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What We Learned: Apple Cup Edition

UW blew out the Cougs again to finish up the regular season.

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

While we await our bowl game fate, let’s look back at what we learned in the Apple Cup.

The secondary is back

Not like “Texas is back,” though. Against Utah and Stanford, the banged-up group struggled giving up completions on 3rd down, and were just getting beat more than we’ve come to expect. They got picked on, even in Byron Murphy’s return to health against Utah. After two rough games, especially by their standards, it was nice to see what is usually regarded as the best position group on the field find their their form.

Against WSU on Saturday night, the entire unit played with the skill, physicality, and swagger their coach Jimmy Lake has instilled in them. Murphy had an incredible game with 5 solo tackles, 3 passes defended, 1 TFL, and one monster hit that jarred the ball loose from a WSU receiver.

My goodness is right.

Even JoJo McIntosh and Zeke Turner, who are better known for some crushing hits of their own rather than coverage ability, each got an interception. It was only the 2nd of each one’s career.

Speaking of Zeke, he might have had his best game as a Husky in his collegiate home finale. He had 6 tackles, 4 of which came on kickoff coverage, and a pick he returned 41 yards. Zeke has been an asset on kickoff coverage all season so it was great to see him play the deep middle so well.

Taylor Rapp had 3 solo tackles, and Austin Joyner had a pass defended. The secondary reminded us all how deep, talented, and well coached they are on Saturday night. To top it all off, Jimmy Lake said he’s “100% staying” at Washington. And we all know coaches never lie about their career moves. Ever. Ever.

The pass rush by committee works

I’ve talked about it. The media has talked about it. You’ve talked about it.

The Huskies don’t have another Hau’oli Kikaha. There is not one double digit sack master on the Husky roster right now.

Ryan Bowman, who has not been mentioned enough by me for having a great year, might be our best pure pass rusher and he leads the team with just 5.5 sacks. Yet the Dawgs average over 3 sacks per game and rank #12 in the country in that regard. They’ve regularly gotten pressure with 3 and 4 man fronts. While it hasn’t been roses every game, the by-committee approach has to receive an overall passing grade, especially in light of the 5 sacks by 6 different players in the Apple Cup.

Greg Gaines and Vita Vea have been masterful in the center of the line all season freeing up players like Bowman, Tevis Barlett (4 sacks, 12 TFLs), Jaylen Johnson (3.5 sacks), and Benning Potoa’e (3 sacks). In the Apple Cup, Bowman, Bartlett, Johnson, and Potoa’e each finished with a sack. RS Freshman Levi Onwuzurike also flashed some serious potential in his limited snaps and finished the game with 3 tackles and a sack.

The pressure generated by the defensive line was a major reason the Cougars were shut out through 3 quarters.

Joel Whitford continues his promising debut season

Joel Whitford had a great game on Saturday night. The Australian used his deft touch when he needed to by downing two punts inside the 20, and his big leg when distance was required by averaging over 45 yards on each of his other punts. His overall average of 45.5 yards per punt was his 4th highest of the year.

He’s a big athlete who is proving to be reliable weapon on special teams. He had a couple bad kicks here and there throughout the year but he showed in the Apple Cup that he’s got the talent to be an All-Conference punter.

And since we’re talking kickers, shoutout to Tristan Vizcaino. A week after nailing the game winner against Utah, he hit all 5 of his PATs and both his field goals, including a new career long of 44 yards. A great way for the senior to end his Husky Stadium career.

Go Dawgs. Beat [insert bowl game opponent here].