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The good, the bad and the unknown: Washington State

The good, the bad, and the unknown of Washington’s blowout win in the Apple Cup

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

The Good

11-1 (North Champions - I thought the Huskies could go 11-1 in the regular season in the North, but I honestly didn’t think it would happen. This was a hell of a job by Chris Petersen, his staff, and the players to arrive at the highest level a year before most thought they could. They took care of business with only two bad games all year (Arizona/USC). Well done, and this was more than the cherry on top.

Game plan - I loved this game plan. On offense, the Huskies made Washington State prove they could stop John Ross and Dante Pettis with Chico McClatcher peppered in, and committed to the run just when they needed to. On defense, I loved mixing blitzes and the right timing, forcing the Cougars to rely on short-yardage passing which drained the clock and put the Cougars in third down after third down. Also, liked mixing in the trick plays to keep the Cougars on their toes.

Jake Browning - The old Jake Browning was back. He rarely missed on passes, never looked rattled, let the game come to him, and delivered with accuracy. The Huskies are very hard to stop when Browning plays as he did in the Apple Cup.

Offensive line - One of the reasons Browning was able to be Browning was because the offensive line got back to good as well. They gave Browning loads of time and were able to control the run game against a Cougar front which had been great at stopping the run all season.

Ross and Pettis - The Huskies have never had a receiver duo like this one. This might have been their best combined performance and the Cougars simply had no answer for them.

Lavon Coleman - Coleman was a monster, putting in a performance just like his one against Arizona earlier in the season. He exploded every time the Huskies needed him to and provided a deadly secondary look to Myles Gaskin the Cougars could not stop.

Oh yeah, and that tackle he made to on that Washington State punt return was quietly the play of the game.

Goal line stand (2x) - One goal line stand is impressive; two is legendary. Both goal line stands by the Husky defense occurred just when they needed them to keep the Cougars from crossing the threshold into making it a game. The WSU offense did not fail in those cases; the Huskies simply crushed the line of scrimmage, making solid tackles and reading plays.

Defensive line - An ideal performance by the defensive line. Gaines, Qualls, Vea and all of the depth players were outstanding. They got lots of pressure up front, never budged in the run game, and were immovable in the red zone. The Huskies can run with college football’s elite if the guys up front on defense can play like this every game.

Blitzes - The Huskies executed their blitzes very well and mixed them up in form and timing enough to where it seemed like they had the Cougars off guard all game. When they got into the backfield, they stepped up and finished sacks.

Interceptions - I don’t think the Huskies dropped an interception all game—in a game when that was of the utmost importance.

Safeties - Budda Baker had another impressive game, but I want to mix Taylor Rapp into this as well. He was incredible, especially for a true freshman. This position was thrown into the ultimate test for the safety position and realistically couldn’t have played much better.

Young linebackers - The young linebacker group led by D.J. Beavers and Ben Burr-Kirven is my biggest question mark moving forward from Sark players to Petersen players. This was maybe their biggest test yet with Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria (for a portion of the game) out. They also passed the test about as well as they could and look like they are ready to take the torch from Victor, Bierria, and Joe Mathis when it is ready.

Ending the Falk Question - All the talk about how ‘Washington’s blowout in the 2015 Apple Cup was meaningless because Luke Falk didn’t play’ ended up being bulls***. The Huskies took on Falk and it equated to seven more points in Pullman. I think Peyton Bender may have had a better statistical game last year than Falk did this year.

Drawing Colorado - I think getting revenge on USC in Santa Clara (something I think the Huskies could have done) would have been the ultimate statement for the season and the Playoff committee, but beating Colorado won’t be too far off that and I think it is an easier game to win. Plus, the Colorado vs. Utah game couldn’t have gone much better for the Huskies as the Buffs played a slugfest which went all four quarters, but won and now have to play six days later against a Husky team with an extra day of rest who put their game away early.

Playoff statement - The Huskies made a really nice statement on national TV as a premiere game going on a Friday as we closed the regular season. I hope the Playoff committee and media took notice.

The Bad

Penalties - The false starts were painful, especially in a hostile environment, but still small. Much more painful to me were the defensive holding penalties which kept drives alive for the Cougars which could have opened the door for them in the game.

Third Quarter - It was nice that the Huskies had the Cougars run out the entire third-quarter clock and end up with just seven points, but things could have gone much worse, and would have against a better team. Plus, that was just a brutal quarter to watch as it was near 15 minutes of Leach’s offense grinding out third down conversions with short passes.

Pressure and pass defense at key times - I understand it is difficult to generate a pass rush on every passing play given how often the Cougars pass, but at times the Huskies again seemed to struggle to generate a pass rush when they really needed it. The Dawgs had a hard time getting off the field with a sack, pressure, or a pass breakup on key conversion downs. This will kill them against better competition.

The Unknown

Is Colorado USC or Washington State? The Buffs are very good, no question about that. However, I can’t tell if they are a Washington State (a good team who made the most of a schedule which laid out very well for them) or a USC (obviously they don’t quite have their talent) who is simply a scary team to play against. I think it is somewhere in between.

Sefo Liufau - You would think the Huskies should have no problem with Liufau after dominating Luke Falk, but that’s not the case because of the way even mildly athletic quarterbacks seem to give the Husky defense fits (see Troy Williams and Brandon Dawkins out-performing Falk and Davis Webb). Will Liufau be able to frustrate the Husky defense they way mobile quarterbacks have earlier in the season?