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Grading the Game: Washington State Cougars vs. Washington Huskies Football

If Saturday was Myles Gaskin’s final game at Husky Stadium, he went out with one hell of a bang.

NCAA Football: Washington State at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Huskies registered a dominant victory over the Washington State Cougars Saturday, securing the Apple Cup for a fifth consecutive time and giving Chris Petersen a 4-0 record against his cross-state rival. Washington’s win came on the strength of Myles Gaskin’s rushing and the defense’s stellar performance that limited the Cougars to a season-low 69 plays. In addition to the bragging rights that come with Apple Cup ownership, the Dawgs spoiled Washington State’s chance to represent the North division in this week’s Pac-12 championship game, and kept alive their hopes of playing in a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Rushing Offense: A+

Myles Gaskin has more than a few stellar performances to his name, and his 2017 Apple Cup performance ranks right up there with the best of them. Against the Cougars, Gaskin carried the ball 25 times for 192 yards and four touchdowns, and was only taken down in the backfield three times for a total of five yards. Not even Lavon Coleman’s first-half injury could derail Washington’s ground game dominance over the Cougar defense, as Salvon Ahmed ably stood up in replacement and averaged 9.1 yards per carry on nine attempts. At the end of the day, Washington racked up 328 yards and five touchdowns on 45 carries, easily making it one of the Huskies’ top-five rushing performances of the Petersen era against Pac-12 competition.

Passing Offense: C

Washington didn’t do much through the air against the Cougars for two reasons. First, Dante Pettis’ unfortunate leg injury in the first half removed yet another of Jake Browning’s favorite targets from the field; second, UW’s success on the ground game ensured that there was never a legitimate need for the Dawgs to challenge WSU through the air. The end result was one of the quietest days of Jake Browning’s career: 11 completions on 17 attempts for 93 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. Finally, the offensive line allowed Browning to be sacked just one time, at the start of the fourth quarter when the Huskies held a 34-0 lead.

Rushing Defense: A+

I don’t think I can say it any better than Adam did in his above tweet. Sure, Wazzu’s -24 yards rushing on the day factors in five Luke Falk sacks for a loss of 38 yards, and the Cougars eschew rushing attempts like no other team in the nation, but that still leaves WSU with 10 rushes for 14 yards on the day. In addition, eight Huskies contributed to Washington’s seven tackles for loss on the day. Simply put, it was one of the most dominant performances we’ve seen this season from a defense that has had no shortage of highlight-reel performances.

Passing Defense: A

Washington’s defensive struggles in the passing game against Stanford and Utah were the primary reason why I thought WSU would upset the Huskies Saturday; thankfully, my suspicions proved entirely unfounded. Against the Cougars, Washington’s pass defense was everything they were not against the Cardinal and the Utes. Luke Falk completed 37 of 55 attempts for 369 yards, but only threw one touchdown pass against three interceptions, and UW’s superb pass coverage resulted in the Dawgs recovering a fumble early in the second quarter when Falk coughed up the ball while scrambling. Ezekiel Turner, JoJo McIntosh and Ben Burr-Kirven each earned a single interception, Byron Murphy was credited with three pass defenses, and no Wazzu receiver found the end zone until the fourth quarter, at which point the game was well and truly decided.

Special Teams: A-

The injury bug seems to have bitten the Huskies particularly hard this year, and that Washington fans were reminded of football’s inherent danger less than 10 minutes into the game when Dante Pettis injured his leg on an ill-fated punt return. Fortunately for the Dawgs, special teams was nothing but good news from that point onward. Tristan Vizcaino was a perfect two-for-two and five-for-five on field goals and extra points, respectively, including a career-long from 44 yards out. Punter Joel Whitford landed two kicks inside the Cougar 20-yard line and averaged 47.5 yards on his other two punts, and Jake Browning had a beautiful pooch-punt of his own that Andre Baccellia knocked out of bounds at the Cougar 1-yard line.

Coaching: A

In the past, secondary coach Jimmy Lake has spoke lovingly of how much his players and fellow coaches enjoy preparing to play the Cougars’ unique passing attack, and that preparation was on full display Saturday night before the sold-out Apple Cup crowd. At times, it seems as if Washington’s coaches understand WSU’s schemes better than Leach’s own players do. How else do you explain a drive chart that reads punt, punt, interception, fumble, punt, punt, interception, punt, interception, and punt before finally scoring two garbage time touchdowns?

In short, Chris Petersen owns this rivalry. He knows it, Mike Leach knows it, the players know it, the fans know it, and I’ll remember to know it when it comes time to predict how next year’s contest at Martin Stadium will transpire.


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