SEATTLE — It started off like a rout.
It ended more than a little tense.
But ultimately, the Washington Huskies survived, even if for the second straight year they left their fans with more heartburn than anticipated in its season opener.
This time, it was a 21-12 win over San Diego State in front of 53,742 at CenturyLink Field, a victory aided greatly by some curious calls by Aztecs coach Rocky Long, who eschewed kicking extra points or field goals all night.
Two failed two-point attempts and a failed fourth-down late in the game when a field goal might have been the percentage play loomed large when the game ended.
At least it didn’t take a last-minute interception for UW, as it did in a win over Eastern Washington in 2011.
Washington’s new-look defense often lived up to its billing as vastly improved, holding the Aztecs to only a trick-play touchdown through the first three quarters.
But the offense didn’t get much done after a 14-point first quarter, allowing the Aztecs to creep back in.
Washington will surely have to play a lot better to escape with a victory next week when it travels to Louisiana State.
UW appeared in command when it took a 21-6 lead with 10:13 to play in the third quarter on a 44-yard fumble return for a score by Will Shamburger.
On the play, San Diego State receiver Colin Lockett was hit hard by Talia Crichton and Princeton Fuimaono as he struggled for yards and the ball came out. Shamburger picked it up and raced for an easy score (the play was reviewed but allowed to stand).
It looked like Washington might turn it into a complete rout when Travis Feeney forced quarterback Ryan Katz into a fumble that Justin Glenn recovered at the 19.
But Bishop Sankey (Gonzaga Prep) fumbled the ball away at the 8.
That allowed the Aztecs to hang around, as did a missed 47-yard field goal by Travis Coons later in the third quarter.
San Diego State finally got its offense going in the fourth quarter and cut the lead to 21-12 Adam Muema scored on a 1-yard run with 12:06 left. But the Aztecs again failed on a two-point attempt and the Huskies still held a two-possession lead.
The drive was keyed by a 28-yard pass from Katz to Dominique Sandifer on a fourth-and-10 from the UW 32. On the play, UW cornerback and team captain Desmond Trufant left with an unspecified leg injury.
On its next possession, UW punted.
Again, the Aztecs marched down the field.
And again, Long made a somewhat curious call, deciding to go for it on fourth-and-six at the UW 8-yard-line rather than a field goal that would have made it a one-score game.
The play failed on an incomplete pass from Katz to tight end Gavin Escobar, who fell down under some minor contact with safety Justin Glenn with just under five minutes remaining.
UW then picked up a couple first downs on its next drive to run out most of the clock and preserve the win
After taking a 14-0 lead with 2:35 left in the first quarter, the UW offense turned largely lifeless, undone by a few key penalties and an inability to run much against a solid Aztec defensive front.
UW’s first touchdown came on a 35-yard drive that came after an interception by Tre Watson.
The touchdown came on a 2-yard run by Sankey with 9:23 to play in the quarter.
UW’s new-look defense then held the Aztecs three-and-out and the Huskies took over at their 38 and quickly drove back down the field for another score, this one coming on an 8-yard pass from Price to Kasen Williams.
San Diego State then got its running game going just a bit, though, and began the second quarter with a first down at the UW 47.
As the teams came back onto the field, SDSU receiver Tim Vizzi jogged to the sidelines, then stayed there on the field. UW didn’t notice him, though Husky coach Steve Sarkisian tried desperately to call time out, and Katz threw quickly to Vizzi, who ran untouched into the end zone to make it 14-6. The Aztecs, though, then went for two and didn’t get it as Katz was tackled behind the line.
Price completed 25 of 35 passes for 221 yards. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught nine passes for 82 yards.
Starting tailback Jesse Callier left early with what was termed a knee bruise and did not return. Sankey took over primary running duties from there and had 66 yards on 22 carries.