CORVALLIS, Ore. - The Washington Huskies left Corvallis with tears in their eyes, losing an emotional game to the Oregon State Beavers, 38-21.
"Our best way to describe that game was frustrating," coach Steve Sarkisian said after the game. In the first minute of the interview, he kept repeating the word "frustrating."
Freshman Nick Montana made his first start Saturday at Reser Stadium, going 11 for 21 for 79 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
It pained him that he couldn't prevent the Huskies (6-5) from losing their third straight.
"We started off strong. We missed a few plays here and there, some big ones we needed to do," Montana said in between sniffles and tears of sadness. "It comes down to a few plays."
Both starting quarterback Keith Price and Sarkisian believed Montana had a solid performance. They believe because he's a freshman, he'll gradually learn over time.
The game plan itself was focused on handing the ball to tailback Chris Polk, while Montana worked off play-action and bootlegs. In the first half, Polk had 17 carries for 71 yards, but was used limitedly in the second half, with only eight additional carries for 38 yards. At the half itself, the Huskies switched up the offensive game plan, allowing freshman Bishop Sankey more carries and running the wildcat with Jesse Callier.
However, in the fourth quarter, Sarkisian pulled Montana for Price, since they were down 31-17. Price was 5 of 9 for 76 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Price allowed the Huskies to get as close as 10, with a 31-21 deficit, and did his best to capitalize off a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, but was picked off. For the Apple Cup next week, he wants to rally the team and boost its confidence. Washington has lost three in a row and four of its past five games.
"It's very important that we win this next game," Price said. "We just need to play better as a group."
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was Montana's favorite target. He had six receptions for 40 yards and two touchdowns. In the coming week, he wants to focus all his energy on motivating the team to perform its best next week.
"It's tough to see that when you lose games to teams you feel like you could really compete against, you can win and you have opportunities and you don't capitalize," Seferian-Jenkins added about the loss. "So, it's frustrating."
The Huskies and the Beavers were close at the half, with Oregon State leading 17-14, and even in the third quarter. The game unraveled in the fourth quarter as players mentally and physically broke down. The Beavers outscored the Huskies 21-7 in the last quarter.
The Washington defense lagged behind receiver Markus Wheaton, who had seven catches for 125 yards plus he ran for 66 yards on three carries. The Huskies allowed 484 yards, including 145 rushing yards. On average, Oregon State gains 87 yards rushing per game, second to last in the nation.
"So many opportunities to make plays and to get off the field defensively. That didn't happen," Sarkisian added. "Some opportunities obviously, offensively to create some big plays that could have potentially swung the game and gotten momentum back in our favor didn't happen."
When the defense did click and made plays, the offense didn't build off the momentum. In the second half, this defense had three takeaways, but Montana and the offense created zero points out of it. That included a fumble recovery on a kickoff at the Oregon State 19-yard line.
Defensive coordinator Nick Holt also added his frustrations on how the defensive line could not effectively pressure the quarterback. He explains that this is because of how young his defensive unit is.
"There are times when we stay blocked," Holt said. "We tried everything. We rushed three, we rushed four, we rushed five and a couple times, we rushed six."
He added that Oregon State came prepared for this game, adding extra blockers to ensure Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion's safety.
Mannion put up great numbers: 26 of 37, 339 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. His cast, Wheaton, senior receiver James Rodgers, freshman Ryan Murphy, amplified his game.
"I think the best thing to say about our team and the coaching staff is that they've been working, hanging in there themselves, and never quit working," Beavers coach Mike Riley said. "It was great to see that performance today. I'm really proud of everybody."
As for the Huskies, they're taking this emotional loss as motivation going into the Apple Cup, determined to defeat Washington State.
"People are obviously disappointed, but we can't be disappointed for long because we have the Apple Cup and we definitely have to get up for that," wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said.