No. 9 Washington wins big over Fighting Hawks
SEATTLE — In the home opener of a season with national championship dreams, the Washington Huskies wanted to put on a good show against a lower-level opponent in a scenic stadium with a beautiful view of Lake Washington.
That party — as expected — did happen, but it’s arrival was delayed a bit.
The University of North Dakota football team, facing the highest-ranked opponent in program history, made things interesting for a half before Washington pulled away in the second half Saturday, Sept. 8, at Husky Stadium.
No. 9 Washington downed UND 45-3, which dropped the Hawks to 1-1 as they now prepare for another tough road test next Saturday against No. 4 Sam Houston State of the FCS.
The Fighting Hawks couldn’t seriously contend for a huge upset as the Huskies’ passing attack and their physical defense were too much to overcome. UND entered the game as a more than six-touchdown underdog.
“Just looking at it from a captain’s perspective, we played hard but didn’t play to our potential and didn’t get the result we wanted,” UND running back John Santiago said.
Huskies quarterback Jake Browning, considered one of the top quarterbacks in the country, threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns.
The Huskies finished with a passing yards advantage of 437 to 101.
“They had so much talent and so many places they could attack you,” UND linebacker Tanner Palmborg said. “It’s tough to neutralize a team that can attack you in so many different ways.”
UND was led offensively by Santiago, who finished with 139 rushing yards on 18 carries. He had a 7.7 yards per carry average with the help of a 69-yard run in the third quarter.
Washington coach Chris Petersen sought out Santiago during the postgame handshake.
The Huskies coach complimented the Fighting Hawks’ standout running back for his hard-nose style.
“My hat is off to ol’ 22,” Petersen said. “Santiago is a good player. He has put it on tape every game.”
Santiago, who has now rushed for more than 100 yards against three FBS opponents in his career, was appreciative of Petersen’s sentiments, but the UND captain remained disappointed in the final result.
“I don’t think I did enough today,” Santiago said. “We didn’t have a touchdown. It feels good to get credit from (Petersen) and awesome he recognized me, but I need to work harder and lead our team in the right direction.”
Santiago’s backup, Brady Oliveira, didn’t play in the first half. He had three carries for 10 yards overall.
“Brady wasn’t healthy today,” UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. “That was something we had to be smart about. We have a lot of season left. We weren’t going to play him a lot of reps today for that reason.”
The Fighting Hawks’ best chance to score in the first half came in the final minute, but rookie kicker Brady Leach missed a 43-yard field goal.
Leach was able to hit his first career field goal in the third quarter — a 20-yard make to trim Washington’s lead to 17-3 with 6:09 left in the third quarter.
Washington, which lost a Top 10 showdown with Auburn in Atlanta last week, made sure that was as close as the Hawks would get.
The Huskies scored 28 unanswered points after Leach’s field goal.
With 3:35 left in the third quarter, the Huskies bumped the lead to 24-3 on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Browning to Cade Otton.
Sean McGrew scored on a 23-yard run, Ty Jones caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Jake Haener and Kamari Pleasant tacked on a 23-yard run to round out Washington’s fourth-quarter scoring.
“I think the guys are proud of how we played; we stuck with it for three quarters,” Palmborg said. “It was a bitter ending there, not closing it out in the fourth. But we’re optimistic about our team. No one is down, and we’re moving on to next week.”