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Grading the Game: Apple Cup

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We have plenty of praise to spread about following the Huskies’ fourth-consecutive victory over the Washington State Cougars.

NCAA Football: Washington at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Rushing Offense: B

Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman weren’t asked to lift a particularly heavy load Friday but made the most of their opportunities: Gaskin carried the ball 16 times for 50 yards and one touchdown, while Coleman went for 82 yards and two scores on 10 carries. The two made their biggest impact midway through the fourth quarter, when they combined to rush for 30 yards and two first downs on eight consecutive carries. That sequence chewed up more than six minutes off of the clock, and helped salt away an impressive road victory over a ranked rival.

Passing Offense: A-

Jake Browning may have reinserted himself into the Heisman discussion with his second Apple Cup performance, completing 21 of 29 passes (72.4 percent) for 292 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His 10.1 yards per attempt marked the seventh time in 12 games this season that he’s eclipsed the 10-yard YPA mark, and his season-long 9.6 YPA average is a healthy 1.2 yards ahead of his closest Pac-12 competitor. On the other hand, Browning’s tendency to underthrow his downfield passes continues to be an issue that will likely come back to haunt him against teams with truly elite secondaries.

Rushing Defense: A

Wazzu fans have spent much of this season touting Mike Leach’s new and improved running game featuring the three-headed monster of James Williams, Jamal Morrow, and Gerard Wicks. The Washington front seven proved more than up to the task, however, limiting the three running backs to 69 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries. Most importantly, the Husky defense stuffed the Cougars twice on fourth-and-goal runs, including one decisive drive late in the fourth quarter that the Huskies subsequently answered by driving 98 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. That sequence plunged a dagger into the hearts of Coug fans envisioning a 2012-esque fourth-quarter Apple Cup comeback, and secured Washington’s first 11-win campaign since 2000.

Passing Defense: A-

Washington State quarterback Luke Falk came into Saturday’s game having completed 152 passes of 10 yards or more (14.7 per game), best in the Pac-12 and second nationally behind Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes. Against the Washington defense, Falk completed 12 such passes, only one of which went for more than 18 yards, and none of which resulted in a score. In addition, Falk completed one touchdown pass (down from his 3.3 average) and threw a season-high three interceptions (up from his 0.9 average). In addition, Keishawn Bierria and Damion Turpin both earned one sack apiece while Vita Vea and Connor O’Brien each registered a QB hurry.

Special Teams: B-

Vizcaino’s three punts went for a healthy 41, 48 and 41 yards, although the coverage team’s breakdowns resulted in a 64-yard return by WSU’s Jamal Morrow that could have easily translated into six points if not for the Husky defense’s strong goal-line stand. On kickoffs, WSU’s returners managed to hand the ball to their offense at their own 44- and 33-yard lines, as well as an out-of-bounds kickoff infraction that gave Wazzu the ball at their 35. Cameron Van Winkle deserves credit for nailing his only field goal attempt of the day, a 41-yarder midway through the fourth quarter that increased Washington’s lead to 28 points, and successfully made all six of his PATs. Finally, John Ross was only afforded two returns on the day, one of which was called back thanks to an illegal block penalty.

Coaching: A

Chris Petersen and his staff came into this game willing to yield short completions to Wazzu in exchange for keeping the ball in front of the defenders and relying on the down defensive linemen to handle most of the Cougars’ rushing attempts. In that, the Dawgs were unquestionably successful: Falk’s 269 passing yards represent his third-lowest total on the season, while top targets Gabe Marks and Tavares Martin Jr. were limited to 149 yards and one touchdown on 15 catches after averaging 129.6 yards and 1.7 TDs on 11.9 catches in the season’s previous 11 games. With the Dawgs on offense, Wazzu sold out to stop the run while daring Jake Browning to beat them through the air, and play-caller Jonathan Smith was happy to oblige. In just the first quarter, the Huskies completed 14 of 18 passes for 252 yards for three touchdowns en route to a 28-3 lead, and mostly played conservatively throughout the remainder of the game to protect that decisive advantage. The Dawgs also racked up more penalties than they’d prefer (nine for 75 yards), with just one coming in the personal foul variety, and four of the others being false starts that were indicative of Martin Stadium’s raucous atmosphere.