Desmond Trufant's late interception seals victory for Huskies
Eastern Washington kept the pressure on Washington throughout before Washington hung on for a 30-27 win in front of 58,088.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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The easy entry into the 2011 season turned instead into the great escape for the Washington Huskies.
Washington — playing a lower-division FCS team for the first time in school history — appeared on the verge of one of their more shocking defeats as Eastern Washington stood at the Huskies' 25-yard line and time running out.
But the Eagles — who hadn't played it safe getting to that point — took one last gamble and lost as Desmond Trufant intercepted a Bo Levi Mitchell pass in the end zone, preserving a 30-27 win for the Huskies.
"I'll never sit on it and just play for overtime," said Eastern coach Beau Baldwin, whose team was 2 for 4 on fourth downs. "We were going to take a couple shots to the end zone and try to win that sucker."
For that, Trufant was thankful.
He said he thought Eastern might try to throw a deep post fade to 6-foot-5 receiver Brandon Kaufman, with whom he had been matched up all day.
"We knew they were going to take a shot," Trufant said. "I'm just happy they threw my way. We softened up the coverage a little bit and the ball came my way and I just went up to go get it."
Baldwin said the pass was supposed to be underthrown a bit more so Kaufman could dip inside and snatch it away. Instead, Trufant was able to stay in front of Kaufman and pick it off.
It was the fourth turnover of the day for the Eagles while UW had none. And that combined with a UW edge in special teams made up for Eastern's surprising 504-250 edge in yards.
"We can all look at ourselves in the mirror and know we could have been better and that's our goal," said UW coach Steve Sarkisian.
But Sarkisian said he wasn't too alarmed by the outcome, saying he knew the defending FCS champion Eagles would be "extremely scary" and that many of the mistakes UW made are "easily fixable."
"Tomorrow morning, half the teams in the country are going to wake up 0-1 and we happen to be on the other side of it this time, that is 1-0," he said. "But yet we understand we have a great deal of work to do to get better."
Indeed, UW didn't complete a pass for longer than 10 yards all game, playing it conservative in quarterback Keith Price's first game as the full-time starter and having to depend on younger receivers after senior Jermaine Kearse suffered an ankle injury early on. Price also was hampered after suffering a sprained knee early in the second quarter that limited his mobility.
Washington's offense instead revolved around junior running back Chris Polk, who rushed for 125 yards on 23 carries, carrying the load despite having had arthroscopic knee surgery Aug. 18 that had many speculating he might miss a week or two.
"He was 100 percent ready to go, so that's why we played him," Sarkisian said.
Price threw three touchdown passes, all coming off short drives set up either by Eastern turnovers or UW special-teams plays. The Huskies also got a perfect game from kicker Erik Folk, who made field goals of 40, 47 and 53 yards.
Eastern led 10-7 at the end of the first quarter, scoring on a 32-yard touchdown pass that came on a fourth-and-12 at the UW 32.
But the Huskies controlled the middle part of the game — at least on the scoreboard — and led 27-13 late in the third quarter after freshman Kasen Williams of Skyline scored on a 6-yard pass from Price on a drive set up after Eastern fumbled a punt.
Eastern, though, never quit coming, Mitchell completing 39 of a whopping 69 pass attempts for 473 yards, the second-most in Eastern history and fourth-most ever thrown against the Huskies.
"It was difficult to generate a pass rush," said Sarkisian, whose team will get another chance at defending a similar offense next week when Hawaii comes to town. "He was getting rid of the ball so quickly."
A 5-yard pass from Mitchell to Greg Herd made it 30-27 with 3:50 left.
After Polk picked up one first down, the Huskies were then stopped and Eastern took over at its 5-yard line after a 55-yard punt by Kiel Rasp.
No matter. Three Mitchell completions moved the ball to the UW 25, and a loud corps of Eagles fans dreaming of the upset.
On second down, Mitchell went for it all.
Washington defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu said he turned and looked and "had no doubts seeing where the ball was that Tru (Trufant) was going to make the play. When it came down to crunch time, we were able to make the plays."
Said Mitchell: "I take it on me. I think I could have put the ball in a different spot. ... I wanted it a little bit short where (Kaufman) could go up and get it. Kauf saw something a little different in the corner and I thought he should have slowed down."
It was a fifth straight win for UW dating to last season and the first time since 2007 they are 1-0, even if it came in a way few envisioned.
"I was actually very surprised (the game was so close)," said Polk. "Not to take anything away from Eastern — they are a very good team. We felt real confident coming in. But they just showed up. I'm just glad we came out on top."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com.
|The 500 Club|
|For the fourth time since Nick Holt took over as defensive coordinator, the Huskies have allowed more than 500 yards in a game.|
|Sept. 3, 2011||EWU||504||W, 30-27|
|Nov. 6, 2010||@Oregon||522||L, 53-16|
|Sept. 18, 2010||Nebraska||533||L, 56-21|
|Oct. 3, 2009||@N.Dame||530||L, 37-30|
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