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Football column: Oregon State

Football column: Oregon State -

Running back Bishop Sankey finished with 179 yards and three rushing touchdowns against Oregon State and was one of three UW running backs to finish with more than 100 rushing yards against the Beavers. 

Photo by Anastasia Stepankowsky

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Huddled in the corner of Reser Stadium, the Washington football team belted out a rendition of “Bow Down To Washington” with the UW band and fans. Afterward, the Huskies sprinted across the field to their locker room, as if they hadn’t just played a three-and-a-half hour football game in 35-degree weather. Wide receiver Kevin Smith was at the head of the pack, and defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha chased him down from behind, grabbing the wide receiver’s towel out from his belt loop. Both had smiles stretched across their faces as wide as the UW’s point-margin Saturday night.

Despite missing their starting quarterback, the Huskies used a commanding effort on both sides of the ball to destroy Oregon State, 69-27, and get their first conference road win of the season and their first win in Reser Stadium since 2003.

Keith Price watched the UW’s rout from the sideline with a shoulder injury as redshirt freshman Cyler Miles got his first career start and led the Huskies to their largest point total since dropping 77 on Whitman in 1931. Miles finished with 162 yards on 15-of-24 passing, but he got a lot of help from his running back group.

The Huskies had three running backs finish with more than 100 yards, led by Bishop Sankey, who had 179 and three touchdowns. Deontae Cooper finished with 166 yards on the ground and two scores, while Dwayne Washington finished off the trifecta with 141 yards and two more touchdowns. It was the first time the Huskies have had three 100-yard rushers since 1996 against San Jose State, and it was the perfect complement for Miles during his first career start.

“That’s a big part of our game, is our running game,” Miles said. “It does take a lot of pressure off, and it makes my job easier, so I’m thankful for that.”

The Huskies owned the game from the first kickoff as freshman John Ross took the opening kick and returned it 62 yards to the Oregon State 38-yard line. From there, the Huskies rolled. Sankey bowled through the Beaver defense for 158 rushing yards in the first half, 125 of which came in the first quarter alone, and two touchdowns. Behind Sankey, the UW offense found a rhythm for Miles, who completed 10-of-19 first-half passes for 137 yards and one touchdown, which came on a 28-yard pass to Kevin Smith in the second quarter.

Not to be outdone, the UW defense smothered the Beavers, limiting quarterback Sean Mannion, who came into the game as the nation’s No. 1 passer. He threw two interceptions to Marcus Peters in the first half, one of which the UW offense turned into a touchdown. Going into halftime, the Beavers had -1 rushing yard to the UW’s 182 as the Huskies outgained Oregon State 319-122.

After a disastrous start last weekend against UCLA in which they turned the ball over twice and gave up 20 points in the first quarter, the Huskies rebounded in a big way by dominating the Beavers in all three phases of the game from the opening kick.

“I really challenged them on coming out tonight with great energy and being excited to have the opportunity in a good environment against a good football team, and I think that was key,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “I think our energy was great.”

After the break, Oregon State seemed to turn the tide as Brandin Cooks caught a short pass from Mannion and turned it into a big gain by beating cornerback Greg Ducre and shaking several UW defenders near the sideline. He briefly lost his balance near the sideline but stayed on his feet and ran into the end zone for an 86-yard touchdown, stealing back some of the UW’s momentum. However, the play was reviewed and changed to a 14-yard gain instead after it was determined that Cooks stepped out of bounds. Instead of their first points of the game, the Beavers ended up punting on that possession.

The UW defense was almost an immovable force, and when the Beavers made their first red zone trip of the night, the Huskies didn’t break. Instead, linebacker Shaq Thompson jumped in front of a Mannion pass and took the interception 80 yards into the end zone for the UW’s third interception of the game to give the Huskies a 48-0 lead in the third quarter. Peters added to the UW’s turnover party with a forced fumble and a recovery when he pulled the ball out of OSU running back Chris Brown’s hands. It was Peters’ third forced turnover on the night and helped the Huskies get their turnover margin to plus-7, three short of their defensive goal.

“We just wanted to have an onslaught of the ball,” Peters said. “Coach told us that we needed to create at least two turnovers a game, and the defense and the secondary, we pride ourselves on that.”

The Beavers saved the shutout early in the fourth quarter with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Mannion to Cooks and got three more touchdowns in the final frame, but the Huskies locked up the game long before with their most dominant performance of the season, finishing with 692 total yards, which is second in school history. And on the sidelines and in the locker room after the game, the UW’s mind was already on next week’s game with Washington State.

“I’m thinking about it right now,” center Mike Criste said after the game. “[I’m thinking about] kicking their ass.”

Reach Sports Editor Thuc Nhi Nguyen at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @thucnhi21

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