In the 329 days since the Washington Huskies last took the field and beat the Boise State Broncos, we have seen many changes to our everyday lives. On Saturday night, life began to feel a little more normal while watching the ‘Dawgs beat the Oregon State Beavers 27-21 under the lights of Husky Stadium.
The Beavers certainly were not the opening matchup that Washington was expecting but if the daunting year of 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. Yet still, Michigan, Stanford, and California all have been slated as UW’s opening opponent at some point this year, and let me just say it feels great to finally watch Washington make their season debut.
The two biggest questions centered around UW have been about how the Jimmy Lake era will go and who will start at quarterback. Well, questions about Coach Lake will take a bit of time to answer but we finally got our answer about who would call the signals after weeks of over-analyzing tweets. Before the game, media members in the press box began to notice Morris warming up with the first team and it all became official when he came out tripping out for Washington’s first possession of the season.
In his opening drive, Morris came out and completed 3/4 of his passes before the Dawgs ran into a fourth down that led to complete insanity.
On 4th and 6 at the Beavers 40 yard line, senior punter Race Porter had to field a bad snap and made the mistake of trying to punt it. The punt was blocked and returned for an 11 yard Oregon State touchdown, not ideal.
UW responded to this disaster with a quick dosage of senior running back Sean McGrew who ripped off runs of 14 and 21 yards, scoring on the latter to knot the game at 7-7 and give the Huskies their first score of the 2020-21 season.
The next scoring play came from junior kicker Peyton Henry off a 25-yard field goal, this drive again saw explosive carries from McGrew as he ripped off a 27 yarder to put Washington in striking distance. Morris nearly had his first career touchdown on this drive but junior wideout Ty Jones could not come down with the catch after running a fade near the back right corner of the end zone. UW led 10-7.
Shortly after UW took their first lead of the season, they came away with their first takeaway as Oregon State QB Tristan Gebbia felt the pressure and was sacked by sophomore linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui, the fumble was recovered by fellow linebacker, sophomore Edefuan Ulofoshio. If you want to win football games, you need to be able to capitalize off of turnovers and the Huskies did exactly that as they took a 17-7 lead thanks to a 3 play, 32-yard drive capped off by a 15-yard sprint from senior running back Kamari Pleasant.
At this point, it felt like the Beavers would be in for a thumping but OSU’s star running back Jamar Jefferson began to find running room and did not lose sight of it throughout the rest of the night. While he did not cap off the Beavers scoring drive, he had gains of 10, 16, and 17 which eventually led to them scoring from 3 yards out to cut the deficit to 17-14.
With momentum teetering from purple and gold to orange and black, the Huskies kept the ball on the ground and turned another short drive into a touchdown with Morris scoring on third and goal by way of a QB sneak. Not a wildcat, not a play-action pass, just a sneak. Sometimes simple is just... better. UW pushed their lead out to 24-14 but again, Oregon State still had plenty of fight in them.
Whether it was groaning, sighs, or just straight frustrated noises, there were plenty of them that came about while watching the defense had pushed around. The Beavers were not doing anything special yet still, the Huskies could not get them off the field and build a lead. With the opening half nearing a close, a 9 play 56-yard drive that took 1:53 off the clock once again brought the score a bit closer. The drive was capped off by Jefferson who scored from 4 yards out.
Washington led 24-21 at the half.
Sure, the Huskies were playing good enough to be leading in the game but still, it felt like they weren't as solid as they should have been. Perhaps those are lofty expectations considering it was their season opener and OSU was playing their season game. The Huskies came out during the second half looking better than they had in the previous which makes me wonder what Coach Lake said to the team at the break, I mean the guy’s demeanor just screams ‘motivator’.
While Oregon State was unable to add any more points to the board, Washington added a 23 yard field goal off the leg of Henry to push their lead to 27-21. Only scoring three points in the second half is not anything to be excited about but they did enough to get the job done and that’s all you can ask for.
Once they pushed their lead to 27-21, The Beavers were somewhat driving down the field trying to pull off an upset but on 4th and 5, sophomore defensive back Asa Turner came away with an interception to seal the victory.
Offensively, Washington advertised a more aggressive approach to their offense but against OSU there was no need. Instead of aggressive through the air, the Dawgs were physical on the ground.
In Dylan Morris’s debut, he went 14/24 for 141 yards and rushed for a touchdown. He played more of a game manager role but when the running back stable is as hot as they were, that isn’t a problem. The three-headed attack was headlined by Sean McGrew who ran for 91 yards on 9 carries and a score. Kamari Pleasant also was busy, he ran the ball 12 times for 61 yards and a touchdown and lastly Richard Newton piled on 41 yards while leading with 15 carries.
Defensively, there was lots to be frustrated with at times but they only allowed 252 yards and forced two turnovers, if special teams played better and the offense had less drops than this game likely would not have been as close. Unfortunately this game was a nail biter which always lead to the defense being under a microscope... sorry fellas!
It took weeks longer than we all would of liked but in the end, the result is bittersweet. The Huskies are now 1-0 and the journey back to the top of the conference is underway.