The 12 Plays of Christmas: No. 1

With the holidays upon us, is counting down the top plays of the season. So which play tops the list for 2012? It's New Year's Eve, so there's no point in waiting. As voted on by, the top UW play of the season took two players to complete, and it was the shining example for a defense that took a 180 degree turn from their ragged 2011 form.

Coming off a huge three-game losing skid, there wasn't a ton of hope for the Huskies as they took on their fifth top-12 team in eight games. The Oregon State Beavers were a polar opposite, flying on a six-game winning streak. But Steve Sarkisian pulled out the lucky black jerseys one more time - they had beaten No. 8 Stanford the same way.

From the opening kickoff, both defenses showed themselves. The Huskies scored on a 45-yard Travis Coons field goal to take a 3-0 lead after one quarter, using Bishop Sankey and Kendyl Taylor to move the offense down field. The Beavers hadn't shown much on their opening possession, but a 25-yard pass from Sean Mannion to Markus Wheaton showed on their first play from scrimmage showed just how explosive OSU's offense could be at any time.

Wheaton and OSU's other top receiver - Brandin Cooks - had been double trouble for defenses throughout the Beavers' first six games. They had combined for 83 catches for 1321 yards, an average of nearly 16 yards a catch. People out west talked about the potent tandem of Marqise Lee and Robert Woods at USC, but by the end of the regular season there was only one team that had two receivers with over 1000 yards each; Oregon State. Wheaton and Cooks, simply put, were dynamite. If Washington was to have any chance in the game they had to do to the Beavers what Desmond Trufant did to USC's Lee: Shut them down.

The Huskies did one better - they took Wheaton out of the game via a monster shot from UW safety Sean Parker. Parker was on top of this game from the start. The 5-10, 190-pound junior has been a stalwart of Washington's secondary for two years now, providing ballhawking skills in the field and tough run cover when asked to play close to the line of scrimmage. His pairing with senior Justin Glenn proved to be a solid partnership throughout 2012, but against Oregon State they stood out.

During Oregon State's second drive of the game, Parker snuffed out a long drive with an interception in the UW end zone. But it was the next drive where the tide officially turned. After a UW kick-catch interference penalty put the ball inside UW territory, OSU Head Coach Mike Riley wanted to take advantage of their field position right away. Wheaton was slotted half-way from the end to the line of scrimmage and ran a route fading toward the OSU sideline between Parker and Glenn, who was over the top of the route.

With Wheaton looking back for Mannion's pass, he jumped in the air to grab it. With perfect timing, Parker came back to the ball and with Wheaton still in the air drilled Wheaton square up, forcing the ball out. Glenn, johnny on the spot, dove for the loose ball and came up with the interception while Wheaton was down on the turf. Ball to Washington.

The defensive play by Parker and Glenn set the tone for the rest of the game. Wheaton was taken out for precautionary reasons because of a concussion. The Huskies weren't initially able to capitalize on the big play, but did the following series, taking a 10-0 lead into halftime.

From that point on, Mannion had one less stud to throw to and after throwing his second pick involving Parker his confidence really flagged. Even though he did hook up with Cooks for a 54-yard touchdown, Mannion threw two more interceptions and was eventually replaced in the fourth quarter by Cody Vaz.

Parker's hit and Glenn's pick was the play of the season for Washington in 2012. It completely encapsulated all the great things about the Huskies' defensive work this past season, including their aggressiveness, their big-play ability, and ability to turn other teams over.

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