SEATTLE -- After three consecutive double-digit losses, the Washington Huskies knew a lot of people weren't giving them a fighting chance against seventh-ranked Oregon State on Saturday night.
However, after a week of being challenged -- by themselves, their coaches, and numerous media members -- it was the Huskies who got in the last punch, and the last laugh, beating the Beavers 20-17 Saturday night at CenturyLink Field.
Travis Coons' 30-yard field goal gave the Huskies the winning points with
1:20 left, and Washington held off a last-gasp Oregon State drive that got as far as the Huskies' 38-yard line before stalling.
"Coach Sark (Washington coach Steve Sarkisian) just told us to keep on fighting and stay after them," said Washington tight end Michael Hartvigson, one of many players who afterward also referred to a column in a Portland newspaper during the week that called the Huskies the "softest, least resilient" team in the Pac-12. "This is a very resilient group, and we will always keep on fighting."
The Huskies intercepted four passes thrown by Sean Mannion, who returned to the starting lineup for Oregon State (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12) after missing the previous two games following minor knee surgery. The Beavers also missed on two fourth-down attempts deep in Washington territory. The big plays allowed Washington (4-4, 2-3) to stay in the game despite being outgained 427-293 in total yards.
"I think what we will probably regret the most is having the ball with some opportunities and turning the ball back to them when we had scoring opportunities," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "But Washington played well, they played hard and they made some good plays."
The final interception led to the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Marcus Peters picked off a pass to give the Huskies the ball at the Oregon State 30. A 29-yard pass from Keith Price to Kasen Williams put the ball at the 1, and Bishop Sankey's run on the next play put the Beavers ahead 17-10 with 8:19 left.
"I felt it was a combination of things that went wrong," Mannion said of his interceptions. "I misread some things. I'll learn from it and make better plays next time."
Quarterback Cody Vaz, who led Oregon State to wins the last two weeks over BYU and Utah, then replaced Mannion and immediately led the Beavers to the tying touchdown. Connor Hamlett scored on a 29-yard pass from Vaz with 4:58 to play. Oregon State moved 76 yards on seven plays in 3:11.
However, the Huskies quickly got in position for the winning field goal, driving 63 yards on eight plays.
The Beavers then drove to the Washington 38, but the drive ended there with a fourth-down Vaz pass falling incomplete.
"At the end of the day, I don't know how pretty it was," Sarkisian said. "But I was proud of the character our guys possessed, their ability to persevere when the game could have swung Oregon State's way."
Washington led 10-0 at the end of a first half that it dominated physically.
The Beavers, who trailed at the half for the first time this season, got back in the game early in the third quarter on a 53-yard pass from Mannion to Brandin Cooks. That completed a two-play, 83-yard drive.
Oregon State tied the game with 2:42 remaining in the third quarter on Trevor Romaine's 29-yard field goal following a 54-yard drive. A defender ran into Romaine on the play, which would have been a 5-yard penalty. However, after thinking about going for a first down on fourth-and-1, Riley decided to decline the penalty and take the points.
The Beavers entered the game 6-0 for the first time since 1907, and with USC's loss earlier in the day, they were harboring serious hopes of a BCS bowl. Oregon State has never started 7-0.
Washington kept its bowl hopes alive a week after a 52-17 loss at Arizona had some Huskies fans grumbling about the direction of the program under Sarkisian.
Washington got the lone touchdown of the first half late in the second quarter on a 1-yard Sankey run. The score came on a fourth-down play after the Huskies appeared to score on a third-down fumble into the end zone by Kendyl Taylor that was recovered by teammate Cody Bruns.
However, Taylor was ruled down at the 1 after a review. Sarkisian decided to go for it, and Sankey burst over the right side for a score.
The game started sluggish under rainy skies in Seattle, each team playing conservatively early. Washington got on the board first when Travis Coons kicked a 45-yard field goal with 3:12 left in the first quarter.
Oregon State moved to Washington's 17 early in the second quarter, but Mannion then threw into coverage in the end zone. Huskies safety Sean Parker dived and picked off the pass in the end zone.
A hard hit by Parker led to another Oregon State turnover in the second quarter. Parker hammered Beavers receiver Markus Wheaton inside the Washington 20. The ball flew into the air, and Huskies safety Justin Glenn picked it off.
Wheaton, the third-leading receiver in the conference, was down for a few minutes before walking off. He did not return to the game. According to the Oregonian, Wheaton suffered a concussion.
After Washington took a 10-0 lead, Oregon State got its lone break of the half on a Sean Martin interception at the Huskies' 49-yard line. However, the Beavers were stopped on fourth-and-8 at the Washington 32 with 40 seconds left in the second quarter.
Washington had a 158-110 edge in total yards in the first half, including an 84-28 advantage on the ground.
NOTES: The Huskies have won their past 10 games in which the margin of victory was fewer than 10 points. ... Washington began the game with its sixth different starting offensive line in eight games this year. Sophomore Mike Criste got the start at right guard instead of James Atoe. The Huskies lost two starters for the season to injuries in the first two games, necessitating almost weekly shuffling up front. ... Oregon State's No. 7 AP ranking, the same as the team's BCS standing, was the Beavers' highest since they finished the 2000 season No. 4. That year, Oregon State went 11-1 and won the Fiesta Bowl under coach Dennis Erickson. ... Oregon State had won seven of the previous eight games in the series. ... The game was played at the home of the Seattle Seahawks, as Husky Stadium is being renovated. Husky Stadium will reopen for the beginning of the 2013 season. Oregon State defeated Washington State 44-21 at CenturyLink Field in 2011 in the Cougars' annual game in the stadium. ... Sun Bowl officials attended the game.