The over/under in this year’s Apple Cup was set at 60. Despite Washington State’s previously great defense, the Huskies nearly matched that total all by themselves. If not for a few self inflicted errors inside the 5-yard line they absolutely would’ve done so but it was still good enough for a 51-33 drubbing of the Cougs thanks to a 16-0 4th quarter. Michael Penix Jr. threw for 484 yards with 5 total touchdowns while both Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan surpassed 150 receiving yards. With the win the Huskies
The first few possessions were no indication of the offensive explosion that was to come. Washington State took advantage of a facemask penalty and kicker Dean Janikowski’s field goal attempt hit the crossbar but still bounced through to give the Cougs an early 3-0 lead. Washington’s first drive was thrown off by a holding penalty but Jack McAllister’s punt pinned Wazzu down at the 2. UW made good use of the field position forcing a 3-and-out and taking over in Coug territory after a punt.
Did you enjoy those punts while they lasted? Good because that’s the last you would see of them for a while.
Washington and Washington State traded touchdowns each over the next 7 possessions. The Cougars took advantage of a fake field goal for a 38-yard pass to keep a drive going as Cam Ward consistently escaped the clutches of a relentless but undisciplined Husky pass rush. Washington State went 4/4 on 4th down attempts in the 1st half to compensate for very poor 3rd down performance.
Meanwhile, Michael Penix Jr. found his stride after missing on quite a few throws early. He also got it done with his legs with a pair of rushing touchdowns on about as dissimilar two plays as you can find. Jalen McMillan had a full field throwback to Penix with a convoy of offensive linemen in front for a 30-yard run. He then pulled the ball before the running back got blown up while on the goal line and took it himself on the read option.
Through the air he found Ja’Lynn Polk who took advantage of his defender slipping to pick up yards after the catch and made it into the end zone thanks to a great downfield block by Rome Odunze. Rome also did it himself catching a 47-yard bomb on a gorgeous stutter step move.
Washington’s defense looked hapless for much of the night and continued to seem so after a completely unnecessary facemask by Kamren Fabiculanan and an unsportsmanlike conduct flag by Alex Cook gifted WSU 30 yards just before the half. The Huskies though were able to force an incompletion on a fade pass and the Cougars had to settle for a chip shot field goal making it 28-27 at the break.
The Huskies showed they were happy to continue to move the ball deep as Penix hit Jalen McMillan in stride for a 75-yard TD on the first play of the 2nd half. Washington’s defense forced a punt and it seemed like the Dawgs were going to pull away and go up 2 scores as they continued to march downfield. But Cam Davis lost the ball trying to spin away from a tackle and no replay conclusively showed his arm was down first so it was a WSU fumble recovery.
Down by the goal line Washington’s defense continued to look undisciplined as they committed a 12-men on the field penalty and the Cougars punched it in on the next play to make it 35-33. UW finally caught a break on the 2-point conversion attempt as Cam Ward didn’t change the ball into his right hand as he crossed the pylon and he was correctly ruled out of bounds and the try was no good.
Washington appeared unphased as they continued to move the ball but just like against Oregon, Michael Penix took an unnecessary risk on 1st down inside the 10 and was picked off for their 2nd straight turnover. UW’s defense continued to show improvements as they forced a 3-and out and gave it back to Penix. After a string of missed penalties (including when Jack Westover got hit smacked in the head with helmet to helmet and left with what looked very much like a concussion and there wasn’t even a targeting review) Washington finally caught a break on an iffy DPI penalty on 3rd down. The next 3 plays picked up 57 yards and Rome Odunze took a fly sweep 5 yards for a TD. Peyton Henry though missed the extra point off the upright to keep it a one-possession game at 41-33.
The defense continued their improved play as on 3rd down on the outskirts of field goal range, all 5 rushers converged on Cam Ward simultaneously leaving him with no chance to escape despite his slippery nature. True freshman Jayvon Parker got the sack as the Huskies were banged up front with some bodies missing.
Washington State was able to down it at the 2-yard line but as has been the case all year, it didn’t matter. The Huskies went on a 15 play, 94-yard drive taking 6:09 off the clock. However, a pair of incomplete throws inside the 3-yard line kept 5 minutes left for Washington State and only put the Huskies up 11 at 44-33.
The Cougars turned it over on downs and a few plays later Wayne Taulapapa burst up the middle for a 40-yard touchdown to put UW over both the 50 point and 700 yard markers. Jeremiah Martin picked up a sack on 4th down to officially end it with 5 seconds remaining.
With the win Washington finishes the regular season at 10-2. They are likely a USC win over Utah in the Pac-12 title game away from a Rose Bowl berth. If not, the resulting chaos around college football this Saturday still gives them a shot at an at-large spot in the New Year’s Six. There’s no way you can call this season anything but an unqualified success even with the “what if?” questions brought up by the bizarre Arizona State loss. And knocking Oregon out of the Pac-12 title game felt pretty good too.
And a huge thank you to Michael Penix Jr. for an absolutely magical season. He finishes the regular season with a nation leading 4,354 yards plus 33 total TDs. It’s criminal that he isn’t getting any Heisman consideration but it has been an unparalleled delight to watch him and the rest of the offense work this season.
Good night, and Go Dawgs!