Washington’s offense seemed at home in Autzen Stadium.
Literally, Kalen DeBoer’s team wore purple jerseys and pants – a look usually reserved for Husky home games – during the 114e meets Pacific Northwest rivals on Saturday. A conspiracy theorist might view this choice as a quiet reflection of the road crew’s comfort within notoriously hostile confines.
But UW’s offense — aside from an untimely turnover — spoke loud enough in Saturday’s stunning 37-34 upset victory.
And after a four-year wait, Peyton Henry delivered redemption.
Henry – who missed a 37-yard field goal that would have sunk Oregon at the end of regulation in an eventual 30-27 loss in 2018 – drilled a 43-yard field goal with 35 seconds left to sink the Ducks .
After Washington won the toss and elected to host for the first time this season, Michael Penix Jr. and Co. produced a 12-play, 75-yard drive — courtesy of a pair of critical third-position conversions. On third-and-14 from the Husky 44-yard line, Penix took a shotgun blast, swung away from the unblocked edge DJ Johnson and climbed along the left sideline for a 15-yard gain . He hit Rome wide receiver Odunze for 11 extra yards on third and 10 three plays later.
That set up senior tailback Wayne Taulapapa, who picked up a hand and squirted through a holeshot for a 13-yard touchdown – benefiting from blocks by right tackle Roger Rosengarten and right guard Henry Bainivalu. As Taulapapa entered the end zone, Bainivalu – a sixth-year senior from Sammamish – raised both massive hands to the sky.
But UW’s opening statement preceded a pair of missed opportunities. The Huskies stalled in the red zone twice in the first half, settling for Henry’s field goals from 30 and 27 yards. Sophomore running back Cameron Davis was stuffed on both counts – a 1-yard run on the third-and-two of the 8 to end the first quarter, and a winless catch on the third-and-four of the 10 at the end of the second.
Field goals don’t win rivalry games – especially against the nation’s No. 6 team, as well as the No. 3 offense (43.1 points per game).
But the turnover numbers certainly help.
Speaking of expensive red-zone snafus, the Ducks produced one of their own. Trailing 10-3 early in the second quarter, Oregon quarterback Bo Nix first parted wide – teasing a trick play – before lining up under center. On third-and-one from the Husky 4, Nix fumbled the ensuing snap, and he was thrown forward, before linebacker Alphonzo Tuputala fell on it at the 1-yard line.
But when the Ducks didn’t fumble, the UW defense could barely compete.
Oregon’s running game – which entered the game ranked fifth in the nation in yards per rush (5.81) and 11e rushing (231.22) – UW predictably dominated, rushing for 312 yards and 6.1 yards per carry. Running back Bucky Irving had 143 yards on just 19 carries (7.5 yards per carry), bouncing off weak tackle attempts. Nix had a 10-yard touchdown to tie the game at 10-10 late in the second quarter, finishing with 53 yards and 7.6 yards per rush.
But after trailing 13-10 to start the second half, Nix’s arm cut UW even deeper.
Auburn’s senior transfer unwound a pair of long touchdowns in the third quarter, exposing a Husky secondary that lost starting cornerback Jordan Perryman in UW’s opening defensive drive. He escaped a Bralen Trice sack long enough to throw a deep ball to wide receiver Dont’e Thornton – who had sprinted past nickel Dominique Hampton – for a 46-yard score that gave the Ducks a momentary 17-yard lead. 13. And at the end of the third, he rolled right and hit wide receiver Troy Franklin – who beat true freshman corner Jaivion Green, Perryman’s backup – for a 67-yard touchdown. Sophomore Noah Whittington fired on a 29-yard touchdown run between the two.
And yet, in the middle of the barrage, UW’s offense continually responded. Trailing 17-13, the Huskies mounted a 10-play, 65-yard drive – culminating in a 3-yard Davis touchdown run. Leading 24-20, Penix uncorked a ruthless rainbow under which receiver Ja’Lynn Polk centered for 76 yards.
But trailing 31-27, Penix finally – momentarily – blinked.
The redshirted junior quarterback capped an 11-play, 98-yard walk with a colossal error – forcing an interception from linebacker Jeffrey Bassa on the first and Oregon 1 goal. The Ducks then notched a methodical 20 games, 91-meter, 10 minutes and 33 seconds on the road – although it ended with an ominous thud.
On third-and-five of the 10, Nix sprinted past a crafted keeper and was stoned by safety Alex Cook for a 2-yard gain. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound quarterback was hurt on the play – and rather than going in fourth-and-third to seal the win, Oregon settled for a 26-yard field goal to extend his lead at 34-27.
This was a short track. Third-and-seventh from the UW 38-yard line, Penix ducked back and found wide receiver Taj Davis sprinting along the left sideline for a stunning 62-yard score that tied the game at 34-34. Penix completed 26 of 35 passes for 408 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the win.
With true freshman quarterback Ty Thompson for Nix, the Ducks were unable to respond. Oregon went there in fourth-and-one on its own 34 … and Whittington slid to the turf for a disastrous one-yard loss. Henry coolly connected on a 43-yard field goal four plays later, shaking his fist in the same stadium that hosted his most heartbreaking error.
Nix returned in time for the Ducks to mount a desperation campaign. On the fourth-and-14 of his own 21, Nix hit Troy Franklin down the middle for 19 yards. Husky 38’s first-and-10 with six seconds left, he appeared to regain 15-for-15 more – but a controversial illegal contact penalty on Franklin canceled the game. Oregon’s Hail Mary on expiration time fell incomplete.