SEATTLE – Like he has all season, Mason Foster showed them the way.
On the opening kickoff of Thursday night’s so-called “blackout” game, the University of Washington linebacker drilled UCLA’s kick returner and celebrated with an arm-flexing celebration.
This time, they followed.
Led by a senior linebacker who was playing his final game at Husky Stadium, the UW defense seized the day in a 24-7 win over UCLA on Thursday night. The Huskies allowed season lows of 163 yards and 10 first downs to a UCLA offense that was forced to use its second, and its third, and its fourth quarterback.
“We knew we were a great defense; we just had to be a more cohesive group,” senior linebacker Victor Aiyewa said. “I think we’re coming along with perfect timing.”
Playing in their first game with black uniforms, the Huskies looked like a totally different team defensively. After giving up 40-plus points in each of its last three games, the UW defense rose to the challenge and put on its finest wire-to-wire performance of the season.
Foster, of course, led the way with 14 tackles.
“Me and (senior safety) Nate Williams had talked about it all week,” he said. “We wanted to show the Husky Nation how hard we play. A lot of these young guys look up to us, and when you play hard, good things will happen.”
What made the defensive performance even more amazing was that UCLA had 92 yards on a single drive midway through the first quarter but just 71 yards the rest of the way.
“I thought our defense was spectacular,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “Outside of that one drive there, they did a terrific job of playing the game, getting off the field, getting third-down stops. All in all, our guys played hard, they played smart.”
Led by Foster, quarterback Jake Locker and 15 other seniors, the Huskies grinded out one of their most patient victories in recent memory.
Locker, protecting sore ribs, threw just 21 passes while two UW running backs went over 100 yards – Chris Polk (138) and Jesse Callier (107).
It wasn’t a typical game for a Sarkisian-coached team, and yet he was just as satisfied with the workmanlike effort as he has been with some of UW’s high-flying performances over the past two years.
“In the second half of the season, in this conference, you’ve got to be able to run the ball (and) you’ve got to be able to play defense,” Sarkisian said. “And we did that (Thursday).”
Sarkisian set the tone for the second half while calling seven consecutive running plays on the opening drive of the third quarter.
After Locker threw an incomplete pass on third-and-5 from the UCLA 10-yard line at the end of that drive, the Huskies settled for a field goal and a 10-7 lead and never looked back. The Bruins (4-6 overall, 2-5 in the Pac-10) had just three first downs after halftime and threw interceptions on back-to-back fourth quarter drives to put the game away.
With the game still in the balance and 7½ minutes remaining, backup quarterback Darius Bell – he replaced injured starter Richard Brehaut, who was starting in place of Kevin Prince – threw a wobbly pass toward flanker Anthony Barr, only to have UW cornerback Quinton Richardson break off the outside receiver and pick it off. Richardson made a nifty, 28-yard return for a touchdown and a 17-7 lead with 6:22 remaining.
Washington 24, UCLA 7
UCLA—Franklin 31 run (Forbath kick), 5:20.
Wash—Locker 3 run (Folk kick), 5:57.
Wash—FG Folk 27, 11:06.
Wash—Richardson 28 interception return (Folk kick), 6:22.
Wash—C.Polk 2 run (Folk kick), 4:24.
|Time of Possession||29:18||30:42|
RUSHING—UCLA, Franklin 18-53, Coleman 7-30, Brehaut 3-13, M.Jones 4-10, Bell 3-9, Tunney 1-(minus 7). UW, C.Polk 26-138, Callier 10-107, Locker 4-9, Team 1-(minus 1).
PASSING—UCLA, Brehaut 5-14-1-42, Tunney 1-8-1-13, Bell 0-3-1-0. UW, Locker 10-21-1-68.
RECEIVING—UCLA, Franklin 2-15, Embree 1-16, Rosario 1-13, Barr 1-6,Harkey 1-5. UW, Je.Kearse 3-17, Goodwin 3-11, Aguilar 2-29, Callier 1-6, C.Polk 1-5.