No. 6 Washington built a 28-3 lead in the first quarter and staved off a strong third-quarter push from the No. 23 Cougars to claim its first Pac-12 North division championship with a 45-17 victory in Friday’s 109th edition of the Apple Cup.
PULLMAN — Chris Petersen refused to name names. A day before the 109th Apple Cup, someone in the Huskies’ traveling party busted the grand, old prize presented to the game’s winner, the signature silver apple having fallen far from the top of the trophy.
So by the time Gov. Jay Inslee stepped onto the makeshift stage in Martin Stadium’s east end zone late Friday afternoon, with Washington’s band playing the school fight song behind him, UW players dancing and celebrating in front of him, what he had left to present Petersen was a Governor’s Trophy without its centerpiece, a pie without its delicate fillings.
No matter. The trophy presentation is a mere formality anyway, not unlike the final three quarters of the Huskies’ 45-17 romp over Washington State.
From a sensational start to a no-doubt-about-it finish, the No. 6 Huskies (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) rolled to their fourth consecutive Apple Cup victory, each one more impressive than the last. In an Apple Cup as big as any before it, with the Pac-12 North title on the line, the No. 23 Cougars (8-4, 7-2) were cooked early.
Washington’s defense intercepted WSU’s Luke Falk three times and had two game-changing goal-line stands to once again shut down the Cougars’ “Air Raid” attack. Petersen now is 3-0 against the Cougars as the Huskies coach, his UW teams having outscored WSU 121-40.
“This feels good — it always feels good to beat the Cougs,” said UW left tackle Trey Adams, a Wenatchee product. “It’s definitely sweet for me and sweet for this program.”
Now, the potential prizes keep getting grander for Washington. With their first Pac-12 division title secured, the Huskies advance to the Pac-12 championship game next week, where they’ll meet either Colorado or USC at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Friday night. And, after that, a national playoff berth remains within reach.
“It’s always good to get a win against (the Cougars), and now we’re going to the Pac-12 championship. There’s nothing better than that,” UW receiver Dante Pettis said.
Pettis’ right arm helped the Huskies soften WSU’s defense early. On the game’s opening drive, Pettis threw to tight end Darrell Daniels for a 50-yard gain off a double pass, setting up Myles Gaskin’s 2-yard run to give the Huskies a lead they would never relinquish.
Four plays later, freshman safety Taylor Rapp knocked the ball away from WSU’s Jamal Morrow, a fumble recovered by UW’s DJ Beavers at the Cougars’ 46-yard line. Pettis’ hands took over from there, as he hauled in an 18-yard strike from Jake Browning to make it 14-0.
After a field goal by WSU’s Erik Powell, Pettis had the play of the day, leaping over WSU cornerback Darrien Molton to haul in a 61-yard touchdown reception, extending UW’s lead to 21-3.
By the end of the first quarter, after Browning found John Ross III for a 6-yard touchdown, the Huskies led 28-3. That tied the UW record for points scored in the first quarter.
Browning was 13 for 17 for 202 yards and had all three of his touchdown passes in the first quarter, vaulting himself back into the Heisman Trophy discussion with just nine days remaining before finalists are announced.
Browning is just the third quarterback in Pac-12 history to throw 40 touchdown passes in a season. He’s three touchdowns shy of matching the conference record of 43 (set by California’s Jared Goff last year) — with at least two games remaining.
It looks more and more possible that the Huskies, No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings, will earn one of the four national playoff berths if they win the Pac-12 championship game. Browning said he’s not getting caught up in any of that, or spending much time relishing the program’s first 11-win season since 2000.
“I think that’s something I’ll look back on at the end of the season like, ‘Hey, that’s pretty cool,’ ” he said. “But we don’t have time to pat ourselves on the back for winning 11 games. We came into the season expecting to be in every game, to be in close games and win a lot of games, and now we’re in the championship game. … Right where we want to be.”
After the game, Petersen was asked about the Governor’s Trophy, broken en route to Pullman sometime Thursday.
“I think it (had) some super glue and we’re all looking at it going, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” he said with a laugh. The culprit remains at large. “I’m not going to sell ’em out.”
There were plenty of heroics to point out for the Huskies on Friday. Lavon Coleman had touchdown runs of 22 and 15 yards — and he made two key tackles on special teams. UW’s offensive line didn’t allow a sack. Rapp, in his first Apple Cup, forced the early fumble, and Beavers, Budda Baker and Jordan Miller all intercepted Falk, who was 33 of 50 passing for 269 yards with one touchdown.
It’s the third consecutive year the Huskies have effectively shut down WSU’s prolific passing attack — more noteworthy this year because they did it to Falk, the Cougars’ star quarterback who was injured for the Apple Cup last year.
“This is our favorite game of the year,” UW co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said, “because anytime an offense, when we know they’re going to throw the ball 60 times, it really makes game-planning easy. They did a better job — they got four more points than they had the last three years. But this is our favorite game of the year, and I hope (the Cougars) continually do exactly what they’re doing because this is an awesome game to play.”
After a near-flawless start Friday, the focus now, Petersen said, is to finish.
“That’s one of the things we talk about every day to our kids, about finishing everything — whether it’s school or a weight workout or a practice,” he said. “I think the really good teams, the special teams, can finish. … We just feel like we’ve got some good football left.”
|GroundedWSU had run well in recent games but had little success against UW.Opponent, score
4.4Oregon St. (35-31)
|One of the telling stats from Friday’s Apple Cup was the average yards per play:|
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