What a Pac-12 Championship Game! Thrills! Chills! Spills! A 10-3 barnburner that I hoped would never end!
I’m only sort of kidding. I wouldn’t want a game like that to be the only football game I ever watched for the rest of my life, but it’s nice to have a little variety once in a while. I feel like you see these back-and-forth, high-scoring affairs all the time, but you hardly ever see a real, true defensive battle to the death!
The Huskies were able to move the ball pretty well at times, but a few things were readily apparent from the get-go. For starters, Coach Pete has zero confidence in his field goal kicker outside of the 20-yard line. I mean, that’s as much as I’ve ever seen a coach go for it on 4th down, outside of some lunatic who just goes for it every single time!
Also, it was clear Browning was going to throw his patented early interception. Somehow, the first two were thrown right at defenders who just dropped them, before the actual interception bounced off of Ty Jones’ chest and leg. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s like he’s gotta get it out of his system before he can go out there and finish the game. It’s not like he was TERRIBLE in this one, but Utah’s not gonna make it easy on anyone.
I thought some of the play-calling was REALLY suspect, after a nearly-flawless Apple Cup. I mean, if you know you’re going to go for it on 4th down on Utah’s side of the field, then why not run it on 3rd & 6 to see if you can get it to a point where you can then run it on 4th & short? Don’t tell me the offensive coordinator wasn’t aware, because that had to have been in the gameplan going in: we’re not letting our kicker screw us! The running game wasn’t anything spectacular – Utah held us to 119 yards on 40 carries – but it was pretty dependable that we were going to get SOMETHING on most every carry. That’s better than trying to rely on Browning to do the job against a stout front like that.
Ultimately, with the game tied 3-3 late into the 3rd quarter, there were two possible outcomes: we were either going to blow it, or our defense was going to have to put points on the board. I had zero trust in the Husky offense coming from behind in this one, and with the way Utah was moving the ball for much of the 3rd quarter, the tide was starting to swell against us.
I really thought I was going to have bought plane tickets to Pasadena for nothing!
Thank God for Byron Murphy! When he picked off that first one, I literally shouted, “YOU HAVE TO SCORE!” Had he been tackled even inside the Utah 10-yard line, I have no doubt in my mind we would’ve mucked it up somehow. As soon as he crossed the goalline – and as soon as it was confirmed there were no flags on the play – I can’t begin to tell you the amount of relief that washed over me. Up 10-3, with a quarter left to play, this game felt much more in control.
Another pick by Murphy, and one by Jordan Miller on the very next drive, helped seal that deal. Did I think there was a little missed PI call on that final Utah play? Oh sure, but I always expect the worst! I don’t think that necessarily cost them the game; I still think we would’ve prevented them from scoring a touchdown.
That was just a MONSTER defensive performance, from the players on up to the coaches.
And so here we are, going back to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 2000 season! This feels good. More than that, it feels RIGHT!
This is an insane run the Huskies have been on. Two years ago, in the Peach Bowl against Alabama. Last year, in the Fiesta Bowl against Penn State. Now, the Rose Bowl against Ohio State. All three are premiere bowl games against three premiere college football programs. Against Bama, we took an early lead, but were pretty well over-matched going forward. Against Penn State, we were overwhelmed from the jump and made a valiant effort to bring it back to a 1-score game, but ultimately it never felt like we were in EITHER of those games.
Now, we’ve got the Buckeyes. A 12-1 team some had pegged for the College Football Playoffs. I’m sure I’ll have some sort of preview in the days leading up to the game, but I just want to start off the bowl season by saying this: we’ve been in big games before. This team has played some HUGE schools. The spotlight, the national stage, should NOT be too much for this group. You could argue against Bama, we weren’t ready. You could argue we were still a little raw – particularly on defense – last year in the Fiesta Bowl. But, this is a game that can be won by the Huskies. Ohio State has some impressive-looking wins on paper, but I would argue the Big 10 is wildly overrated. I would argue the Buckeyes themselves are wildly overrated. Yes, they have talent, but their defense isn’t anything special. And, if the Husky defense plays like they did against Utah, we should have no trouble slowing their offensive attack. I would argue we match up better against Ohio State than we do the Utes!
If I’m right, it’s going to be one Happy New Year, as I celebrate at the Rose Bowl with my friends.