On senior day, the Huskies — led by Gaskin and Browning — handily defeated the Beavers to set up a highly anticipated Apple Cup next Friday in Pullman.
One last time, they jogged off the Husky Stadium turf together, Jake Browning on the left and Myles Gaskin on the right.
Just before heading back up the tunnel toward the locker room, Browning abruptly made a quick turn and climbed the four-foot railing leading to the stands. There, he shared a brief hug with his father, Ed, and his 6-year-old sister, Ella.
Ella, the quarterback explained later, doesn’t know much about football.
“The only thing she knows is who won or who lost. That’s pretty much it,” Browning said. “She asked me if we won, and I said, ‘Yeah.’ ”
Final score: Washington 42, Oregon State 23. One last victory for Browning and Gaskin in Husky Stadium, the most prominent and most prolific players of this era of Husky football.
Browning, the senior quarterback, threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns. Gaskin, the senior running back, rushed for 135 yards and one touchdown. And the Huskies (8-3, 6-2 Pac-12) kept their Pac-12-championship dreams afloat going into one of the most anticipated Apple Cups ever.
Kickoff between the No. 17 Huskies and No. 8 Cougars in the 111th Apple Cup is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday in Pullman. The winner will claim the Pac-12 North title.
“Excited for it. A lot on the line,” said Browning, who Saturday led the Huskies to the program’s 37th victory over the past four seasons, a record for a Pac-12 quarterback.
“I think it’s more just (about) a quick turnaround. I think whatever team can adjust to that quick turnaround better, I think that’s an advantage. So I think that’s something we need to be aware of.”
Browning, Gaskin and this UW senior class is 3-0 against the Cougars, and the Huskies’ success in recent Apple Cups has been predicated on an explosive offense and a shutdown defense.
That was the formula Saturday that helped the Huskies build a 28-3 lead on Oregon State by the end of the first quarter.
The Huskies took advantage of an Oregon State defense that statistically is one of the worst in Pac-12 history, as UW gained 383 yards in the first half alone. Gaskin gained 101 yards on his first three carries, Salvon Ahmed had two first-quarter touchdown runs, and by halftime Browning had completed 14 of 16 passes with three touchdowns — to Aaron Fuller (17 yards), Cade Otton and Gaskin.
“We came out fast and executed in the run game, which opened up the pass for us. All that let us get ahead and never look back,” Browning said.
The Huskies led 35-16 at halftime and were in cruise control most of the second half. Senior linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven credited Oregon State first-year coach Jonathan Smith — UW’s offensive coordinator the past four seasons — for a smart game plan.
“It was a pretty frustrating game,” said Burr-Kirven, who had a game-high 11 tackles in his final game at Husky Stadium. “I don’t think we played very well, honestly. Offense, defense — I think we have a lot to work on. We let them hang around. …
“Coach Smith knows our defense pretty well, so we’d be getting into our coverages and he’d see it, and all of a sudden they’re running the exact right play to counter that.”
With the Huskies leading 42-16, Browning remained in the game midway through the fourth quarter. He took a hit on his last snap and was slow to get up, but declared he was “fine” afterward.
Browning and Gaskin, in that order, were the last of the 23 players to be introduced before the game as part of the senior ceremony. Both received a nice ovation from the announced crowd of 66,469. UW coach Chris Petersen admitted getting a bit emotional during the ceremony.
“I always think I’m not going to, and every year I do,” Petersen said. “In fact, I had a great talk planned (Friday) night and had no thought of being emotional. Then halfway through it I looked at Jake Browning and started talking about him and the speech was over. …
“He’s a rare individual — never flinching, always the same, always prepping as hard as he possibly can. He’s completely locked in at all times. It’s hard to do for anybody especially a college kid going through this process. It’s really special and awesome to watch him do that for these four years.”
Browning now will try to be the first Husky quarterback to go 4-0 against Washington State.
“They’ve been playing at a pretty high level,” he said, “so we’ve got to come ready to play.”