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Huskies hang on to win Rose Bowl

It might have been the best play Marques Tuiasosopo ran all day, sprinting out of the locker room with a sprained shoulder, charging back onto the field in the fourth quarter when his team needed him most.

“I was mad,” Tuiasosopo said. “I just wanted to get the heck back out there and play.”

And that's precisely what the Washington quarterback did, running the option and passing — sore shoulder and all — for a late touchdown as his team pulled away for a 34-24 victory over Purdue in the Rose Bowl on Monday.

This game was billed as an offensive shootout, a duel between two of the best quarterbacks in the nation — matching Tuiasosopo against Purdue's Drew Brees — and it did not disappoint.

The accurate Brees won the battle through the air, completing 23 of 39 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns.

But Tuiasosopo — voted the player of the game — won the war by making the big plays when it counted, running for 75 yards and one touchdown, completing 16 of 22 passes for 138 yards and that critical score late in the game.

The victory gives No. 4 Washington (11-1) a ghost of a claim at the national championship if Oklahoma losses to Florida State in the Orange Bowl on Wednesday. Meanwhile, No. 14 Purdue (8-4) suffered a disappointing end to a dream season, the Boilermakers reaching the Rose Bowl for the first time in 34 years.

“That's all good, but we really wanted to win this one,” tight end Tim Stratton said. “That's the whole reason you play this game.”

It was a game of unexpected twists.

All season, the Huskies had been slow starters, coming from behind in eight of 10 victories. But Monday, it was Purdue that stumbled at the beginning. Literally.

On the first play from scrimmage, Brees rolled right and slipped to the turf for an eight-yard loss. He and his team seemed to have the jitters, committing six penalties in the first quarter.

Washington, meanwhile, drove 64 yards on its initial possession, running back Braxton Cleman scoring on a one-yard sweep.

And when Purdue erred again, sending a snap high over the punter's head, the Huskies needed only two runs by Tuiasosopo — a 20-yard keeper and a five-yard option — to make the score 14-0 in the first quarter.

That gave the Washington defense time to establish itself.

The Huskies came into this game planning to employ a variety of blitzes and defensive schemes, anything to disrupt the Purdue spread offense. Linebackers Anthony Kelley and Derrell Daniels broke through to tackle Brees in the backfield. On numerous other occasions, the defensive line was able to hurry his passes.

“The task was to see how many times we could get him down,” Kelley said. “I think that made him look over his shoulder a little bit.”

So Purdue needed another way to get into the game.

Perhaps the Boilermakers had noticed Oregon State nearly beat Washington earlier this season by running. They began handing the ball to Montrell Lowe, who carried 11 times on a drive that stretched into the second quarter. Brees finished things off with a five-yard touchdown pass to Vinny Sutherland.

A field goal made it 14-10 at the half, and the crowd of 94,392 got a taste of what it had come for, two offenses that moved the ball quickly and two rather suspect defenses.

In other words, the perfect ingredients for a high-scoring affair.

The back-and-forth continued into the second half as Washington's John Anderson kicked a 47-yard field goal and Brees lofted a perfect strike to Sutherland in the left corner of the end zone to make it 17-17.

After Anderson's 42-yard field goal gave Washington a 20-17 lead, there came a crucial turn of events.

First, the Purdue offense blinked, going three-and-out on consecutive possessions.

That allowed Washington to return to its strength — an offensive line that averaged 50 pounds a man more than the Purdue defensive front four. The disparity seemed to grow as the game wore on.

“It's hard for the defense to be (on the field) all quarter,” Brees explained. “Our job was to give the defense a rest, and we didn't really do that.”

Though Purdue was still close on the scoreboard, time of possession took its toll.

“I don't know if it was a case of them getting tired or if we started to turn it up a little more,” Washington offensive lineman Elliott Silvers said. “We could sense the victory was close.”

And that set the stage for Tuiasosopo's heroics.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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