“It’s where we wanted to be, way back when,” Chris Petersen in his press conference after the Apple Cup and before the Pac-12 Championship Game.
It took some wild twists and turns, but the UW football season ultimately got to where most everyone hoped it would be when fall practice started several months ago. As a team in the back half of the top 10, the College Football Playoff was a hope, but the most likely and tangible goal was always a Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl berth. After an Apple Cup win made of equal parts grit and snow, the Huskies are a win away from that destination.
Offensive MVP - Myles Gaskin
Weather heavily influenced the game, to be certain, and UW showed that they have the personnel and schemes to adequately adjust to the challenges. While the Cougar pass attack flailed to the tune of 4.3 yards per attempt and two interceptions, Washington adapted. Jake Browning attempted only 14 passes on the night compared to Gaskin’s 27 rushes. In total, the team’s ratio was 15 passes against 44 runs, and it was absolutely the right decision.
Gaskin’s headline-grabbing run was an 80-yard scamper on which he found a hole on the left side of the line and exploded through it, barely reaching the end zone as the defense chased him down. Gaskin’s second TD run of the game was arguably even more impressive. He took the hand-off just outside the five-yard line and absorbed contact from the first defender behind the line. He careened off of several defenders and somehow maintained his balance just long enough to break the plane and put the Huskies up by two TDs.
On the game, Gaskin totaled 170 yards. He averaged over six yards per touch even though the defense knew the ball was going to him a vast majority of the time. With a capable assist from Salvon Ahmed (9 carries, 87 yards), the rush offense and play action passing were more than enough to hold the lead. The grand finale of the game was a 14-play, 76-yard drive that ate up the last 8:47 of the game and the last of Washington State’s resolve. It was a back-breaking drive that elevated UW’s season and it would not have been possible without Gaskin.
Defensive MVP - Ben Burr-Kirven
Once again, the Husky defense put in a total team effort led by BBK, who has a remarkable skill of being in the right place at the right time. Aside from BBK, several other defenders showed up in a significant fashion. Joe Tryon had a bigger role in this game and looked extremely disruptive on the edge; he finished with 3 tackles, a sack, and another tackle for loss. Greg Gaines got consistent penetration from the tackle position and added a sack of his own. Byron Murphy helped the defense avert disaster with an interception at the end of the first half to negate a fumbled kickoff return. Elijah Molden was involved constantly and would have had an interception of his own if he didn’t drop the ball.
BBK, though, was the biggest difference-maker. He maintained his position atop the Huskies tackle leaderboard with 10 more in this one. He fell on WSU’s bad snap on a fourth down play late in the first quarter. While the play was likely broken anyway, it ensured that no Cougar would be able to scoop it up for a miracle conversion. In the third quarter, he picked off a Gardner MInshew pass that looked like the worst type of Jake Browning pass- falling backward, evading pressure, and still trying to fit the ball into a small window. BBK lost contain on a couple of passes to the flats early in the game but adjusted as the night went on and took away the only thing WSU had working.
If you didn’t watch BBK consistently, you might think that he gets lucky. The reality is that he has great instincts to go with his great speed, so it’s no accident that he winds up in the right place so often. His ability to get to where he wants to be was instrumental in getting the Huskies where they wanted to be, way back when. Well said, Coach Pete.