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Game Awards—Washington State Edition

We've got praise aplenty to spread around following Washington's sixth Apple Cup victory in seven years.

Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Game Ball Goes To: Myles Gaskin
In his first Apple Cup, Gaskin turned in one of his best performances of the year by toting the rock a season-high 32 times for 138 yards and two scores. That includes 21 carries for 109 yards in the second half, when the Huskies badly needed him to help convert first downs and salt the game away. Watching Myles' growth has been one of Washington's offensive highlights this year, and seeing him become the program's all-time freshman rushing leader with 1,121 yards and 10 touchdowns on the year augurs well for the future of UW's backfield.

Defensive Game Ball Goes To: Sidney Jones

In a year brimming with impressive defensive performances, Pete Kwiatkowski and Co. saved a special one for the Cougars. Having scored just one defensive touchdown on the year—a Sidney Jones fumble recovery against Cal—Jones, Darren Gardenhire and Azeem Victor all got in on the action by scoring a pair of pick-sixes and a scoop-and-score, two of which came within a minute of each other in the fourth quarter. In addition, Jones was credited with six tackles and three pass breakups.

Most important play: Myles Gaskin's 5-yard touchdown run to start the fourth quarter
After decisively seizing the game's momentum in the first 40 minutes of the contest, Washington found itself on its heels midway through the third quarter after Washington State returned Jake Browning's sole interception of the day to the UW 19-yard line. The Cougs took advantage of the short field by turning their ensuing possession into seven points and narrowing the score to 24-10. On Washington's following possession, Browning displayed maturity and poise beyond his years by bouncing back from his turnover and completing all three of his pass attempts. The real star of the drive, however, was Myles Gaskin, who rushed for 55 yards on seven carries, including the five-yard carry that made up the point differential Washington yielded on the previous drive. All season long, the Huskies have struggled to answer opponent scoring drives, and seeing them do so against the Cougars in what could have been the game's turning point is hugely encouraging in terms of what we might expect to see from them in their upcoming bowl game and beyond.

Most Important Statistic: 22:58 (Washington's second-half time of possession)
Believe it or not, the Huskies entered halftime with a time of possession deficit, having controlled the ball for 14:30 against Wazzu's 15:30. In the second half, however, the Huskies emphatically took control of the game by running the ball, converting first downs and milking the clock by playing offense for nearly 23 of the half's 30 minutes. One of the biggest criticisms of Jonathan Smith this year was his abandonment of the run in the second half of the Arizona State game despite Washington's 17-3 halftime lead; no observer could possibly say that he made the same mistake following Friday's outcome.

Most Encouraging Takeaway: The Huskies blew out a quality opponent by finding their killer instinct
Early in the season, Washington's biggest problem was the offense's proclivity to perform in fits and starts. Prior to the Arizona game, the Dawgs had shown little ability to play at a high level for more than a series or two during the course of a game. But against Oregon State and now Washington State, the Huskies have put on dominant performances against conference foes, one of which was nationally ranked at the time. Consider that in the last 120 minutes of game time, the Huskies have outscored their opponents by 97-17, outgained them by 925 yards to 576, and won the turnover battle by a plus-eight margin. Washington's record may be 6-6, but keeping in mind their growth and upward trajectory, it's easy to make the argument that they are playing like a team capable of winning at least some of the close games that they lost earlier in the year.

Biggest Source of Frustration: The special teams unit left points on the field in consecutive series
Though the kicking game thankfully never factored heavily into the outcome of the game, thanks largely to Myles Gaskin's running ability and the defense scoring 21 points, it was undeniably frustrating to see the normally reliable junior Cameron Van Winkle and sophomore Tristan Vizcaino miss field goal attempts on back-to-back series in the fourth quarter. In addition, none of UW's kickoffs even made it to the Cougar end zone, let alone got called for touchbacks. The colder temperatures obviously (and understandably) played a role in causing problems for the kickers, but on a day when most everything went right for the Huskies, that this relatively minor gripe stands out as the team's biggest flaw is telling in terms of how well the game went for Washington.