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No. 5 UW Huskies hang on to beat No. 10 Oregon State 22-20, clinch spot in Pac-12 Championship

Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., left, and Rome Odunze connected for two scores Saturday in Corvallis, Ore.  (Getty Images)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

CORVALLIS, Ore. — The record book won’t say that it started raining long before kickoff inside Reser Stadium, heavy drops drenching the turf and students in orange ponchos and matching hard hats. It won’t provide context for a first half that featured a flurry of lost fumbles, a safety on an errant snap and nine consecutive missed passes from a Heisman-candidate quarterback. Or a second half in which the fifth-seeded Huskies failed to score for the first time all season. It won’t paint a picture fit for this soggy, sloppy display.

No matter.

It’ll say that Washington won.

For the 18th consecutive game under Kalen DeBoer, No. 5 Washington (11-0) found a way.

“Obviously the weather was something both teams had to overcome,” DeBoer said after UW’s 22-20 win over No. 10 Oregon State (8-3, No. 11 CFP), which cemented his team a berth in the Pac-12 championship game. “I’m proud of the way our guys continued to just play. Shoot, [the result] ended up being really nice. But that was a grind. Guys were just finding a way to win, coming through when it matters most. We’ve done that a few times now.”

Never quite like this.

With 14:02 left in the third quarter Saturday, Oregon State quarterback DJ Uiagalelei threw his second interception to UW cornerback Jabbar Muhammad. The high-powered Husky offense took over on its enemy’s 22-yard line, with a 22-10 lead and an opportunity to diffuse the drama.

In that moment, a 17-game winning streak seemed relatively secure.

Enter an avalanche of adversity.

Following Uiagalelei’s interception, UW tight end Quentin Moore was called for a holding penalty on first-and-10. After three consecutive completions failed to move the sticks, sophomore Grady Gross knocked through a 34-yard field goal …

Which was nullified by a Moore false start.

Rather than deflating a rain-drenched crowd inside Reser Stadium, the Huskies handed the home team a needed lifeline.

The Beavers didn’t waste it.

Oregon State promptly produced a 16-play, 78-yard siege, culminating in a 5-yard Damien Martinez touchdown trot that narrowed the deficit to 22-17. The possession lasted nine minutes and 56 seconds, the second-longest scoring drive a UW defense has ever endured.

And after stomaching a bombardment of body blows, the Huskies were unable to answer, producing back-to-back punts in the second half. Oregon State added another 10-play, 50-yard drive, ending in a 35-yard Atticus Sappington field goal that shrunk the deficit to 22-20 with 10:40 to play.

Following another Husky punt, OSU took over on its own 5-yard line with 7:55 left, needing a go-ahead field goal. That drive ended abruptly on the Beaver 47-yard line, when a Uiagalelei pass attempt for tight end Jack Velling on fourth-and-5 soared high and incomplete.

Which is when — finally, mercifully — Penix delivered the decisive dart. On third-and-3 with 1:58 left, he took a shotgun snap, looked left and hit wide receiver Rome Odunze with a back-shoulder pass for a 19-yard gain that essentially ended the game.

As Odunze celebrated his seventh reception, Penix stood on the Beaver logo at midfield and fired an imaginary arrow.

“It’s just knowing your personnel, knowing your guy, and them being so in tune and on the same page,” DeBoer said of the fateful first down. “We see that really about 90-95% of the time in practice. So to me, it’s not a crapshoot, whether you’re going to make that play. It’s just a big guy with a big catch radius in Rome, and Michael knowing exactly where to put it. As long as the line gives him a free look to see where the defender is and have time to read it, he’s going to make that throw.”

Added Penix with a knowing grin: “I feel like the whole stadium knew where I was going with the ball. I don’t know why they didn’t give safety help. Man, he’s just a heck of a player. He was making big-time plays all day, so it was only right to go back to him.”

Indeed, Odunze — who snared seven catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns — kept producing plays.

It started with a 10-play, 63-yard touchdown drive on UW’s first possession. Penix completed four of five passes for 51 yards on the march, culminating in a floating 12-yard touchdown that Odunze ripped down over his shoulder.

Penix then missed nine straight passes in a steady rainstorm.

Of course, Oregon State — which entered the game with 12 interceptions (10th in the nation) and 53 pass breakups (19th) — might also deserve some credit.

“It was a factor,” Penix said of the relentless rain. “But we can’t make excuses for our circumstances. So we need to find a way to win and find a way to put the ball in the end zone. We didn’t do it as much as we wanted to today.”

The Beavers, meanwhile, owned a (temporary) antidote to the elements. They rushed for 42 yards, seven yards per carry and a 3-yard Martinez touchdown in a 10-play, 75-yard march that tied the game at 7-7.

At which point, the teams started trading mistakes. First, an Oregon State snap sailed over the head of punter Josh Green for a Husky safety. UW appeared set to extend a 9-7 second-quarter lead, but a 43-yard Dillon Johnson run ended with a chase-down fumble forced by Oregon State safety Kitan Oladapo on the Beavers’ 9-yard line. And one play later, the Beavs gave it back — as wide receiver Anthony Gould was stripped by Husky linebacker Carson Bruener. The Huskies punched it in three plays later, with Penix logging his third rushing touchdown in his past three games.

“When we installed that this week, [offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb] kept saying I was going to score on it,” Penix said of the 5-yard keeper score. “I knew I would, and we were able to get it done today.”

Despite the rain, and despite Martinez’s 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and despite Penix’s atypical inefficiency (13-28 passes, 162 passing yards, 2 TD), and despite the Huskies’ 10 penalties, and despite OSU’s 10-minute touchdown drive, and despite the chain saws regularly roaring out of Reser Stadium speakers …

UW got it done.

The record book won’t tell you how it happened.

But it’ll say that Washington won.