Advertised as potentially the greatest Apple Cup ever, fifth-ranked Washington took the drama out of the 109th rivalry game early, leading 35-10 halftime lead en route to a 45-17 victory over No. 23 Washington State at Martin Stadium Saturday (box). By clinching the Pac-12 Northern Division title, the Huskies will play either Colorado or USC for the conference title Dec. 2 in Santa Clara, CA.
Washington (11-1 overall, 8-1, Pac-12) and No. 5 in the College Football Rankings (top four advance to the national semifinals), also has a chance to move up a notch next week since there will be a loser when No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan joust Saturday in Columbus, OH.
The Huskies tore through the Cougars (8-4, 7-2) from the outset. QB Jake Browning went 13-for-17 with 202 yards and touchdown passes of 18 and 61 yards to Dante Pettis as Washington raced to a 28-3 lead. The 28 points tied a school record for most in the first quarter of a game.
After that, the UW defense recorded three interceptions, recovered a fumble and produced two sacks, offering QB Luke Falk and the Cougars little hope of a comeback.
Averaging 43 points per game, WSU had three possessions in the red zone in the first half and came away with only 10 points.
After Washington State pulled to within 28-10 in the second quarter on a Jamal Morrow touchdown, the Huskies answered immediately with a seven-play, 65-yard scoring drive, highlighted by Ross’s 31-yard reverse, which staked the Huskies to the 25-point halftime lead and nearly deflated the Cougars.
With seconds remaining in the third quarter, Washington State faced fourth-and-goal from the UW one-yard line. Gerard Wicks, for the second time, lost a yard to turn the ball over on downs. The Huskies went 98 yards, the final 15 on RB Lavon Coleman’s touchdown run that sent the majority of Cougars fans to the tailgate lots.
Browning completed 21 of 29 for 292 yards. In addition to his two TDs to Pettis, he lofted a six-yard fade to WR John Ross for a touchdown. That was Browning’s 40th TD pass of the season, an on-going school record. Browning’s 40 TDs also lead the FBS. He needs three in the Pac-12 title game to break Cal’s Jared Goff’s conference record of 42 last year.
Browning’s 292 yards increased his season total to 3,162, the second-highest mark in school history behind Cody Pickett’s 4,458 in 2002.
Ross’s TD catch near the end of the first quarter was his 16th, two shy of Mario Bailey’s 1991 single-season record of 18. Ross finished with a team-leading eight catches for 80 yards. He increased his season total to 1,071 and is the first UW receiver with 1,000 yards in a season since Jermaine Kearse had 1,005 in 2010.
Pettis’s TD receptions hiked his season total to 14. On the 61-yarder, he outmuscled defender Darrien Molton for the ball and ran the remaining 20 yards for the score (Ross also victimized Molton his TD). Pettis set up Washington’s first TD, a two-yard run by Myles Gaskin, by completing a 39-yard pass to TE Darrell Daniels. Gaskin has 10 rushing TDs.
Coleman led the Huskies with 82 rushing yards and had TD runs of 22 and 15 yards, the last one upping Washington’s lead to 42-17.
The Huskies had eight plays of 15 yards or more, and despite 10 penalties, accumulated 510 yards of total offense in reaching its season scoring average (44.7), despite running only four offensive plays in the third quarter.
Washington held the Cougars to 334 yards. While Falk completed 33 of 50 passes, he threw for only 269 yards and was picked off three times, by CB Jordan Miller, LB D.J. Beavers and S Budda Baker. Beavers collected his pick just before halftime, an end-zone theft that denied the Cougars a touchdown and momentum. Falk averaged only 5.4 yards per attempt. Browning averaged 10.1.
Baker led the Huskies with eight tackles (five solo) and JoJo McInrosh recorded six. LB Keishawn Bierria and DT Damion Turpin registered sacks.
The Huskies twice thwarted Wicks at the goal line, the first time on fourth down at the one-yard line on a great tackle by DE Benning Potoa’e.
UW’s defense was tested only in the third quarter when Washington State ran all but four of the offensive plays, but scored only on a nine-yard Falk throw to WR Gabe Marks, who caught 11 passes for 112 yards. Marks had four catches on the drive, including the touchdown.
“Our guys prepared well. Their mind set was right from start to finish. I thought we were really efficient on offense and our defense made plays when we needed to make them on the goal line. It was a good team win. We’ve got another big game next week and it will all play out like it’s supposed to.” — UW head coach Chris Petersen
“Our offensive line was very well prepared and played hard. That was the key. We’ll be prepared and ready for the Pac-12 championship.” — Browning
“It does not matter who we play. We’re going to go celebrate today and get back and see who we play tomorrow.” — Baker
Washington has won four consecutive Apple Cups and seven of eight, increasing its lead in the series to 71-32-6 . . . UW is 11-7 in Apple Cups at Martin Stadium and 31-15-1 in all Apple Cup road games . . . Huskies have won 14 of the past 19 Apple Cups . . . Washington improved to 4-3 against WSU when both teams are nationally ranked.
Saturday, No. 9 Colorad0 will host No. 22 Utah at Folsom Field in Boulder. If the Buffaloes win, they will play Washington next Friday for the Pac-12 title. If Colorado loses, Washington will face USC for the conference championship. The Cougars are awaiting a second consecutive bowl bid.