Road Dawgs No More

CORVALLIS - The comments were all too familiar: a coach who knows deep down in his heart that his football team is preparing the right way week after week and that they are capable of beating anyone, any time, and anywhere. In fact it's been their mantra the whole season. We've heard it all year long, and it wasn't surprising to hear the same words coming from a head coach yet again.

"We obviously failed in every way. Right from the opening kickoff, the big play on the opening kickoff, to every phase in the game, there's no getting around it. We just totally failed all the parts, we're all responsible.

"I thought it was a real good week. These are good kids, they work hard… It's like I said, we missed the boat here. We were not ready… and everybody is responsible, all the parts. Playing, coaching, all the parts are in it. I did not see it coming because I thought we had good practices, good enthusiasm for work… and then all the ways tonight, whether the emotion of the game, the competition of the game, the execution of the game, they won them all."

Sound eerily familiar? Steve Sarkisian's concession speech from five weeks ago at Arizona State? Nope. The above comments were those of Oregon State Head Coach Mike Riley after the Huskies obliterated his Oregon State Beavers Saturday night 69-27 - Washington's first win at Reser Stadium in a decade.

"It's been a long time since we've won in this stadium," said Sarkisian. "Personally it's been a long time since I've won here. It's been forever."

Sarkisian's own rhetoric about Washington being a 'good football team' had worn thin after their losses to ASU and UCLA on the road, the explanations were starting to sound more and more like excuses. But after Washington's record-setting win over OSU, the Huskies not only put their road woes to bed - they buried them. In fact it was such a comprehensive win, it marked the most points scored against the Beavers in school history, besting the 65 the Oregon Ducks laid on them in 2008.

To put the win in a timeline, Washington hadn't scored that many points on a team since the Huskies took my alma mater - the Whitman Fighting Missionaries - to the woodshed 77-0 in 1931. Those were the days where 'Repulse them, repulse them - make them relinquish the ball!' was more likely to be heard from the stands than 'Whose House? Dawgs' House!'

The chants have been altered slightly over time, but the game of takeaway is timeless - and with the four turnovers gained by the Huskies over OSU they also took a bit of redemption with them back north up the I-5.

I admit to my own fair share of head shaking Saturday night - whether in the press box or on field level - watching Washington surgically take apart an Oregon State team that was supposed to be jacked up for Senior Night, playing in front of a typically tough home crowd. I predicted a Washington loss, simply for the fact that all the talk had gone in one ear and out the other. It had become remarkably predictable, the same tired phrases used week after week to explain road losses in winnable games.

The Oregon State game was a 'show me' game, plain and simple. And wow…they showed me, and they showed every Washington fan that while the talk was still there they were fully capable of walking the walk. And they didn't just walk into Reser Stadium and win a football game; they got a small, incredibly valuable piece of their season back.

And along with it they shut me up something good, as well as all the naysayers - the folks that didn't think they had it in them mentally to get over the hump.

All they did was handle Oregon State in all three phases to the point where Sark had to call the Dawgs off in the fourth quarter. The Beavers were driving late in the third and looked like they might break through, but UW linebacker Shaq Thompson ripped their heart out with an 80-yard house-call that sent most of the Reser faithful that hadn't packed it in at halftime scurrying for the exits.

By the time OSU found the scoreboard early in the fourth, UW was up 48-0 and were asking me if I had any eligibility left. If you thought it was unusual to see John Ross playing nickel corner, the only thing holding me back from taking a snap or two was the fact that they didn't have pants my size.

And the most remarkable thing about all the remarkable things seen Saturday night? The Huskies did all this with a quarterback making his first career start. By Thursday Cyler Miles felt he was going to start, but that still didn't make the butterflies go away. "I trusted my preparation and the guys around me so there was really no room to get nervous," he said post-game. "Going into it I was expecting a dogfight. I assumed it would be closer, but we're out there playing to the best of our ability, and it happened to be somewhat of a blowout. I can't ask for anything better than that."

As poorly as the Huskies started out at UCLA, it was just the opposite Saturday night. A 62-yard John Ross return of the opening kickoff helped to set up Washington's game plan; run, run, run, run - and then run some more. When the frost had finally settled on the Reser Stadium field turf, Washington had run for 530 yards on 58 attempts - an average of over nine yards every time they ran. Only in their 1996 blowout of San Jose State have the Huskies ever been more productive on the ground.

Much like that special day - highlighted by Corey Dillon's NCAA record 305 all-purpose yards in the first quarter alone - Washington had three running backs romp for over 100 yards versus the Beavers: Bishop Sankey, Deontae Cooper, and Bishop Sankey.

"I think it speaks to how many great backs we have here," said Deontae Cooper, who found himself running for daylight not once, but twice in his play versus Oregon State. For the junior running back bedeviled by multiple knee injuries during his time at UW, his 11 carry, 166-yard effort was an incredible sight to see. He also scored twice.

"For Dwayne (Washington) to do what he did, for Jesse (Callier) to do what he did, for Bishop to do what he did, and for me to do what I did - we have a lot of good backs, and that's just the beginning."

And Marcus Peters…what more can you say about a player that comes up with a brace of interceptions, as well as a play on Chris Brown that I can only describe as theft. Not only did the sophomore from Oakland literally take the football away from the OSU running back, it was a play most ball-carriers would describe as robbing them of their manhood. It was a Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week-caliber performance, one of the best I've seen from a UW defender in quite some time.

Afterward, you would have thought the Huskies took time to let the aroma of the night linger just a bit. After all, the 24-Hour rule is still in place, win or lose. But in talking to them outside their locker room, it was clear this group wasn't going to let 24 minutes go by before addressing their next obstacle - payback.

"I'm thinking about it right now," Washington center Mike Criste said.

He was thinking about the Huskies' 18-point collapse in the Palouse last year. He was talking about the time when the Washington State Cougars robbed UW of a little of their manhood last year. He was talking about losing the last two games of a 2012 campaign that began with so much promise and had nine wins stamped all over it after Washington's last Pac-12 road win; a 38-3 pasting of Colorado.

But ever the wordsmith, Criste expressed his thoughts in a way only an offensive lineman could after slapping a 60-burger in Reser Stadium. What are you thinking about Mike?

"Just kicking their ass…just having a great week of preparation and going out there and doing everything to a T and come out with a win," he said.

"It's big. It's our rival. We want to get out of that seven-win streak. We want to beat them…bad."


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