His teammates battled their emotions on Saturday when Cooper finally scored three years and three major knee surgeries after he was supposed to be one of the Huskies' young stars.
"I wanted to get him in the end zone. I thought he deserved it," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. "I knew the team would be so excited for him. ... Those moments mean a lot."
Keith Price threw for 213 yards and three touchdowns in less than a half, Cooper scored his first career touchdown, and No. 17 Washington routed Idaho State 56-0 on Saturday in the Huskies' final tuneup before the start of Pac-12 Conference play.
Bishop Sankey, the national leader in yards rushing per game, barely broke a sweat against the Bengals (2-1) of the FCS. Sankey saw action on the Huskies' (3-0) first three series and scored on a 3-yard TD run in the first quarter. Sankey finished with 77 yards on four carries.
In the midst of the blowout, the story of Cooper coming full circle became the focus. He arrived on campus in 2010 as one of the Huskies' recruiting gems. Then came the first torn ACL in his left knee, followed a year later by a second ACL in the same knee. Finally, during fall camp in 2011, Cooper sustained yet another ACL tear, this time to his right knee.
Cooper never quit despite all the obstacles. He was rewarded Saturday when he got into the purple end zone in Husky Stadium on a 4-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter. He received a rousing ovation from those who had stuck around and was mobbed on the bench by his teammates.
"I knew it was going to be a special moment for me, my teammates, my coaches," Cooper said. "They've seen me put all the hard work in and all the time going through the injuries so it was definitely special."
Cooper had 14 carries for 59 yards. He was standing on the sideline when the third quarter ended and the Huskies at the Idaho State 4. Despite Dwayne Washington getting the bulk of carries on that possession, Cooper was sent in to finish it.
"I was stoked. There was no way I was going down," Cooper said.
Price played a little more than 1 1/2 quarters, throwing TD passes of 1, 6 and 5 yards and adding a 1-yard TD run as the Huskies led 42-0 at halftime. It was the second straight season the Huskies overwhelmed a lower division opponent. Last year, Washington led Portland State 45-0 at halftime.
Washington has started 3-0 for the first time since 2001 when it started 4-0. The team reopened Husky Stadium by dominating Boise State, earned its first non-conference road win since 2007 by winning at Illinois last week, and got backups playing time Saturday.
The real test for Washington begins next week when Arizona visits to open Pac-12 play. It starts a brutal four-game stretch that's followed by a game at Stanford, home for Oregon, and at Arizona State.
"We are ahead of where we were in the past," Washington defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha said. "That shouldn't change anything as far as where we want to be and where we strive to be."
That upcoming challenge, as much as the opponent, was the reason Sankey's day was so limited. Sarkisian said earlier this week the 35 carries Sankey had against Illinois were too many. Sankey had runs of 36, 3, 16 and 22 yards before calling it a day and turning the running load over to a deep stable of backups. Jesse Callier had an 8-yard TD run in the first quarter, but Washington's leading rusher was backup quarterback Cyler Miles, who ran for 89 yards on four carries.
Miles also found John Ross on a screen pass, and Ross showed off his speed on a 57-yard TD in the third quarter. The Huskies' 680 total yards were second-most in school history. Based on stats back to 1947, this marked the first time Washington amassed 500 yards in three straight games.
But Sarkisian will have plenty to bark about. Washington was penalized 16 times and had two TDs called back.
Idaho State lost its 19th straight game to FBS opponents and hasn't knocked off a higher-division squad since beating Utah State in 2000. The Bengals' undersized offensive line couldn't match Washington's power and speed, and QB Justin Arias was under pressure all afternoon. He was sacked five times in the first half and finished 18 of 39 for 140 yards and two interceptions.
Idaho State coach Mike Kramer was appreciative of how Washington handled the blowout.
"I applaud Coach Sarkisian and the entire Husky organization for making sure that we didn't come out of it as badly humbled as we were last year at Nebraska," Kramer said. "So I'm very, very grateful."