Washington 21, Fresno St. 20
SEATTLE (AP)—Third-string defensive end Caesar Rayford leaped above the Fresno State line and blocked a game-tying extra point with 4:30 remaining and Washington held on for a 21-20 win over the Bulldogs on Saturday.
Fresno State had scored on Dwayne Wright’s second rushing touchdown, a 1-yard reach across the goal line. But Rayford’s right hand blocked Clint Stitser’s PAT to keep the Huskies on top by a point. Stitser had earlier missed badly on a 41-yard field goal attempt.
The Bulldogs got the ball back a final time. But Washington’s Mesphin Forrester intercepted Tom Brandstater’s pass and returned it to the Fresno State 1 with just over a minute left.
Two kneeldowns sent Washington (2-1) off to its best start since 2003—its last non-losing season. The Huskies had won just three of its last 22 games entering this season.
Wright, the nation’s third-leading rusher coming in, ran for 136 yards on 28 carries for the Bulldogs (1-2). He now has 448 yards this season, the highest total through three games in Fresno State history.
Washington took a 21-14 lead five minutes into the final quarter on Isaiah Stanback’s second touchdown pass. Sonny Shackleford made a leaping catch while grabbing an 8-yard pass off the arm of Bulldogs safety Vincent Mays.
Fresno State evened the game at 14 just three plays into the third quarter. Brandstater perfectly placed a soft pass onto the hands of Paul Williams, who was rubbing shoulders with Washington’s Matt Fountaine. Williams dragged Fountaine the final 5 yards of a 38-yard touchdown pass.
Williams is the younger brother of Curtis Williams, a former Washington defensive back who six years ago suffered a paralyzing neck injury against Stanford. Williams ultimately died from complications due to the paralysis. Washington has Curtis Williams’ jersey number 25 painted on the sidelines at Husky Stadium—and his younger brother ran by it on his touchdown route.
The entire Williams family attended Saturday’s game, in which Paul caught six passes for 85 yards against coverage designed in part by a third Williams brother. J.D. Williams is in his first season as the Huskies’ defensive back coach.
Stanback gave Washington a 14-7 lead late in the first half. His zigzagging 36-yard run off a scramble led to a 6-yard sprint into the end zone on a quarterback draw. Coach Tyrone Willingham extended that drive by going for a fourth-and-1 at his own 49. Stanback converted that with a 2-yard sneak, part of his 91-yard rushing day.
Wright rolled for 82 yards in the first half, through 12 missed tackles by Washington’s flailing defenders. Wright had 43 yards on the game’s opening drive. That ended with his fifth touchdown run of the season, a 1-yard scoring dive.
Washington answered with the first of its two, 13-play touchdown drives of the opening half. Stanback converted a third-and-20 with a 38-yard completion to Marcel Reece to the Bulldogs’ 16. A scrambling Stanback then found Johnie Kirton open in the back of the end zone from 5 yards out.