University of Washington

Korey Durkee’s big punts help keep Washington in the game

Looking for Washington’s offensive MVP after the Huskies’ 20-13 loss to Stanford on Saturday?

That’s easy. It was the guy lining up behind center and taking snaps — and then punting the ball a long way down the field.

Indeed, junior punter Korey Durkee may have made the most important offensive contributions of the day for the Huskies, averaging 51.7 yards on seven punts while keeping the ball away from Stanford returner Ty Montgomery.

Montgomery proved his worth as a return man immediately, taking the game’s opening kickoff 62 yards to set up the Cardinal’s first field goal. But Durkee did an admirable job kicking the ball away from him, utilizing a variety of styles and trajectories to limit Montgomery to just two yards on a single return.

“We tried to eliminate him from the game,” Durkee said.

The plan, he said, was to “keep him guessing. Cross-field, different locations and stuff. It was a good game plan, and I think we executed it pretty well.”

So did Montgomery.

“He was the best punter I’ve seen,” said Montgomery, who took the first punt return of his career 60 yards for a touchdown in Stanford’s opener this season against UC-Davis. “He was punting the ball all over the field. I think most of his punts were over 50 yards. It was incredible and frustrating as a punt returner.”

The yardage on each of Durkee’s punts was, in order: 44, 59, 52, 57, 44, 41, 65. Four of those hit the ground and rolled to a stop before being downed. Two landed out of bounds. And the other was returned by Montgomery a total of two yards before freshman safety Budda Baker tackled him to the ground.

Washington’s biggest failure in the punt-return game wasn’t Durkee’s fault. With the Huskies facing a fourth-and-9 from their own 47-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, coach Chris Petersen called for a fake — a snap to linebacker Shaq Thompson and a subsequent rush that produced exactly zero yards.

“Coach Pete’s an aggressive coach, and had confidence in the play,” Durkee said. “It just didn’t work.”

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