin Aguilar.
Brandin Cooks fumbled while returning the kickoff, and suddenly the Huskies were in position to cut the deficit to 3 points midway through the fourth quarter. But Murphy had other ideas, stepping in front of a route for Kasen Williams for the interception on the goal line, below.
"I just felt like we needed a spark," Sarkisian explained. "We needed something that could kind of spark our team, and quite honestly, it did. I thought it worked. We went down and got a touchdown, and then we got the turnover there on the kickoff. But then a bang-bang play with Kasen Williams over the middle. Credit to OSU Safety (Ryan) Murphy for getting that interception. That was a heck of a play getting that interception on the goal line."
And then Mannion engineered the 99 yard, 5 and a half minute, scoring drive that put the game away when Stevenson plunged in from 1 yard out. A drive Huskies will long remember, and not just for the controversial pass interference penalty on Desmond Trufant that gave the Beavers a first and goal. It was the latest in a multi-season long series of apparently good pass break-ups that drew the infamous flag from 30 yards away.
It didn't appear to be pass interference, but neither have many others that the Pac-12 officiating crews have been flagging all year long.
Wheaton led Oregon St. in both rushing, with 66 yards on just 3 carries, and receiving, with 7 catches, for 125 yards.
Mannion completed 26 of 37 passes, for 339 yards, and 2 touchdowns. The yardage gave Mannion 3,033 for the season, only the seventh time a Beaver quarterback has passes for more than 3,000 yards in a season. Mannion is one of only 5 Oregon St. quarterbacks to accomplish the feat, joining Jonathan Smith, Derek Anderson (who did it 3 times), Matt Moore, and Sean Canfield.
Mannion, above, found 10 different receivers, a list that didn't include Jordan Bishop. Bishop, who has struggled with foot and ankle problems much of the season, was diagnosed to have a broken bone in his foot pregame.
Oregon St. ran for 145 yards, with Terron Ward and Stevenson both over 40 yards. Malcolm Agnew did not play, though he was declared "healthy" before the game. There was no indication as to why Agnew wasn't used.
Washington ran for 160 yards, including 109 by Polk, above, on 25 carries. But there were no rushing scores by the Huskies.
Montana, above, completed only 11 of 21 passes, for just 79 yards. Price completed 5 of 9 attempts, for 76 yards, all in his one drive, save for the interception.
"The best way to describe that game, and how I feel right now, is frustrated," Sarkisian said after the game. "It was a frustrating, frustrating game. So many opportunities to make plays and to get off the field defensively, that didn't happen."
Oregon St.'s offensive game plan, which featured more creativity than the entirety of the season to date, also deserves mention for its effectiveness at minimizing Washington middle linebacker Cort Dennison's significance. Dennison had 5 tackles and 6 assists, but he's usually the most dominant figure on the Husky defense, and wasn't the dominant force he normally is.
Anthony Watkins led the Oregon St. defense, with 6 tackles and 2 assists, and Crichton added 4 tackles, 2 sacks, and an assist, to go along with his school record fifth forced fumble of the season.
After three straight losses where the Beavers' execution left a great deal to be desired, the improvement against the Huskies was unexpected.
"I think that we just executed really well," Mannion said. "We made some big plays both through the air and on the ground. Overall, it was just a pretty well-played game." As to why that happened, Mannion felt "We had a great week of practice, and have been working hard on this, so I guess it all finally paid off. It feels great to come out and play in such a good game."
It was the 7th win for the Beavers in their last 8 games against the Huskies, and made amends at least a little for last year's 35-34 double overtime loss in Seattle.
Oregon St. (3-8, 3-5) now readies for their season ending trip to Eugene for the Civil War, against Oregon (9-2, 7-1), who lost to USC (9-2, 6-2) 38-35 tonight. The Ducks rallied from being behind 38-14, after the Trojans' Matt Barkley had thrown 4 touchdown passes. But Oregon placekicker Alejandro Maldonado missed a 37 yard field goal that would have forced overtime wide left as time expired.
Washington (6-5, 4-4) will return to Seattle to take on Washington St. (4-7, 2-6) at Century Link Field in the Apple Cup. The Cougars came from 10 points down at 2 different points in the 4th quarter to tie the game and force overtime on Andrew Furney's 17 yard field goal, but Utah (7-4, 4-4) got a field goal in overtime to defeat the Cougars 30-27.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)