UW Huskies top Oregon State 27-21 in long-awaited season opener

UW Huskies top Oregon State 27-21 in long-awaited season opener
Washington quarterback Dylan Morris and running back Kamari Pleasant celebrate a touchdown by Pleasant in the second quarter. The Washington Huskies played the Oregon State Beavers in a PAC-12 football game at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Wash., on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (Joshua Bessex, The News Tribune)

SEATTLE — It was game day at Husky Stadium.

The parking lots were dark and nearly empty; the entrances locked. Lake Washington silently absorbed the steady rain without a sailgater in sight. And inside the stadium, the scene was just as eerie.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the only fans that witnessed Washington’s 27-21 win over Oregon State on Saturday night were made of cardboard. They spread out across six sections, each about a quarter full, behind the Huskies' bench. They didn’t make much noise.

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UW took the field under the traditional purple smoke, but there was no cheering student section waiting to greet them. No cheerleaders. No band. A solo trumpet played America the Beautiful. A lone singer performed the national anthem.

Then the long-awaited 2020 season — the one that had three openers canceled, the one that looked like it might not happen at all — finally started. After that, it was just football.

The stands remained empty, save for the photographers roaming the first few rows. The only crowd noise was artificially pumped in. But for a few hours, there was some semblance of normalcy. Attention turned toward UW’s new starting quarterback (Dylan Morris), the state of the ground game without Salvon Ahmed (quite good) and the run defense (not so good).

Oregon State scored the game’s first touchdown on a special team’s blunder. Freshman long snapper Jaden Green sent the first snap of his career over the head of punter Race Porter. The ball was bobbled and batted as both UW and Oregon State players attempted to corral it. Eventually, Jaydon Grant scooped it up and ran 11 yards into the end zone.

UW responded on its next drive as Sean McGrew broke free up the sideline for a 21-yard touchdown run. Peyton Henry added a 25-yard field goal late in the first quarter to send the Huskies into the second with a 10-7 lead.

Kamari Pleasant added to the advantage with a 15-yard touchdown run with 14:15 left in the second quarter. The Beavers scored their second touchdown of the game on a 3-yard run by B.J. Baylor with 9:31 left in the second quarter.

The teams then traded touchdowns before halftime. After Morris scored his first career touchdown on a 1-yard run, Oregon State put together a nine-play, 56-yard drive that ended with a four-yard run by Jermar Jefferson.

Oregon State had a chance to tie the game or take the lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Huskies' defense came up big deep in its own territory. Jefferson took hand-offs on third-and-1 and 4th-and-1 from the 5-yard line, but UW stuffed him on both plays.

After a first half with 45 combined points, neither team scored in the second until Peyton Henry made a 23-yard goal with 1:45 left in the game to put the Huskies up 27-21.

Oregon State took over at the UW 21-yard line with the chance to put together a game-winning drive. But the Huskies' defense was up to the task. On 4th down, Oregon State quarterback Tristan Gebbia had his pass tipped and then intercepted by sophomore cornerback Asa Turner. UW ran out the clock from there.