It may have been an entirely different story had Luke Falk quarterbacked Washington State in the 108th Apple Cup Saturday at Husky Stadium. But the nation’s leading passer (387.8 yards per game, 36 TDs) couldn’t go due to a concussion, leaving the Cougars’ chances in the hands of redshirt freshman Peyton Bender. He was not up to the task in his first collegiate start (box). Washington overwhelmed Bender by forcing a record seven turnovers and won 45-10, becoming bowl eligible for the sixth consecutive season.
Freshman Myles Gaskin ran for 138 yards and two touchdowns, the Huskies returned two Bender interceptions for TDs and also scored on a fumble return. The Cougars entered the game with 17 turnovers in 11 games and, but seven Saturday tied an Apple Cup record set by the Cougars in 2003. WSU’s seven turnovers, also its most since 2009 against Hawaii, led to 28 UW points.
Washington ended the regular season 6-6 and 4-5 in Pac-12 Conference play. Washington State, bowl eligible for three weeks and ranked 20th in both polls entering the game, finished 8-4, 6-3.
With Washington leading 10-3 and slightly more than a minute to play in the first half, the Huskies faced third and goal at the WSU five-yard line. The Cougars held Gaskin to no gain, but on the play DT Destiny Vaeao slammed UW QB Jake Browning to the ground after the whistle, drawing a personal foul. That gave Washington a first down at the two, and Gaskin ran it for a 17-3 lead.
After Washington State sliced the lead to 24-10 with a Bender-to-Dom Williams TD pass at 4:14 of the third quarter, the Huskies answered with an 11-play, 84-yard touchdown drive to extend the lead to 31-10. Gaskin had seven carries for 55 yards on the drive.
Gaskin’s 138 rushing yards increased his season total to 1,121. He is the first true freshman in UW history to top 1,000 yards in a season. His 10 touchdowns are also a freshman record.
Browning completed 14 of 20 for 203 yards with one interception, including five passes for 88 yards to WR Jaydon Mickens. Although Browning did not throw a TD pass and his pick led to a Cougar touchdown, the Huskies got a 26-yard touchdown on a reverse by WR Chico McClatcher, who finished with 40 rushing yards.
Washington gained 443 yards to 319 and dominated the time of possession, 37:28 to 22:32.
Bender, a redshirt freshman from Fort Lauderdale, FL., completed 36 of 58 for 288 yards and one touchdown, a one-yard throw to Williams. Bender picked up a lot of yards, but couldn’t finish drives, his inexperience showing.
Williams caught six passes for 47 yards. He has 30 career TD catches, two shy of Jason Hill’s record. Gabe Marks had seven catches for 58 yards before departing with a gruesome injury to his right leg. Marks has 99 catches, most among Pac-12 receivers.
The Huskies scored on a 69-yard INT return by CB Sidney Jones, a CB Darren Gardenhire 28-yard fumble return and a 27-yard LB Azeem Victor INT return. UW held Washington State to more than 100 yards below its season passing average.
“Our guys just kept chipping away and eventually good things happened. You better not lose when you get seven turnovers. Getting to play another game is important. There was a lot riding on this and our guys were all in. This win means a lot. It’s important that now we go and play well in a bowl game.” — UW head coach Chris Petersen
“I don’t really look at numbers. It’s weird to hear. It kind of snuck up on me. I just go out there and try to win games” — Gaskin, asked to comment on his freshman records.
“We’ve clearly beaten teams that are better than Washington.” — Mike Leach, WSU coach
Washington’s 25-point margin of victory was its largest in the Apple Cup since a 48-point win (51-3) in 2000 . . . The 70-yard interception return for a TD by Jones in the third quarter was the first such play since Travis Feeney had a 30-yard INT return against Colorado Nov. 1, 2014 . . .The past four times the Cougars entered the Apple Cup ranked in the AP’s Top 25, they lost: 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2015 . . . Washington has won three consecutive Apple Cups, six of the past seven and 13 of the past 18. Washington leads the all-time series 70-32-6, including 38-15 since the rivalry officially became the Apple Cup in 1962 . . . . Washington is 40-15-5 against WSU in Seattle . . . WSU’s 8-4 regular-season record is the school’s best since 2003 (9-3).
The Huskies and Cougars are eligible for bowl games. An early projection is that Washington State will play Indiana in the Foster Farms Bowl Dec. 26 in Santa Clara, CA., and that the Huskies will play Duke of the Atlantic Coast Conference in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport the same day. The official bowl pairings will be announced Sunday.