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Huskies can't overcome costly third quarter

The first road game was the test that the Washington football team was expecting.

Nebraska delivered the big hits, tough environment and adversity. And the Cornhuskers capitalized on the mistakes made by the Huskies, but at the end of the day the UW proved it is a resilient squad, even on the road in Lincoln, Neb.

The final score of 51-38 doesn’t look great for a Husky team that gave up 56 points to Nebraska at home a year ago, but it wasn’t a blow out by any means, although the game seemed out of control early in the second half.

A 20-17 halftime deficit for the UW quickly turned into 27-17 as the Huskies went three-and-out on the opening possession of the half and watched Nebraska march down the field for a touchdown. The ensuing kickoff was muffed by freshman Bishop Sankey — a lightly used running back that has mainly seen time on special teams — and recovered by the Cornhuskers at the UW 1-yard line.

The mishap on the kickoff will be pointed to as the turning point in the game, as momentum shifted toward the Nebraska bench that wouldn’t be regained, but there were earlier calls by the officials that seemed to sway the game away from the UW.

Near the end of the second quarter, UW senior Kiel Rasp punted the ball away, and it hit off a Cornhusker return man that tried to let the ball bounce. Although the Huskies’ Jamaal Kearse recovered the fumble, the referees said the Huskies had impeded the returner’s right to the ball, even though replays clearly showed the return man tripped on a teammate.

After the UW couldn’t move the ball to begin the second half, Rasp hit another booming punt toward the Cornhuskers. UW junior Desmond Trufant met the Nebraska returner with a booming hit a split second after the ball arrived, but the referees once again threw a flag, this time for an early hit personal foul.

Despite playing fairly evenly with Nebraska in the first half, the personal foul call on the punt and the kickoff blunder caused the wheels to fall off for the Huskies, who were outscored 17-0 during the pivotal third quarter.

The Huskies wouldn’t go away in the fourth quarter, though, outscoring the Cornhuskers 21-14 with the big play coming in the form of a 52-yard touchdown strike from UW sophomore quarterback Keith Price to junior receiver James Johnson — who had two touchdowns in the game — with 4: 27 left.

Even though they gave up 326 yards on the ground, the UW defense gave the offense another chance with a fourth-down stop with less than three minutes left. Price let the chance get away, however, as his second-down heave from the Washington 47-yard line fell into the hands of Nebraska’s Austin Cassidy with less than two minutes left in the game and the Huskies without timeouts.

Price played well despite the odds, completing 21-of-37 passes for 275 yards and four touchdowns, along with two interceptions. The UW coaches might be more concerned about Price’s left knee, which left the sophomore with a noticeable limp for the final quarter of play.

Junior running back Chris Polk added another 100-plus-yard game to his repertoire with 130 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

The UW won’t remember this game as one it lost control of on the road; it won’t be one that is remembered as a solid offensive performance against a tough defense. Instead, it will be remembered as a game that the Huskies kept close in spite of adversity, and it will undoubtedly be a great learning tool as the season progresses.

Reach Sports Editor Josh Liebeskind at sports@dailyuw.com.

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