CHRISTIAN CAPLE

Caple’s Takeaways: No. 5 UW Huskies get important win over OSU

Nov 18, 2023, 9:26 PM | Updated: 9:41 pm

UW Huskies Jabbar Muhammad...

UW Huskies Cornerback Jabbar Muhammad celebrates their win over Oregon State. (Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

(Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

CORVALLIS, Ore. — The No. 5 UW Huskies stayed unbeaten — and clinched a berth in the Pac-12 Championship game — with a 22-20 victory over No. 11 Oregon State on Saturday at Reser Stadium.

UW Huskies 22, Oregon State 20: Box scoreDawgs clinch spot in Pac-12 title game

Here’s what to know.

Big risk, big reward

Leading by two points with 1:58 showing on the clock and with Oregon State out of timeouts, the Huskies needed only to convert a third-and-three to ice the game.

Rather than run the ball — as they had on first and second down, with Dillon Johnson — the Huskies instead called for the kind of play that has served them well all season: a back-shoulder strike from Michael Penix Jr. to Rome Odunze.

An incompletion would have stopped the clock and forced a difficult decision on fourth down. But Odunze, covered one-on-one, hauled in the throw for a 19-yard gain to allow Penix to kneel out the clock.

“They made the play just like they’ve always done — came through,” said UW Huskies coach Kalen DeBoer. “There’s other options on that play, very similar to the Oregon game, where you have something to one side of the field. Mike can always take that. It’s a very high-percentage play for us. Probably even could have got the first down there. But him just knowing your personnel, knowing your guy, and them just being so much in tune and on the same page.

“We see that, really, about 90, 95 percent of the time in practice. To me, it’s not a crapshoot whether you’re going to make that play.”

Said Penix: “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. He’s just a heck of a player. He balled out all night.”

Indeed, Odunze carried the Huskies’ offense, catching seven passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns on a night UW gained just 272 yards total. Both of his scores came in the first half — both against single coverage, one from 12 yards and one from 32 — and he pushed his season receiving total to 1,206 yards, eclipsing last year’s output of 1,145.

The Jabbar Muhammad show

Junior cornerback Jabbar Muhammad was one of Washington’s most important offseason acquisitions, and he made several important plays in Saturday’s first half — and then another one nearly as soon as the second half began.

In the first two quarters, Muhammad recorded three pass breakups, an interception and a fumble recovery. The latter led to UW’s second touchdown, which gave the Huskies a 16-7 lead.

On OSU’s first possession of the second half, Muhammad intercepted quarterback DJ Uiaglelei and returned the ball to the Beavers’ 22-yard line. And he recorded his fourth pass breakup on OSU’s final possession.

Wasted opportunities

The Huskies took a 12-point lead into halftime, and could have put even more pressure on Oregon State immediately after the third quarter started.

That’s when Muhammad snagged his second interception, setting up UW with a first down at Oregon State’s 22. But a holding penalty thwarted the drive, and a false start pushed Grady Gross’ field-goal try back to 39 yards — which he missed, allowing OSU to escape the sequence unscathed.

The Beavers followed with a 16-play, 78-yard journey that took 9:56 off the clock and ended with a Damien Martinez touchdown run, turning the Huskies’ empty possession into a game-changing drive. Martinez finished with 123 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries, and OSU quarterback DJ Uiagalelei added 53 yards on six attempts.

Washington also failed to capitalize after a bad Beavers punt snap led to a safety in the first quarter. Leading 9-7, the Huskies moved the chains only once before two penalties — holding and a false start, again — forced them to stall out and punt.

UW committed 10 penalties for 64 yards; Oregon State committed eight for 75.

Rainy skies, wet field

The game was played in a steady downpour, making it difficult for players to hold onto the ball and for both teams to throw it. Penix completed 13 of 28 passes for 162 yards; Uiagalelei completed 15 of 31 for 166.

“I’d say it was a factor, but we can’t make no excuses for our circumstance,” Penix said. “We had 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, but it was about finding a way to win. The defense made big-time stops when we needed it the most.”

Forced to pass on fourth-and-five on OSU’s final possession, Uiagalelei threw incomplete over the middle with 2:08 remaining.

This column from UW Huskies football insider Christian Caple is exclusive to Seattle Sports. Subscribe to OnMontlake.com for full access to Caple’s in-depth Husky coverage.

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