Washington edges past Eastern, 30-27
Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin didn't want to hear about moral victories. Especially when the defending FCS champion Eagles had their shot at upsetting Washington.
''I don't think a lot of people outside of our true community or locker room really gave us a shot at (the upset),'' Baldwin said. ''We really believed if we could execute and make some plays we'd put ourselves in a position (to win). They made a few more plays and we made a couple mistakes, but I'm extremely proud of the way our guys kept fighting.''
Desmond Trufant intercepted Bo Levi Mitchell's pass in the end zone with 29 seconds left and Washington survived for a 30-27 win on Saturday, marking its first season-opening win since 2007.
Trailing by three, the Eagles took over at their own 5 with 1:17 left after forcing a Washington punt. Mitchell completed passes of 15, 32 and 23 yards to get to the Huskies 25 with 41 seconds remaining. After missing on first down, Mitchell forced a throw to Brandon Kaufman and Trufant came up with the biggest play of the game.
''There is a reason why they were national champs last year and why they are the preseason No. 1 in the country this year; they are a good team,'' Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian said. ''They have a good quarterback, a nice offensive scheme, play hard on defense and at the end of the day we are happy to be 1-0.''
Mitchell threw for 473 yards and three touchdowns as Eastern Washington torched the Huskies' defense all game long. Mitchell set career highs in yards, attempts and completions in dicing up the Washington secondary, but his two interceptions proved costly.
''I knew we were going to put up numbers, but I didn't know we were going to put up numbers like that,'' Mitchell said. ''The most important thing was we didn't put up the number 31 (points) to win. They came out and played great defense and even though they gave up a lot of yards, they played the red zone great. They shut us down once we got down there so that was a big part of it.''
The Eagles' game plan played to their strengths. Mitchell is a senior and Eastern's top three receivers are all juniors returning from their FCS title in 2010. The Eagles knew how Washington was going to play them defensively and took advantage.
''When you're playing up (a level), the team's not going to come out and change anything. They're going to come out and run their defense,'' Mitchell said. ''We knew they were going to get soft on us and be able to hit everything kind of short, open up all the lanes on them and then go deep when they try to come up too fast.''
Mitchell picked apart the Huskies constantly. When Washington finally started to creep forward, Mitchell hit a couple shots over the Huskies secondary to keep them scrambling.
Kaufman, who caught 10 passes for 140 yards, wasn't impressed with the Huskies.
''They're arrogant,'' Kaufman said. ''They're an arrogant team with arrogant players. We just kept doing damage and we could have won that game.''
Washington's Keith Price threw three touchdown passes in the first home start of his career and Chris Polk ran for 125 yards less than three weeks after having minor knee surgery.
Polk admitted the Eagles caught the team off guard.
''I'm actually very surprised. Not to take anything away from Eastern. They're a very good team, but we felt real confident coming in,'' Polk said. ''They showed up. I'm just glad we came out on top.
Price threw touchdowns of 7, 9 and 6 yards. Erik Folk added field goals of 53, 47 and 40 yards for the Huskies.
It was needed thanks to Mitchell's gutsy performance that nearly pulled what would have been the biggest upset in Eastern's history.
With the Eagles unable to run against the larger Huskies, Mitchell simply played pitch-and-catch all over the Husky Stadium turf, which was the final home opener at the venerable waterfront stadium before extensive renovations will send Washington across town to CenturyLink Field for the 2012 season.
Washington led 27-13 late in the third quarter before the Eagles rallied behind a 43-yard touchdown pass to Greg Herd and a 5-yard TD pass to Nicholas Edwards with 3:55 left that pulled Eastern within three.
But Trufant forced his second turnover of the night at a time the Huskies needed it the most.
''As a kid you always dream about getting the winning interception,'' Trufant said. ''It's a great feeling.''