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Dawgs plow their way to the Pac-12 North title: Apple Cup Reactions

Myles Gaskin and the defense lead the way.

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

The journey was far from as expected, but Washington is the 2018 Pac-12 North Champion after defeating Washington State 28-15 in snowy Martin Stadium. The Dawgs are one game away from playing in the Rose Bowl and finishing with an 11-win season. How about that?

Washington started strong, running Myles Gaskin 14 times in the first half for two TDs. Jake Browning, aside from his awful red zone interception on the Huskies’ first possession, was sharp despite just six total pass attempts. The defense on the other hand, made Gardner Minshew and the Cougar offense completely look lost. Even if Minshew had time in the pocket, he was plagued by indecision and continually hit his check-down options out of the backfield. The Husky defense was ready time and time again, limiting YAC. RB James Williams broke loose a couple times but it didn’t matter. Williams and freshman Max Borghi weren’t getting up field for easy yards against this fast Husky defense.

A fumbled kickoff return gave WSU life in the second quarter and let them cut the lead to 14-7 through a few James Williams runs. Special teams gaffes would keep this game closer than it should have been, but the Huskies were averaging almost double the yards per play as the Cougars and taking better advantage of their opportunities. At times, the Huskies looked brutally efficient.

Washington led 14-7 going into halftime but received the ball to start the third quarter. On their first third-and-long play, Jake Browning found Hunter Bryant who outran the WSU defense down the sideline for a 59-yard gain. Aaron Fuller found him a couple plays later on a double pass like those Dante Pettis used to throw. But the ensuing PAT was blocked and returned all the way for a bizarre two-point special teams play from WSU. After that, WSU began to inch their way back, thanks to another untimely turnover from Jake Browning. The Cougars scored on the drive but missed on the two-point conversion. 20-15, Huskies.

NCAA Football: Washington at Washington State
How important was Hunter Bryant tonight?
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the sloppy play, Washington’s defense was still not letting WSU’s offense do anything. Minshew wasn’t testing the UW secondary, and the pass rush started getting home more and moving him off his spot. With the game still tied at 20-15 heading into the fourth quarter, the outcome was far from certain. Washington was looking like the better team, but like they have shown all season, couldn’t execute in the critical moments to really put their opponent to the sword. BBK came down with a pick after nice pressure from the DL, but the Huskies couldn’t turn it into points and punted it right back to the Cougars.

Enter Myles Gaskin. On 3rd-and-1 early in the fourth quarter, he used his trademark patience to find the hole and explode past the Cougar “speed D” for an 80-yard touchdown with twelve minutes left in the game. WSU ran 7 plays for 20 yards before punting back to the Huskies, who executed a game-killing 14-play, 76-yard drive, ending with Jake Browning taking a knee on Washington State’s 5-yard line. The Huskies danced on the field for their sixth straight Apple Cup victory.

Instant Dots:

  • Myles Gaskin is simply one of the greatest Husky football players of all time; he’s on an incredibly short list. With his 170 yards tonight, he became the first Pac-12 player in history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in four straight seasons. He was everything to the Huskies tonight, slipping and squirming for yards the way only he can. Anyone unconvinced how important he is to this team and program should staple their eyelids open and watch this game about 17 more times.
  • How about that defense? Yet again, they have proved complete mastery over the Air Raid offense. Gardner Minshew and this iteration of Mike Leach’s WSU offense were arguably the best he’s had. Death Row held him to 152 yards and 2 INTs with no TDs, while no receiver had a gain of more than 11 yards. “Minshew Magic” turned out to be more of the same for WSU against Chris Petersen’s Huskies.
  • Joe Tryon was active tonight and his sack on Minshew in the fourth quarter helped seal the game. He also had two TFLs.
  • Brandon Wellington was all over the place, finally returning to health and finishing with five solo tackles.
  • Hunter Bryant is an absolute game-changer. He has such sure hands and runs incredibly well for his size and strength. Each of his three catches came in critical moments and went for big gains or a TD.
  • Andre Baccellia had the huge deep ball and a few nice gains on screens. He was the most consistent WR tonight, with Aaron Fuller and Ty Jones not targeted much.
  • Byron Murphy made a huge play at the end of the first half to keep WSU out of the end zone. That was Washington State’s only pass attempt that reached the end zone and it could have tied the game if not for Murphy.
  • Nice blocking from Jacob Kizer today. Number 86 sealed the edge on Gaskin’s 80-yard run and was lined up as a fullback on more than few plays.
  • Trey Adams continued his journey to full strength and played a bunch of snaps throughout the game. Admittedly I didn’t really notice him, which I guess is good for an OL.
  • Speaking of which, props to the offensive line for paving the way for Gaskin’s huge night,
  • Special teams...what to say? You can give them a pass because of the snow, but a blocked PAT returned to the house, a fumbled kickoff return, and allowing a 50+ yard kickoff return are big problems. They were fortunate to not have cost the Huskies in this game.
  • The same can be said of turnovers. Two from Jake Browning at the really bad moments gave WSU life. But he still is the first Husky QB to start and win four Apple Cups, so he deserves credit for that.
  • Salvon Ahmed was having a fairly quiet game until he started getting more carries late in the game to seal it. His speed and ability to beat defenders to the edge gave Washington key first downs and helped burn clock.
  • Shoutout to the WSU Marching Band for playing the Husky fight song in place of the Husky Band.
  • How does it feel, Kaleb?
  • Washington will now play Utah on Friday in Santa Clara for the conference championship. Washington won their earlier meeting in Salt Lake City 21-7.