Perhaps forgotten amid the celebration of Washington’s 17-12 Pac-12 Conference victory over USC on Thursday night was the loss of one of the Huskies’ best defensive players for the first half of their next game.
Third-year sophomore linebacker Azeem Victor, the Huskies’ leading tackler, was ejected after he was flagged for targeting against USC quarterback Cody Kessler in the fourth quarter.
The ruling was upheld upon review, which means that Victor must also serve a one-half suspension during Washington’s Oct. 17 game against Oregon at Husky Stadium.
There is no mechanism for an appeal to the Pac-12 office either, as the Huskies learned last season when tight end Joshua Perkins was ejected for targeting in a game against California.
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Following the penalty against Perkins, a Pac-12 spokesperson told the News Tribune: “The conference does not overturn, as that is the responsibility of the video replay crew. The crew confirmed the targeting call during the game, and Perkins will be required by the playing rules to sit the first half of the next game.”
Victor finished the game with 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and a half-sack.
“It’s really frustrating because we need to be smart around the quarterback,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “It’s something we talk about all the time. It’s really easy for me to sit up here and talk about it, I get that, because those kids are so intense and so focused and it’s such a physical game that we have to play like that, but we just cannot take shots on the quarterback. They’re going to call it every time.
“Whether it was targeting or not, I guess they thought it was. But at minimum, they thought it was a foul.”
USC scored its only touchdown four plays later.
A few Huskies players exchanged hugs and cordial greetings with USC coach Steve Sarkisian and other members of his staff who coached at UW, either before the game or on the field afterward.
USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who worked at UW from 2012-13 and worked for Petersen at Boise State, waited for Petersen to finish his postgame press conference so he could give him a quick hug before departing.
Huskies linebacker Keishawn Bierria, who admitted the win meant more because it came against Sarkisian and staff, said: “He gave me a chance to be at Washington. I didn’t get that offer until the last weekend, and he did that for me. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. I love him. He gave me this opportunity, but it’s business.”
Sophomore safety Budda Baker, who missed UW’s game against California because of an injured left ankle, played on Thursday and finished with eight tackles.
He said he knew Monday that he would be able to play. Baker injured his ankle on the third play of Washington’s victory over Utah State on Sept. 19.
“In the beginning, yeah, I felt it because I (had to get) it warmed up,” Baker said. “But as the game progressed I didn’t feel it. It was just a normal ankle.”
Due to a couple of guys who were “banged up” in practice this week, Petersen said, the Huskies had to make some changes on the offensive line.
Jake Eldrenkamp returned from injury to start at left guard, Coleman Shelton moved over to play right guard, and Andrew Kirkland made his first career start at right tackle. Redshirt freshmen Matt James and Kaleb McGary had shared right-tackle duties before.
Of Kirkand, Petersen said: “I’m glad he got an opportunity. I’m anxious to go put the tape on. He’s shown a lot of flashes since we’ve been here. We just wanted more consistency out of him tonight. He played against a really good d-line, so I’m anxious to go put that tape on.”