Pride wounded by three straight losses and questioned to the point of being called soft, Washington found its resiliency.
By doing so, the Huskies stemmed a season spiraling downward and ended Oregon State’s shot at its first 7-0 start in school history.
"We needed it just for our own wellbeing," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. "It wasn’t just about the record at the end, it was for what’s inside of us. Pride is a powerful thing and you earn pride. It’s not given and we earned it tonight."
Bishop Sankey ran for 92 yards and two touchdowns, Travis Coons kicked a 30-yard field goal with 1:20 left and Washington took advantage of four interceptions from Oregon State’s Sean Mannion in a 20-17 upset of the seventh-ranked Beavers on Saturday night.
Oregon State (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12) was trying for the first 7-0 start in school history. Instead it became the second AP Top-10 team to be upset by the Huskies at home this season. Washington knocked off then-No. 8 Stanford 17-13 in late September.
But this victory was more meaningful and vital for Washington. The Huskies had spent the past three weeks being blitzed by Oregon, USC and Arizona to a combined score of 128-52. They were left embarrassed and questioning themselves after last week’s 52-17 rout by Arizona, then called out in some media circles for their lack of toughness.
Their response against the Beavers was sometimes ugly, but ultimately effective.
"We were challenged today. We got out early but they came back on us and we stood our ground and kept fighting," Washington cornerback Desmond Trufant said.
Mannion, returning from minor knee surgery, threw interceptions on consecutive possessions early in the fourth quarter after Oregon State had rallied from a 10-0 halftime deficit to pull even with a dominating third quarter. The last of Mannion’s four picks was snagged by Marcus Peters and two plays later Sankey scored from the 1 to give Washington (4-4, 2-3) a 17-10 lead with 8:19 remaining.
Oregon State backup quarterback Cody Vaz entered and threw a 29-yard TD pass to Connor Hamlett with 4:58 left to pull the Beavers even. But Keith Price led the Huskies 63 yards in 3:38 for Coons’ go-ahead field goal and snapped Washington’s skid.
"We knew that our manhood was being tested and it was about having pride and kind of changing what people thought about our team," Price said.
Price, who committed 10 turnovers in the previous three games, started Washington’s decisive drive hitting tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins for 20 yards, just his third catch of the night. On third-and-7, Kasen Williams made a juggling catch along the sideline for 19 yards and an additional 15 yards was tacked on for a personal foul against Oregon State to move the ball to the Beavers’ 18.
Price took an ill-advised sack on second down and couldn’t connect with Sankey at the goal line on third down, but Coons was able to give the Huskies the lead.
Price finished 18 of 30 for 194 yards, but the game plan Sarkisian designed was meant not to put Price in the position of being pressured by Oregon State’s defensive line. The Huskies ran the ball 20 times in the first half and 33 times total in the hopes of getting a lead and not being forced to catch up.
It worked, as Washington took a 10-0 lead at the half thanks to a 1-yard TD run from Sankey on fourth down and Coons’ 45-yard field goal. The deficit was the first for Oregon State since late in the fourth quarter against Arizona on Sept. 29.
"Our ability to make this thing a game and not to where they could get ahead and we’re dropping back and passing and exposing Keith … we didn’t want to the game to go that way," Sarkisian said. "That’s why there was such an emphasis on running the ball early."
It’s the fourth time in the Huskies’ history they have knocked off two top-10 teams in one season.
Oregon State’s win over Utah last week gave the Beavers their first 6-0 start in more than 100 years, but the biggest surprise in the Pac-12 finally stumbled even with its starting quarterback returning.
Mannion never got into a rhythm. He was often late with his throws or threw behind receivers, and wasn’t helped by the loss of star Markus Wheaton to a probable concussion in the second quarter on a pass that was knocked from Wheaton’s hands and to Washington safety Justin Glenn for one of Mannion’s four picks.
Mannion finished 18 of 34 for 221 yards and one touchdown. Taking over for the final two drives of the game, Vaz was 7 of 11 for 97 yards. Storm Woods rushed for 90 yards before leaving late with a knee injury, and Brandin Cooks had nine catches for 123 yards and a 54-yard touchdown for Oregon State.
"We made so much mistakes it was on us," Cooks said. "I felt like they wasn’t any different for any other team we played. We just made a lot of mistakes on our side. They’re a great team. Give them big ups for this win. They played their hearts out also, I just felt like we had mistakes on our own."