By Brent Stecker
It can be easy to overlook a team's defensive effort in a 59-7 blowout win. But when 14 of those points were scored directly on turnover returns – as was the case for Washington in its thrashing of Colorado at Husky Stadium on Saturday night – it's a lot easier to notice how impactful the defense was in the victory.
Washington sacked Colorado quarterback and Bellarmine Prep alum Sefo Liufau twice Saturday, but even more importantly it held him to 14 of 25 passing for the game and intercepted him twice in a dominant third quarter. (AP)
The Huskies (6-3 overall, 3-3 Pac-12) had the game well in hand by halftime, but they turned an already lopsided contest into a complete laugher with big plays on defense in the third quarter. The flashiest was defensive back Tre Watson's 84-yard interception return – which he corralled after a Marcus Peters deflection – although Peters' own 53-yard fumble return for a score came close.
In between those two takeaways, Sean Parker had another pick for Washington that he returned 23 yards to the Colorado 40 to set up a drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown run by quarterback Keith Price.
Washington essentially blew the doors off the game in the third quarter, outscoring the Buffaloes 21-0 in the frame to push its lead to 52-7.
"Defensively, in the third quarter, creating those three turnovers was big," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. "That was one of the things we emphasized coming out of the bye week, and then we get three turnovers and two of them go for touchdowns. That was fantastic for the guys.
"I was happy for our defense because we need to do that – we need to create turnovers, we need to knock the ball loose and intercept passes. So I thought that was big."
Even though the third quarter was the high point of the night for the Huskies' defense, they played a nearly flawless game, with star Buffaloes receiver Paul Richardson's 53-yard touchdown reception from Bellarmine Prep product Sefo Liufau the only blemish. Liufau, a true freshman quarterback, completed only 14 of 25 passes for 171 yards and two picks, and Colorado's ground game struggled against Washington's front, managing only 3.5 yards per rush (128 yards on 37 attempts).
The Huskies also sacked Liufau twice.
"It was great pursuit from our D-lineman. We really stressed the issue of getting to our quarterback and getting the ball out," linebacker Shaq Thompson said.
Added defensive lineman Danny Shelton: "As D-linemen we just made it our goal to get in the quarterback's face and creating turnovers. He is a freshman and a good quarterback. There were times in the game where he was too patient and comfortable with where he was. We just want to keep doing it for the rest of the season."