3 takeaways from Washington's grind-it-out road win over Oregon State
Washington has been tested in ways few else in college football have this season. And the fifth-ranked Huskies have arguably the two best wins of any team in the country.
The unbeaten Huskies beat Oregon at home on Oct. 14 in what was the biggest game of the season to that point. In the weeks since, they have struggled to separate from the competition. Give credit where credit is due; it’s hard to go unbeaten and that pressure cranks up with each passing victory.
The Huskies stayed unbeaten on Saturday. They went on the road into a raucous environment in Corvallis and beat No. 11 Oregon State, 22-20. They looked the better team throughout, and when plays needed to be made late to preserve a slim lead, UW rose to the occasion.
Just like it has at every other point this year.
The march to the College Football Playoff continues. A spot in the Pac-12 title game is booked.
Here are three takeaways from the win.
Rome Odunze, man
Think about the Biletnikoff Award for a moment. The task facing that selection committee might be more daunting than the one facing Heisman Trophy voters. There are really only two or three obvious choices left for the Heisman. There are legitimately five or six guys who should feel robbed if they don’t bring home the Biletnikoff.
You have Marvin Harrison Jr. at Ohio State. You have Luther Burden III at Missouri. You have Malik Nabers at LSU. Yes, you have Troy Franklin at Oregon.
And then there’s Odunze.
There might not be a better pure receiver in the country than Rome Odunze.
He entered Saturday’s matchup with Oregon State with 59 receptions for 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns. Back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for the second time in school history is already a strong season. Odunze remains hungry, though.
He had seven catches for 106 yards and two more touchdowns — his seventh 100-yard game this year.
Odunze got the scoring started with a 12-yard touchdown catch from Michael Penix Jr. in the first quarter. He scored UW’s final points of the game on a 32-yard catch with less than 30 seconds remaining in the first half.
His biggest catch of the game came on a third-and-3 in the fourth quarter.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 19, 2023
With 1:58 to play and Washington needing 3 yards, the offense lined up in an empty set with a bunch to the field and one man to the boundary. The Huskies put the ball in Penix’s hands and told him to deliver a pass to his most trusted option.
The unbalanced look created a one-on-one for Odunze. Penix threw it at his back shoulder. Odunze made the proper adjustment, brought in the pass with ease, and UW moved the sticks. Three more kneel-downs was all it took to cap the win.
What a call. To empty out the backfield on a third-and-short and then put the ball in the air knowing that an incompletion would give Oregon State plenty of time to work with is to have complete and unwavering trust in not only Penix but also Odunze. That was a “go make a play” call for the Huskies’ most impactful playmaker.
And he delivered. Maybe he doesn’t win the award given to the sport’s best wide receiver, but he would absolutely deserve it.
Oregon State did everything necessary in the third
If a coaching staff was designing the perfect third quarter to try and beat a team like Washington, it’d look exactly like the one that played out Saturday night inside Reser Stadium.
Throwing an interception three plays into the third quarter, already trailing 22-10, looked like it would be quite damaging. But the Beaver defense didn’t yield a single yard after the quick change and then watched UW miss a field goal from 39 yards away.
On its next possession, Oregon State embarked on a 16-play, 78-yard journey that bled nine minutes and 56 seconds off the clock. Damien Martinez capped it with a touchdown run on second-and-goal from the 5 — one of his two scores on the night.
When Washington got the ball back, Penix fired incomplete on first down, Dillon Johnson got stuffed for a loss of 3 yards on second down, and then Penix missed on a deep shot on third down. UW sent the special teams unit onto the field after just 67 seconds to punt the ball back to Oregon State.
The Beavs then went 50 yards in 10 plays and 4:40 to kick a field goal and draw within two points.
UW finished the second half with just 69 yards of total offense.
Defense makes enough plays for Washington
With the offense forced to be a spectator in its own game, Washington’s defense had to step up. That group only finished with one sack, but it got after DJ Uiagalelei in the fourth quarter.
After a 19-yard pass to Martinez set up Oregon State with a first-and-10 from the Washington 15, all the momentum was with the home team.
Washington nose tackle Tuli Letuligasenoa swallowed up Martinez on a first-down run play for a 2-yard loss. On second down, Uiagalelei missed Anthony Gould in the back of the endzone. On third down, Bralen Trice was able to get enough pressure on Uiagalelei to force another miss and Oregon State settled for a field goal.
With more than 10 minutes on the clock, it was a fair decision from Jonathan Smith and the Beavers’ coaching staff. They’d get the ball again.
And UW would come up with another stop.
Again, it was pressure from Trice on Uiagalelei that forced the Oregon State quarterback into a rushed throw on fourth-and-5 near midfield. Jack Velling was in behind the Washington defense. Uiagalelei didn’t have the pocket or the time to be able to get it to him.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 19, 2023
Yes, Oregon State moved the ball in the second half. But it averaged under 5 yards a play. Given how much the UW defense was on the field, and how much was on their shoulders, that was a clutch fourth-quarter effort from the Husky defense.