The Washington machine will march on for another week.
The No. 5 Huskies went into Corvallis and pulled out a hard-fought 22-20 victory over No. 11 Oregon State on Saturday to stay undefeated, clinch a spot in the Pac-12 title game and remain firmly in the College Football Playoff hunt.
And the Huskies improved to 11-0 despite being shut out in the second half.
On a rainy night at Reser Stadium, Washington took a 22-10 lead into halftime thanks to a pair of Michael Penix Jr. touchdown passes to Rome Odunze but picked up only three first downs in the entire second half.
That was just enough. The third of those first-down conversions ultimately clinched the victory, and it came courtesy of the Penix-to-Odunze connection.
Oregon State controlled play throughout the second half, leaning on the ground attack to cut into Washington’s lead. First, a Damien Martinez touchdown run made it a 22-17 score in the final minutes of the third. The Beavers then added a field goal early in the fourth, cutting UW’s lead to 22-20 with 10:40 to play.
The OSU defense then quickly forced a punt, putting the ball back with DJ Uiagalelei and the offense with the chance to take the lead. The drive started at Oregon State’s own 5-yard line, but ultimately stalled near midfield.
After the Beavers turned the ball over on downs with 2:08 to play, UW faced a third-and-3 play from the Oregon State 40. Instead of running the ball to try to pick up the first down and keep the clock rolling, Washington coach Kalen DeBoer put the ball in the hands of his Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback with his favorite receiver as the intended target. They came through.
Penix delivered a perfect back-shoulder throw to Odunze for a 19-yard gain and the game-sealing first down.
It wasn’t greatest statistical performance of the season for Penix, but he made the plays when it counted. He threw for 162 yards and two touchdowns and also added a score on the ground.
Those Penix touchdowns, all of which came in the first half, allowed Washington to build its lead. But there was also a special teams gaffe from Oregon State that proved costly.
The first half was played in a downpour, and that seemed to affect the Beavers’ long snapper as he launched a snap over the head of his punter and into the end zone for a safety.
Those two points proved to be the difference.
What does the win mean for Washington?
Washington picked up a road win over a team ranked No. 11 in the country, meaning its last three victories have come over ranked opponents. Of course, there was also the win over No. 8 Oregon back on Oct. 14, so the Huskies have built up a strong resume as the regular season comes to a close.
The Huskies will close out the regular season at home next week vs. rival Washington State in the Apple Cup. WSU snapped a six-game losing streak with a blowout win over Colorado on Friday night. The Cougars can clinch bowl eligibility with a win over their biggest rival and also potentially play spoiler for UW’s national title hopes.
Simply put, Washington needs to keep winning to earn a spot in the four-team playoff. A rematch with Oregon in the Pac-12 title game is the most likely outcome, but Oregon State can shake things up next week when the Ducks and Beavers meet in Eugene.
Arizona is still alive, but Oregon State was eliminated from Pac-12 title contention with Saturday night’s loss.