BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Washington gunner Kevin Smith reverted to his high school basketball glory days Saturday, making the kind of out-of-bounds save on the gridiron that he used to perform on the hardwood.
“That’s what I got in me,” said Smith, who leapt to save the ball after it bounced off blocker Nelson Spruce’s shoulder and headed out of bounds, then tumbled through the Colorado sideline and into the stands.
Teammate Will Shamburger recovered the ball at the Colorado 35, and Washington quickly turned a tight game into a 38-3 rout.
“Oh, that was ridiculous,” Huskies safety Justin Glenn said of Smith’s save. “I thought the ball was out of bounds. So I just stopped, and the next thing I knew, Will had the ball. The awareness and just throwing it back — like, that was crazy.”
“That’s one for the ages,” Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said. And exactly the kind of spark he was looking for after his heavily favored Huskies led just 7-0 at the half.
Spruce said he saw returner Kenneth Crawley back up, so he started to block when the ball smacked him.
Three plays later, Keith Price hit Kasen Williams for a 17-yard score, one of five TD throws he had, tying the school record set by Chris Rowland in 1973 and matched two years ago by Jake Locker.
“Aw man, that was like a basketball play, man,” Price said. “And obviously he’s one of the best basketball players on the team. It was a great play. It was one of the turning points in the game.”
Smith, a junior wide receiver, has been primarily a special-teams player since tearing his right ACL before the Alamo Bowl last year.
He’s made this play countless times in the gym.
“Back then, you could grab the ball, get possession and call timeout. But I couldn’t do that, so I just tossed it back in,” he said.
“That’s just how it’s been — ball hits the guy in the helmet, guy throws it back inbounds,” lamented Buffs second-year coach Jon Embree, who fell to 4-20 at Colorado.
After Smith’s big play, the game quickly turned into the blowout everyone expected.
Price completed 22 of 29 passes for 248 yards with no interceptions and had touchdown throws to five different receivers, including one to senior Cody Bruns for his first career TD.
Bishop Sankey atoned for a first-half fumble at the 1 by running through Colorado’s defense for 139 yards and collecting 48 more on four receptions as the Huskies (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) won consecutive road games for just the second time in the last decade.
After committing five costly turnovers in this one, the Buffaloes (1-10, 1-7) will have to beat Utah on Friday to avoid the worst record in school history and their first winless season at home since 1920.
The Buffaloes held an opponent scoreless in the first quarter for the first time this season but still trailed 7-0 at halftime after running their own scoreless streak at Folsom Field to eight quarters.
Two big blunders by the Buffs led to 14 quick points and ended hopes of an upset in a stadium that was mostly empty.
After Smith’s big play on special teams, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a tight end playing defensive end on third downs with Washington’s defensive line riddled with injuries, recovered a fumble following Josh Shirley’s sack-strip of Colorado’s Jordan Webb.
Fifteen seconds later, Price hit Kendyl Taylor for a 23-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
Marques Mosley returned the ensuing kickoff 59 yards, setting up Will Oliver’s 37-yard field goal. But the Huskies responded with a 17-point blitz that included TD throws from Price of 3 yards to Seferian-Jenkins and 18 yards to Jaydon Mickens.