There were 42 seconds left on the clock when Myles Gaskin’s powered into the end zone from 2 yards out.
The seats in front him were mostly filled with purple, and the stands erupted when an official review confirmed his score. It was Washington’s third touchdown of the fourth quarter, and it pulled the Huskies within one possession of Ohio State.
The energy at the Rose Bowl felt like it had completely shifted in that moment — the completion of the transition that started soon after the Buckeyes scored their first and only second-half touchdown in the third quarter.
UW could feel it on the sideline. As the offense started clicking, as the defense began making stops, the Huskies began believing they could climb out of a 25-point deficit they found themselves in early in the third quarter.
With just 2 more minutes, 3 more minutes, maybe they would have. All that work in the fourth quarter, was too little, too late. The Huskies fell to Ohio State, 28-23, on Tuesday.
“We thought we had momentum,” said linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven. ‘We just ran out of time.”
UW didn’t score its touchdown until Gaskin hit tight end Drew Sample with a 2-yard jump pass on fourth down with 12 minutes, 17 seconds to play. That made it 28-10 and started a wild finish.
The Huskies’ defense held Ohio State to two three-and-outs before UW scored. Quarterback Jake Browning completed back-to-back passes of 24 and 36 yards, respectively, to move UW into Ohio State territory. Gaskin, who finished with 121 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, then scored from 1-yard out.
UW trailed, 28-17, with 6:42 remaining.
“There was definitely a lot more energy just in the players and the fans, definitely,” said tight end Hunter Bryant. “I think the fans boost us a lot because we can hear them behind us. … That’s really cool to be a part of.”
The Huskies defense came up with another stop and then Gaskin, trying to single-handedly will UW to victory, scored his second touchdown. It pulled the Huskies within one possession for the first time since early in the second quarter.
“The energy just kind of increased on both sides of the ball when the defense was just … getting those stops,” said wide receiver Andre Baccellia, who had a game-high 12 receptions for 109 yards.
“We took upon ourselves on offense, whether it was a field goal or a touchdown, to just go down and get some points. That’s what we did.”
But UW wasn’t just facing Ohio State in those final moments. The Huskies were battling the clock, too. The Buckeyes recovered the ensuing onside kick and with UW out of timeouts, ran out the clock from there to send their coach, Urban Meyer, out with win in his final game.
“We’re always going to keep swinging, we always did keep swinging, and I think that’s kind of how we are as a team,” Browning said. “We’re never out of it. Just keep battling.”
The Huskies outscored Ohio State 20-0 in the fourth quarter. After allowing 272 total yards in the first half, UW held the Buckeyes to just 92 yards after the break. Meanwhile, the Huskies hit their stride offensively. They had 293 yards in the second half after finishing the first with 151.
“I think we started taking more shots on offense, to be honest,” Bryant said. “We weren’t as conservative. We put the ball up. We have a lot of great athletes on this team and all of them went up and made plays and did what we can do.”
Head coach Chris Petersen said the early offensive struggles were similar to the issues UW has dealt with all season.
“We drive the ball, we play, we can run the ball pretty well on occasion and make some plays,” he said. “And we get in the red zone, and we penalty, sack. I mean, it’s so frustrating. It’s not something we haven’t been paying attention and looking at.”
The biggest difference between halves, Bryant said, was penalties. UW had five penalties for 41 yards in the first half. It had just one for 5 yards in the second.
“We just had so many negatives that put ourselves back, like holding calls and offsides and all that,” he said. “Just tiny things that would put us in first-and-20, first-and-15 and just kill our drives.”
At halftime, the message was simple. There was talk of doing it for the seniors, of sending them out with one last win. And there was discussion of the Rose Bowl, and how badly the Huskies wanted to play well on this stage.
But mostly, it was this:
“We know how to play football and we weren’t doing it,” Burr-Kirven said. “I think Coach Pete wanted to make sure we knew that all we could do was play. There’s no talking that’s going to fix it. There’s no other stuff. You just got to play.”
It would be easy, Burr-Kirven said, to get lost in what-ifs, to wonder if the Huskies’ would’ve won if they came out stronger in the first half.
It would be so easy, but there’s more to it than that.
“Were (the Buckeyes) trying to run clock, be less aggressive?” he said. “It’s hard to say that you could just flip it over, copy-and-paste and you win the game. It’s definitely frustrating. It’s hard when you get that close at the end there. … But it’s the nature of football.”