Washington always found a way to lose close games last season.
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This year, the Huskies are 2-for-2 in finishing off tight games.
”Today in overtime proved it. We were really, really sound. We executed well, we were able to move the ball and we were able to make things happen,” Washington quarterback Jake Locker said.
Locker threw a career-high five touchdown passes, two in overtime to Jermaine Kearse, and Oregon State’s 2-point conversion attempt in the second overtime fell incomplete as the Huskies beat the No. 24 Beavers 35-34 on Saturday night.
A wild and chilly night along the edge of Lake Washington ended in the Huskies’ favor, but only after Washington blew an early 21-0 lead and celebrated a bit prematurely in overtime.
At the end, Washington (3-3, 2-1 Pac-10) snapped a six-game losing streak to the Beavers and kept its bowl hopes alive with a victory it absolutely needed facing a gauntlet of Arizona, Stanford and Oregon the next three weeks.
It also backed up the growth the Huskies showed two weeks ago with their last-second win over Southern California on the road.
”We’re coming to the realization as a football program that winning is really hard,” Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. ”We’ve got a football team still learning their way, but they made us very proud tonight.”
That learning was never more evident than the second overtime with the Huskies’ defense on the field after Locker hit Kearse with a 21-yard TD strike for a 35-28 lead.
After giving up a 23-yard pass from Ryan Katz to Jordan Bishop on third-and-20 to keep the Beavers drive moving, the Huskies thought the game was over when Katz’s fourth-down pass for John Reese fell to the turf in the end zone. The Huskies stormed the field, only then to realize a late flag from back judge Johnny Jenkins was for pass interference against Desmond Trufant.
”I wish it wasn’t called,” Sarkisian deadpanned.
Jacquizz Rodgers then scored from the 2 on the next play to pull Oregon State to 35-34. Beavers coach Mike Riley called timeout and decided to end it there. But Katz’s throw fell out of Joe Halahuni’s hands as he was hit by linebacker Cort Dennison and Washington’s celebration was on again.
”I did anything I could to make sure he wasn’t going to catch it,” Dennison said. ”All that matters is we won. I don’t care if I got my hand on the ball.”
None of the Beavers second-guessed Riley’s decision to end it there.
”I’m all for it. If we make it we’re a hero, if we don’t we’re a zero,” Rodgers said. ”We had a chance to win that game and we should have.”
Oregon State (3-3, 2-1) was stopped short in its attempt to begin conference play 3-0 for the first time in 42 years, but it wasn’t for the lack of effort by Rodgers.
Rodgers ran for 140 yards on 32 carries and three touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 49 yards and a 10-yard TD catch in the first overtime. The Beavers were playing their first game since Rodgers’ brother, James, was lost for the season because of a serious knee injury.
Katz was 17 of 31 for 206 yards, but threw three interceptions, including one in the end zone to Washington freshman Sean Parker in the third quarter when the Beavers appeared ready to take the lead. Katz had just one interception entering Saturday night.
”I just got to take care of the football,” Katz said. ”When you give them three interceptions, they have a good chance of winning the game, especially with a good quarterback like they have.”
And Locker was very good, especially in the first 20 minutes when Washington jumped to a 21-0 lead. Locker hit 10 of his first 14 throws for 175 yards and three TDs. He finished 21 of 35 for 286 yards and ran for another 60 yards. Chris Polk rushed for 105 yards for Washington, while Kearse had nine catches for 146 yards and four touchdowns. Kearse had TD catches of 16 and 45 yards in the first half, and his four TD grabs set a school record.
But after the quick start, the Huskies offense went flat, giving the Beavers an opportunity to rally. It was 21-14 at halftime and Rodgers pulled Oregon State even with a 4-yard TD run on the opening drive of the second half.
From there, the two teams combined for 13 consecutive scoreless drives. Not that there weren’t chances for both sides.
Oregon State was poised to take the lead late in the third quarter but on third-and-goal from the 13, Katz floated a poor pass into the end zone that was easily intercepted by Parker.
Then it was Washington’s turn for a miscue. The Huskies moved to the Oregon State 23 early in the fourth before Locker was sacked by Dwight Roberson on third down and Erik Folk’s 45-yard field goal attempt went wide left with 8:49 left. It was just the second miss of the season for Folk.
Locker later fumbled ending another Huskies drive, his second fumble of the night after colliding with D’Andre Goodwin on the opening drive of the game and turning the ball over at the Oregon State 10.