SEATTLE — Before they could jog off the field, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian gathered his players in a semi-circle, told them to take a knee and lit into his team with anger for everyone to see, to the point of spiking his visor in disgust.
And he did it with a 45-0 lead at halftime, as Washington rolled to a 52-13 win over FCS Portland State on Saturday afternoon.
Sarkisian’s point was clear in the minute spent berating his players. The mistakes, sloppiness and overconfidence that Washington showed at times during a record-tying first half won’t be acceptable when Pac-12 play arrives in less than two weeks.
“I think we showed some immaturity that needs to get better,” Sarkisian said. “That was kind of why we had a pretty good heart-to-heart there at the end of the first half.”
Before Sarkisian went off on his team, the Huskies had done enough mental healing in putting their Bayou beat down at the hands of No. 3 LSU a week earlier in the past. Keith Price threw three first-half touchdowns, Washington returned a blocked field goal and interception for touchdowns, and the Huskies 45 first-half points tied a school record for the most in any half.
The last time Washington put up 45 in a half: 1999 against Oregon State.
Price tossed touchdowns of 20, 3 and 16 yards, while Tre Watson returned a blocked field goal 79 yards for a score, and Marcus Peters returned an interception 21 yards for a TD as all three phases scored in the first half.
Washington (2-1) was humbled by a 41-3 rout last week at the hands of No. 3 LSU. Sarkisian spoke early in the week of needing to get the Huskies psyche back in order following the blowout to the Tigers and before Washington begins Pac-12 play on Sept. 27 at home against Stanford.
“This game was big for our confidence as a whole,” Washington safety Justin Glenn said. “We were a little down after last week taking a beating like that down there. We just had to bounce back and keep playing.”
The first half certainly made Washington feel better about itself, albeit against a Portland State squad that hadn’t shown any bite defensively. The Vikings (1-2) fired their defensive coordinator earlier this week with head coach Nigel Burton — a former Washington safety — taking over the defensive play-calling duties.
There wasn’t much Burton could devise to slow the bigger and more talented Huskies, including an attempted onside kick on the opening kickoff that Washington recovered. Bishop Sankey ran nearly untouched for a 15-yard touchdown on Washington’s opening possession that proved just the beginning. Sankey’s run snapped a seven-quarter streak without a touchdown for Washington’s offense and Price added touchdown tosses to DiAndre Campbell and Kasen Williams — a drive kept alive by a fake punt — to give the Huskies a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.
“I was OK,” said Price, who finished 14 of 19 for 181 yards. “I wish I would have played a little bit more, but there was no point. I still have a long way to go and I’m still working.”
Portland State did have chances, twice driving inside the Washington 45 before turning the ball over on downs. On their fourth possession, the Vikings reached the Washington 16 before the drive stalled. Nick Fernandez’s 33-yard field goal attempt was smothered by Shaq Thompson and bounded into Watson’s hands for the Huskies first blocked field goal returned for a touchdown since 2001 against Michigan.
Price added one more touchdown toss to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, one of his five receptions. Peters scored Washington’s second defensive touchdown of the season when Portland State QB Kieran McDonagh made a rushed throw after a poor snap. Peters easily stepped in front of the pass and walked in for the score.
“I thought he was going to run with it, so I was surprised,” Peters said.
Sankey added another second-half TD run and had 103 yards on 14 carries. Washington spent the second half trying to fix a run game that had struggled in the first two weeks. The Huskies finished with 209 yards on the ground and 114 after halftime, but mostly with backups on the field.
“I thought our guys came out with a great deal of energy and execution to start the ball game,” Sarkisian said.
McDonagh threw for 178 yards and a 70-yard touchdown to Nevin Lewis in the third quarter that ended the shutout. McDonagh also added a 4-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
“A lot of teams in America that when they are down 45-0 they would roll over and play dead and embarrass themselves and our team didn’t do that,” Burton said. “Our team is not built that way and they continued to fight to the end, and I’m very proud of the effort.”