The Huskies outgained the Illini 434-90 after Zalewski's missed 41-yard field goal until Washington had a 31-10 lead with 3:32 left in the third quarter.
"We were stubbing ourselves in the foot on our own toes, we were shooting ourselves in the foot with just penalties that we can fix,'' said Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, whose team called for nine penalties for 84 yards in the first half. "It kept pushing us back. It was like two steps forward and one step back.''
But starting the second half, Washington ran seven consecutive running plays, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Sankey to take a 17-3 lead. Sankey, a junior running back, finished with a career-high 208 yards on 35 carries.
"In the second half, we just ran the football better,'' said Sarkisian, whose team had 206 rushing yards in the second half. "I thought our conditioning showed again.
"Bishop Sankey was a warrior tonight.''
Illinois started its comeback when Scheelhaase hit Ryan Lankford for a 72-yard scoring strike.
"We knew we could win the game,'' said Lankford, who finished with 100 yard receiving on three receptions. "We all know that we left points out there. With the way the score ended, we knew we could have possibly came out on top.''
And the comeback showed Lankford something.
"That was positive to see that guys didn't give up, they didn't give in,'' he said. "We knew that we could still continue to make plays.''
Illinois pulled within 31-24 on freshman Aaron Bailey's 10-yard touchdown run with 9 minutes, 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Earlier in that drive, the Illini used a trick play with Bailey, as he was part of a reverse pass from Miles Osei to Matt Lacosse for 35 yards.
"We know what Aaron Bailey can become,'' Beckman said. "I thought it was a great call by Cubes (Bill Cubit).''