The Huskies achieved their easiest conference win of the year on Saturday. They held serve against the lowly Beavers to keep their Rose Bowl hopes alive. The game was never in doubt after the first quarter and the day’s highest drama came when the Seniors brought flowers to their parents in the pregame.
So why is there a lingering feeling of unease in the Husky fan-base? Is it the fact that it’s hard to get over three losses that all very easily could have gone the other way? Is it the lack of decisive blow-outs against less talented opposition? Is it the impending showdown with Washington State, an Apple Cup with the game’s highest stakes in well over a decade? Is it the Cougars’ continued dominance in the conference and the fact that they made a bad opponent look much worse than the Huskies made the Beavers look?
All in all, that feeling of unease is just that- a feeling. There are plenty of statistical and logical reasons to see Friday’s game as a closer match-up than any of the previous Petersen-Leach match-ups, but the outcome of the Oregon State game is not one of those reasons. The Huskies thumped the Beavers long enough to erase any worry about the game and then took their collective foot off the gas pedal. Perhaps Petersen didn’t want to rub it in against his protege, Jonathan Smith. Maybe Smith’s familiarity with the UW system allowed him to call more effective plays to make the final score look closer than the true talent level. Maybe we have special teams to blame, once again, for an undue swing in the point total. In any case, the game featured about 1.5 quarters of football where the Huskies went all out, so the game awards look more closely at those parts of the game than the mop-up duty late.
Offensive MVPs- Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin
It’s oh-so-fitting that the pair of four-year starters who have defined Petersen’s UW tenure to date led the team to an easy win in their last game at Husky Stadium. Both were very efficient out of the gates and created an insurmountable margin early on.
One of UW’s greatest offensive struggles all year has been the lack of big plays in the passing game, but those opportunities opened up early in the game. The poor Beaver defense and the returns of Trey Adams, Hunter Bryant, and Myles Gaskin all helped Browning, and he took advantage of the personnel advantages. He finished the game with completions on 74% of his attempts, a very good 9.2 yards per attempt, and an blemished 3TD/0INT ratio. Probably the most encouraging stat for Browning was the fact that 5 passes went for gains of at least 20 yards, including some long balls and some yards after the catch.
Gaskin got started even faster than Browning. He rushed for 14 yards on his first carry and 64 two plays letter to set up Salvon Ahmed’s TD on the first drive. He added a rushing TD and a receiving TD of his own later in the game. Whenever the line gave Gaskin room to operate, he made the most of the opportunity and broke out for big yardage, a total of 135 on the day. It left Gaskin with 906 yards on the season and a very good chance to crack the 1000 yard mark with 2-3 games remaining. It would make Gaskin the first back in conference history with four 1000 yard seasons.
Defensive MVP- Benning Potoa’e
Oregon State managed a fairly impressive 23 points against a very good Husky defense, due in part to a strong game from standout freshman running back Jermar Jefferson. He totaled 115 yards on 19 carries. Strangely, Jefferson did not touch the ball on either of Oregon State’s touchdown drives.
Overall, the defensive line played quite well as a unit early in the game. Potoa’e gets the recognition here with 5 tackles, including two TFL, one a sack. He has been a steady hand all year on the edge of the defensive line, which has made it difficult for runners to break big plays to the otuside. There was enough of a consistent pass rush on Saturday to make things hard for Beaver QB Jake Luton, as well. Luton only completed 54% of his passes for an average of 4.6 yards per attempt. To get to even that modest threshold, the Beavers had to make several acrobatic catches in tight coverage.