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October 28, 2012

Win should give Huskies confidence boost

The run game and the defense. That's what carried Washington into a 20-17 win over No. 7 Oregon State.

Saturday night, 60,842 watched Washington play host to an undefeated Oregon State football team at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Despite the cold and rain, it looked like most stayed to watch. Leaving wasn't a choice with such a close game, quite reminiscent to Washington's win against Stanford earlier this season.

Getting into a pass-mode wasn't an option for the Huskies. They came into this game with the plan to run the ball.

This run game carried the offense, and tailback Bishop Sankey got quite the workout in.

Quarterback Keith Price knew he wouldn't be throwing the ball a lot during this game. He's been struggling to find his rhythm. Oregon State's secondary is great. Put that together, and throwing just wasn't really in the cards.

"I knew what the game plan was about," Price said. "I was willing to do whatever it took to win."

So that meant handing the ball off to Sankey, who has continued to prove that he is growing as a strong runner for Washington's offense.

Sankey carried the ball 25 of the 33 rushes. He went for 92 yards and two touchdowns.

"I thought Bishop Sankey ran hard," Price said. "I thought he played his heart out."

Price went 18/30 with 194 yards and one interception. Of those 18 completions, he found wide receiver Kasen Williams most often, five times.

The pass game obviously wasn't the main focus, but Price said he felt like he had pretty good rhythm. Head coach Steve Sarkisian thought it was "really cool" that Price took his chances when Williams was isolated.

And again, the defense stood out ? on both sides.

"There were a lot of punches being thrown. Literally," Sarkisian said. "I'm happy for our players. They work really hard and they want to do well, and I'm proud of their ability to respond when challenged."

It was an aggressive, hard-fought game on both sides. Lots of hits. Lots on the line.

Oregon State wanted to stay undefeated. Washington wanted to end its three-game losing streak.

Washington also wanted to prove that they're not the "softest, least resilient team in the Pac-12," as The Oregonian columnist John Canzano wrote on the Tuesday leading up to the game.

Oregon State's quarterbacks Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz each got a turn being sacked ? Mannion by Shaq Thompson and Vaz by Talia Crichton. Mannion also got picked off four times. Wide receiver Markus Wheaton got hit so hard in the second quarter he couldn't return to the game.

Safety Sean Parker had a huge game for the Huskies.

Parker picked off Mannion in the end zone for a touchback, giving the Washington offense a chance back on the field.

But they had to punt it away on fourth.

So, let's try again.

Parker was the one with the huge hit on Wheaton that kept him out of the rest of the game. With the hit, the ball flew out and safety Justin Glenn was there to catch it for the interception.

"Sean (Parker) is a really cool kid in that he prepares so well and he wants to do so well mentally and physically, and he's had times in the season when he's almost trying too hard," Sarkisian said. "Tonight, he played a really disciplined game."

Sarkisian said he thought this was arguably Parker's best game of the year.

Parker agreed, "by far."

Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox was proud of the way Parker responded after last week's loss to Arizona.

"I love having him on our team," Wilcox said. "The kid loves playing football. He probably didn't play as well last week as he thought, or expected himself to, or we expected him to, and so I think it was good for him to come in this week and make some plays for us."

Parker said that this game was an opportunity to redeem himself, and he did just that.

Players on this Washington team agree ? this win was "huge."

"It does a lot to a team's confidence," Price said. "We know that these next three games aren't going to be easy."

Parker agrees, especially with a Friday game coming up on the road.

"Big momentum boost," Parker said of the win.

Sarkisian said he didn't really care about the record. More so, he cared about the restoration of the team's belief in themselves.

"We needed it just for our own wellbeing," Sarkisian said. "It wasn't so much about the record at the end; it was for what's inside of us. Pride is a powerful thing, and you earn pride, it's not given, and we earned it tonight."

Amazing how much one win can enhance a team's confidence.

Maybe it's what the Huskies needed in the second half of their season.

"We can beat anybody we play," Parker said. "We just got to show up and execute."

Quick hits:

Sean Mannion was 18/34 for 221 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.

Cody Vaz, who took over for Mannion in the fourth, was 7/11 for 97 yards and one touchdown.

Oregon State came out with purpose to start the second half. After the first half, Oregon State had 110 total offense yards. By the end of the game, they had 427. Washington ended the game with 293 total offense yards.

Travis Coons got a lot of work in during Saturday's game. He punted seven times for 293 yards, took five kickoffs for 280 yards and made two field goals (a 45-yarder in the first quarter and a 30-yarder in the fourth).

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