SEATTLE — The script, once again, played out perfectly. At least, it did in the third quarter for the Washington Huskies.
And that was enough to survive a late comeback bid by an Illinois team picked to finish last in the Big Ten Conference. The No. 19 Huskies overcame 11 penalties and two lost fumbles to rack up 615 yards of total offense in a 34-24 victory over the Illini before an announced crowd of 47,312 at Soldier Field.
Bishop Sankey rushed 35 times for a career-high 208 yards with two total touchdowns as UW improved to 2-0. The Huskies host FCS Idaho State at home next Saturday.
The Huskies scored touchdowns on their first three drives to open the third quarter and build a 31-10 lead, using the same wear-‘em-down formula that worked so well in the second half against Boise State two weeks earlier.
Quarterback Keith Price continued an impressive start to his senior season, throwing for 342 yards and two touchdowns. UW’s 615 yards was the sixth-best single-game performance in program history.
Senior cornerback Greg Ducre came up with a key interception with 3:51 left to stave off the Illinois (2-1) comeback attempt.
UW got the ball to open the third quarter and proceeded to run seven plays — all rushes — that covered 75 yards in a breezy 1 minute 58 seconds. Sankey capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase answered with a 2-yard sneak — the first touchdown allowed by the UW defense this season — to cut the Illini deficit to 17-10.
UW answered with an efficient 10-play, 85-yard drive highlighted by Jesse Callier’s 39-yard touchdown run. It was Callier’s first touchdown since November 2011; the former starting tailback tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the first game of 2012.
Illinois was forced to punt on its next possession. Price started the ensuing UW drive with a 43-yard pass to Kasen Williams, who hauled in the juggling catch. Four plays later, Jaydon Micken took a short pass from Price and dived at the left pylon for a 9-yard touchdown, pushing the UW lead to 31-10.
The Huskies, with their Ferrari offense, seemed in cruise control at that point.
But the Illini answered with two straight touchdown drives to pull within 31-24, using a number of trick plays to confuse the UW defense.
In the end, Illinois went with one trick play too many. Scheelhaase was intercepted by Durce in the fourth quarter after the Illini attempted a double pass.
UW ran out the clock after that.
Price found a wide-open Sankey out of the backfield for a 31-yard catch and run for UW’s lone touchdown of the first half.
As was the case two weeks earlier against Boise State, the Huskies moved the ball all over the field in the first half but couldn’t convert them into many points. Much of that had to do with two lost fumbles — on two carries — by redshirt freshman tailback Dwayne Washington and nine first-half penalties on UW. Three of those penalties were personal fouls.
The Huskies led Illinois 10-3 at the half after a Travis Coons 23-yard field goal in the final minutes.
Justin Wilcox’s UW defense bottled up the funky formations of Illinois’ offense, holding the Illini to 93 yards. It should be noted, though, that Illinois receivers dropped two sure touchdown catches in the first half.
UW’s defensive line put consistent pressure on Illinois’ Scheelhaase, the Big Ten’s passing leader through two games.
Scheelhaase was limited to 4 of 13 passing for 61 yards in the first half. In Illinois’ first two games, he completed 74 percent of his passes and averaged 364 yards.
Josh Shirley had three of UW’s four sacks in the game, after UW didn’t have any sacks against Boise State.