In the Pac-12 Conference championship game in December, the Washington Huskies rushed for 265 yards in a 41-10 triumph over Colorado in Santa Clara, CA. Nine months later, on a wet Saturday evening rematch in Boulder, the Huskies (4-0) rushed for 254 yards in a 37-10 triumph (box) over the Buffaloes (3-1).
A pattern seems to be emerging, and it includes chunks of sod smashed into the grills of Buffaloes defenders.
Chief ground-pounder was RB Myles Gaskin, who exploded from a modest three-game start with a career-high 202 yards on 27 carries, including a 57-yard TD run. It came with seven minutes left against defenders who were sucking wind as if they were the newcomers to the 5,000-foot altitude at Folsom Field.
“I didn’t even recognize it until late in the game,” said coach Chris Petersen of the replication of outcome. “I’m proud of Myles and the O-line. We kept giving him the ball and dominated them. Sometimes that’s how the run game goes — just kept hitting and wearing down the defense late.”
The ground game on offense was supplemented by a defense that, after Colorado’s opening 75-yard drive for a touchdown, took over.
“I don’t think anyone got rattled,” he said of the opening drive. “(Colorado) came out and did a nice job to get seven points on the board, then the defense settled down and got a score themselves.”
The Buffs managed three points and 236 yards thereafter, throwing three interceptions (one a pick-six) and enduring five sacks and a blocked punt.
The mayhem produced seventh-ranked Washington’s eighth win in a row on the road, and was the eighth consecutive win over Colorado in the series. The loss for Colorado stopped their home win streak at eight.
For the Huskies, they acquitted themselves admirably in the conference opener after guiltily overdosing on cupcakes in the preseason. Proof was needed that this team was of the caliber of the 2016 team that make the College Football Playoffs.
“Coming on the road for that first Pac-12 game, in a juiced-up environment — it was good,” Petersen said. “We hadn’t been in this situation yet.”
It took special teams to get things started in the second quarter when DT Vita Vea burst up the middle to block a punt. The Huskies recovered at the Colorado 12 and Gaskin scored from the 1-yard line four plays later to tie at 7.
UW was up only 10-7 entering the third quarter when the game turned on a spectacular 43-yard pass from QB Jake Browning that found sophomore WR Quentin Pounds, who was at the goal line between two defenders and rose up to snatch the TD.
That allowed the defense to set about pounding sophomore QB Steven Montez, who for a 6-foot-5, 230-pound guy ran a couple of quality option plays. But in the third quarter, he threw a ball directly into the hands of sophomore backup CB Myles Bryant for the second of his two interceptions, this one a 34-yard return for a score and a 24-10 lead.
“Bryant is a ballhawk, a clutch player,” said Petersen, who was doing without starting CB Byron Murphy, who broke a foot in practice and is out six weeks. “Really proud of him. It’s great to see these guys grow in expanded roles. He’ll take confidence from this and push his game to another level.”
The pick-six made it easy for the Huskies to run the ball the rest of the way. Browning completed only 11 passes in 21 attempts for 160 yards, but there wasn’t much need with the run game operating so well.
Two down developments for Washington: PK Tristan Vizcaino missed two of three field goals and an extra point, and WR Chico McClatcher, who had four catches for 44 yards and jet sweep for 15 yards, went down in the third quarter with what looked to be a gruesome break in his right ankle and had to be helped off the field.
Petersen offered no update on McClatcher, and said the kicking job was an open competition with Vizcaino and Van Soderberg, a freshman from Olympia’s Capital High School.