As always on the day after, it’s time to recount the positives and negatives from Washington’s most recent football game, this one a 45-17 victory over Washington State in the Apple Cup that clinched the Pac-12 North championship.
First, a few links:
--- Here is my story from Pullman, where UW used a big first quarter to improve to 11-1 and claim the North division title.
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TV highlights from the Pac-12 Networks:
And radio highlights from Bob Rondeau:
1. The first quarter.
This, obviously, was the key to the game for the Huskies. After scoring a touchdown on their first possession, the Huskies got the ball back when DJ Beavers forced and recovered a Jamal Morrow fumble. Then the Huskies scored again to take a 14-0 lead, and again to take a 21-3 lead, and again to take a 28-3 lead after their first four offensive possessions.
When the quarter ended, the Huskies had 274 yards of total offense, and 252 yards passing, the most in a single quarter by an FBS team against an FBS opponent in the last two years, per ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura.
The huge early lead was enough for the Huskies to ride to a comfortable victory. Washington finishes the season having outscored its opponents 162-26 in the first quarter, and 314-81 in the first half.
“You know Washington State is going to score their points,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “They’re going to get their yards, for sure. And so just kind of the way the game started, our offense just kind of kept going.”
2. Lavon Coleman.
This wasn’t the best game for starting tailback Myles Gaskin, who scored a touchdown but finished with only 50 yards on 16 carries. But he was picked up nicely by backup tailback Lavon Coleman, who rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries and is now up to 735 yards rushing this season.
Coleman still leads all qualified Pac-12 players in yards per rush with 8.26.
He was essential on Washington’s 10-play, 98-yard touchdown drive that put UW ahead 42-17 in the fourth quarter and basically ended the game, and he has been a reliable, productive No. 2 back all season.
3. Those goal-line stands.
Lot of talk after the game about Washington’s two goal-line stands, particularly the one late in the third quarter with the Huskies leading 35-17.
WSU failing to score on that possession likely did nothing to change the outcome, as a touchdown would have only cut the deficit to two scores. But the Huskies stuffing Gerard Wicks on a fourth-and-goal run from the 1-yard line was representative of the way UW dominated physically from start to finish.
The Cougars also came up short on a second-quarter possession when they went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yad line, and Wicks was stopped at the 1.
“It was awesome, really, because Washington State has been kind of sneaky good in the past about running the ball, especially down there, and this year it wasn’t even sneaky good. They just run the ball,” Petersen said. “And so the guy – I kept seeing Greg Gaines flash, all those big guys inside. They were playing physical. You can hear it from the sideline, and it was awesome. You kind of thought they’d probably run it down there, which they should, and guys answered.”
1. Early penalties.
It didn’t end up mattering, obviously, but the Huskies could have put themselves in an unfavorable early position with all of their false start penalties. They had five penalties for 30 yards in the first quarter alone – four false starts and a hold – which put them behind the sticks to begin a couple of possessions.
Petersen said WSU’s frequent defensive-line shifts and the crowd noise caused the procedure penalties. Again, it wasn’t a huge deal. But the Huskies did finish this game with nine penalties for 75 yards, far more than their season average, and the coaches likely won’t love that when they sit down to analyze the game film.
2. WSU almost crept back into it.
This is another minor nit to pick, because it’s not like the Huskies were going to keep WSU off the scoreboard completely. But there were probably a few nervous UW fans in the third quarter as the Cougars drove for a touchdown to cut UW’s lead to 35-17, then drove inside the 5-yard line with a chance to make it 35-24 before the Huskies came up with that big goal-line stand.
Would WSU have had a chance if it had scored that touchdown? It still would have been tough for the Cougars to win the game, but they at least would have made it interesting. After leading 35-10 at halftime, the Huskies probably hoped to put the pedal down a little more authoritatively than that.
Again, UW never led by fewer than 18 points in the second half, so it’s not like they truly let WSU back into it. But the Huskies did slow down a little after the first quarter, and maybe the most demanding UW fans would have liked to see them turn it into a laugher in the third quarter instead of allowing WSU to come back a bit.
3. Ohio State beat Michigan.
Sure, this has nothing to do with the Apple Cup. And no, it has nothing to do with the Huskies. But if UW could have picked the outcome of Saturday’s big game between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan, the Huskies probably would have preferred a Michigan victory. Ohio State winning means the Buckeyes remain in the College Football Playoff picture, which could complicate things for the Huskies if they win Friday’s Pac-12 championship game. UW could still be in good shape, of course. But a Michigan victory would have made things much simpler. (Hey, when you win the Apple Cup by 28 points to clinch the Pac-12 North title, there aren’t a lot of negatives.)