Inside UW’s 18-play, 92-yard drive that extinguished Oregon State

UW’s 18-play, 92-yard drive was built with a hundred individual bricks.

It was built, per UW coach Kalen DeBoer, by “players that will continually grind and execute and make the play that is needed to extend the drive.”

Case in point: Devin Culp. With 3:45 left in the fourth quarter of Washington’s eventual 24-21 win over Oregon State, quarterback Michael Penix Jr. took a shotgun snap and let Culp — his 6-foot-4, 239-pound tight end — leak out of the backfield. On third-and-six from the Husky 8-yard line, Culp collected the pass and surged forward for an 8-yard gain. Afterward, DeBoer credited Culp “catching it and knowing where the sticks are and being physical enough to surge ahead for the first down.”

Of course, that was also a familiar theme. The Huskies — who have converted 54.6% of their third-down attempts this season, ranking third in the nation — went 11 for 18 against Oregon State. That included conversions on third-and-16, third-and-11, fourth-and-10 and third-and-goal from the 24.

Last week, UW offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb noted that “even though we’ve been good at it, eliminating the opportunities to be in [third-and-long will be important]. If we stay in manageable [downs and distances] we will win a lot of football games. We can stay on the field and score points if that’s the situation.”

UW scored Friday night despite the situation — despite unappetizing downs and distances, despite a 25-minute power outage, despite a disciplined Oregon State defense, despite wind gusts of up to 40 mph (according to the ESPN2 broadcast).

Those gusts did not appear to faze Penix; very little did. Following the Culp completion, and a 15-yard Cameron Davis run, Penix found Ja’Lynn Polk over the middle for 13 yards on third-and-seven — then tacked on a defensive pass-interference penalty and a 10-yard completion to go-to wide receiver Rome Odunze.

“With 4:33 left in the game, Michael Penix started spraying it around, finding receivers left and right,” said ESPN2 color commentator Andre Ware. “Guys in his face, doesn’t matter. He’s accurate with the football.”

“We all just knew those are the moments we’re built for,” added Odunze, who led the Huskies with seven catches for 102 yards. “Ninety-seven yards [to reach the end zone from the start of the drive]? Go down and score and put our team in the lead. There was just a confidence and no doubt that we were going to go out and do it. That’s how we carry ourselves into every drive.”

Washington (7-2) may have needed close to 97 yards, considering the wind. But DeBoer said afterward he felt comfortable with kicker Peyton Henry attempting a field goal inside the 20-yard line.

Which is why Cameron Davis’ catch loomed so large. On third-and-six from the Oregon State 21, with 1:08 left, Penix took a shotgun snap, looked left and delivered a dart to Davis — who laid out to snatch the football and move the sticks. It was the exact route that had resulted in a Davis drop on UW’s opening drive.

“So I was like, ‘I’ve got to make up for it,’ ” said Davis, who contributed 55 rushing yards, 27 receiving yards and 80 kick-return yards in the win. “I could see the way the defense was aligned. I was like, ‘I’m getting this for sure.’ ”

Added DeBoer, on the field-goal decision Davis helped the Huskies avoid: “I know we were kind of back and forth in those few plays [before Davis’ catch] on the range. It wasn’t a matter so much if [Henry] could hit it. Peyton’s been hitting it pretty strong. It was just pregame, I saw two balls he kicked right down the middle, and one went left and hit the upright and one went right and barely got in.”

Henry — a sixth-year senior who has appeared in 52 career games — called it “one of the worst wind games I’ve ever played in, especially in Husky Stadium.

“I was especially struggling on that (west) end during pregame warmups. As close as they could get, I was fine with it.”

Penix and Co. did their part. Following the Davis completion, and a 1-yard quarterback scramble, wide receiver Giles Jackson took a pop pass around the edge for a 12-yard gain, to the Oregon State 2. Rather than run it, UW then attempted a pair of passes — narrow misses in the end zone to Davis and McMillan. But despite the wind, Penix — who had thrown a 37-yard pick-six in the second quarter — went 9 for 13 for 65 yards on the deciding drive.

“The leading passer in the country has saved his best for last tonight,” said ESPN2 play-by-play broadcaster Roy Philpott.

“Even at the end, we’re throwing the ball on first and second down, trying to score, because the ball’s in his hands,” DeBoer added of his redshirt junior quarterback. “That’s a lot of trust.”

In all, Penix completed 30 of 52 passes for 298 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. But DeBoer passed on another opportunity to get his prized passer to the 300-yard mark. On third-and-goal from the 2, Penix shuffled to the center of the field before dropping to the turf.

“It’s really hard for me to not try to score a touchdown [in that situation],” DeBoer said. “That’s the first time I’ve ever done that, where we intentionally center it to win a game. I’ve never done that. I did feel with the wind and how close we were, it was pretty much an extra point. Being on a hash, the wind coming across, if we didn’t score [the previous two plays] I just wanted to make sure we gave Peyton the best chance possible.

“We were trying to score [a touchdown]. I thought we had two good plays and we just missed them. But you work on centering the ball and all those things every week in practice. That very call we worked on yesterday, how we call the timeout and putting the field goal team out there. So I’m pretty proud of the guys in these special moments.”

Then Henry delivered a little UW déjà vu. A year earlier, Oregon State kicker Everett Hayes capped a 40-yard drive with a 24-yard field goal to seal a 27-24 win as time expired. Now, the shoe — or ball — was firmly on the opposite foot.

“The Oregon State kicker came up to me and said, ‘I guess it was your turn tonight,’ ” Henry said with a smile, minutes after drilling the first game-winning kick of his college career. “It was déjà vu from last year, where they kicked a 24-yard game-winner right at the buzzer. I guess it was our turn.”

It took 18 plays and 92 yards — in 4 minutes and 25 seconds — for Henry to finally take his turn. It took three third-down conversions and a collection of indefatigable Dawgs.

Together, they buried the Beavers, brick by brick.

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