CORVALLIS, Ore. — The motto for Jimmy Lake has always been “Score or get the ball back.” Friday night against Oregon State, the UW defense didn’t score, and it only got the ball back once, but it did pretty much everything else to lead the Washington football team to a 19-7 win.
“If you don’t give them any points, you win every time,” redshirt freshman linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio said after the game. “We just had that mentality today, and we just kept going with it.”
The UW defense pitched its first shutout of the season, with the Beavers’ only points coming on a pick-six in the third quarter. Oregon State managed just 31 rushing yards on the night, and 119 total yards. The Beavers went 1-for-13 on third down, and never got anything going at all offensively.
And after two straight games featuring second-half collapses, the UW defense didn’t just stay strong in the final two quarters; the Huskies got even better.
Those 119 OSU yards? Just 8 of them came in the second half. Those 31 rushing yards? The Beavers went into halftime on 41, then proceeded to lose 10 in the last 30 minutes. That one third-down conversion? It came all the way back in the second quarter.
“You could feel it,” defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said. “We talked about how there was going to be some adversity in the second half, and there was. We just looked at the sideline and I heard guys say ‘Hey, we’re not blinking. We’re not flinching. We got to finish this thing.’”
And with the way the UW offense was playing, the Huskies needed every bit of the defensive performance. The Huskies gained 420 yards Friday night, but penalties and a rough day for Jacob Eason grounded nearly every Washington possession. When the Dawgs were holding on to a narrow 3-0 lead and gave the ball back to the Beavers on an interception, the defense held, forcing a three-and-out. When the offense couldn’t do anything at all to punt the ball right back, the defense did it again.
When the Beavers finally got something going — remember that single third-down conversion — the defense held and Elijah Molden ended it four plays later on a fourth-own interception, just Jake Luton’s second of the season.
And every time Oregon State in the second half, the Huskies held, keeping the Beavers from moving the chains on each of their five drives after halftime. Even after a bad Eason pick-six narrowed the UW lead, even after the Huskies were stopped on fourth-and-short, the defense did its job.
“We always knew we had it in us,” Molden said. “This was only one game. We have a long season. That’s the Death Row Defense that we talk about, that we need to get on every time.”
Oregon State made it into UW territory for a grand total of five plays — all in the first half, of course.
The effort started up front. Joe Tryon had a monster game, with 4.5 tackles for loss, including a fourth-down stop where he broke off of a blitz to track down Artavis Pierce in the backfield. Ryan Bowman didn’t show up quite as much on the statsheet, but he did in the backfield, blowing up multiple plays for Tryon to clean up.
Those two played next to a solid effort in the middle of the line, where Lake and Pete Kwiatkowski opened up their playbook with a host of new rush schemes against former UW offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith.
“They really set the tone early in the run game and got us into some pass situations where they could just pin their ears back and go at the quarterback,” Lake said.
In the end, Washington ended up with its first defensive shutout since October of 2017, getting the Dawgs back on track and making them bowl-eligible going into their second bye week.
“We knew we could dominate,” Tryon said. “Just being able to go out and dominate every play, not taking plays off, is part of the game. As we did that, the game got really easy.”
Reach Managing Editor Josh Kirshenbaum at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @J_Kirshenbaum