The Huskies Won The Apple Cup (Yet Again), Play For The Pac-12 Championship

Sorry Seahawks, but when my team beats the Cougs for the Pac-12 North championship, they get the coveted Monday post!

So yeah, no, I didn’t have a ton of confidence in the Huskies last Friday.  We’ve looked pretty stagnant most of the year – particularly on offense – and we’ve lost a couple games we had no business losing.  Auburn stinks, and that ends up going down as just a painfully bad loss.  Oregon is mediocre at best and that game was absolutely within our grasp.  And I’ll never understand what happened at Cal, but holy hell was that a miserable day.  It all sort of boils down to a senior quarterback never progressing beyond his sophomore year, and a championship-contending team breaking in new play-callers on offense and defense.  Just a fundamental breakdown on all levels.

Meanwhile, there were the Cougars, one loss on the year at USC that probably shouldn’t have been a loss.  Sure, they played nothing but cupcakes in the non-conference slate, but at every turn where the Cougs normally Coug it up, instead they found ways to win.  They endured Utah (which is all you can ever really do with Utah, be it the college football team or the state and its peoples), they dominated Oregon with the light of the nation shining down upon them, then they followed that up with a powerful road win against Stanford.  They took care of business against Cal, that game at Colorado could’ve been a prime Couging opportunity (but instead they won so bad the Buffs fired their head coach), and they destroyed the Wildcats to put themselves in a VERY outside chance of cracking the Top 4.  I still believe that even if the Cougars had won the Apple Cup – even if they’d crushed us – Ohio State would still leap over them in the next rankings, but we’ll never know.  The point is, the fact that the Cougars were so close to the ultimate glory really says a lot about this year’s team.

I know that the Huskies are the HUSKIES and the Cougars are our little buddy or whatever, but if there was ever a year where the David might slay the Goliath, I thought this might be the year.  I’ll admit it, I bought into the hype.  If I was a Coug fan, I ABSOLUTELY would be one of those yahoos wearing the fake Gardner Minshew moustache.  That guy just seems like everything Luke Falk wasn’t:  a guy who could put it all together in a big game.

And we made him look like the Checkdowningest Charlie I’ve ever seen!  26/35 for a measly 152, with 0 TDs and 2 INTs.  What a breathtaking defensive performance, by an elite unit and from again, a first-year defensive play-caller in Jimmy Lake!

The Cougar running backs were their best players – James Williams scored both of their TDs and averaged 5.9 yards per rush – but since it’s a Mike Leach offense, of course their backs only rushed a combined 16 times!  Between JW and Max Borghi, they combined (rushing and receiving) for 164 out of 237 yards of total offense.  They led the team in receptions with 7 apiece, and yet I would argue they were still underutilized!  Mostly because there was probably another 100 yards of rushing they left on the field, but still.  I agree with the primary sentiment coming out of this game:  I hope Mike Leach never leaves!

For the Huskies, it was absolutely the Myles Gaskin show.  27 carries for 170 yards and 3 TDs.  I am SO going to miss this kid, it’s not even funny.  He is everything you could ever want out of a running back.  4 straight 1,000-yard seasons.  I mean, just the fact that he stayed for his senior year says a lot.  What a true, hall of fame Washington Husky!  I mean, I’m ready to retire his number and hang his jersey right now!  Do we even do that?  I dunno, but we should!  And we should start with #9.

Hunter Bryant came alive for 108 yards and a TD on 3 receptions.  After a miserable, injury-riddled season, it’s nice to see him finish with a flourish.  We’ll need him next week and beyond as well, so it’s good to get him into the flow of the offense while we still have him.

Andre Baccellia was, I thought, an under-the-radar MVP of this game.  He doesn’t get the pub of a lot of guys in this offense, but he had 5 catches for 89 yards, and they were all seemingly in huge situations!  I like where this receiver group is at for next year, I’ll tell you that much.

On the defensive side of the ball, I’m starting with Greg Gaines, who was a manimal in the middle.  He ended up with a sack and a few tackles, but he was impactful all night.

Joe Tryon was a name I didn’t recognize, but he had a sack and looked to create a lot of pressure off the end.  If he’s someone we can count on next year, that would really be something.

Finally, BBK, Taylor Rapp, and the rest of that Death Row squad, I can’t wait for you guys to tear shit up at the next level (but, if a few of you underclassmen wanted to stay one more year, I’d love you all the more).

All told, it added up to a snowy 28 to 15 victory in Pullman.  That’s a game I won’t soon forget!

Now it’s on to Santa Clara, where we have a date with the Utah Utes.  Recall we beat them 21-7 in Utah in week 3.  It’s been a long time since that one, and I don’t think things have gotten any easier.  They ended up 9-3, losing to both Washington schools as well as at ASU.  They’re on a 7-1 streak though, and came out of a poor Pac-12 South pretty easily.

Washington lucked out, in that we had an extra day to prepare for them, as they had already locked up the South and had a game against BYU on Saturday.  Considering the Pac-12 Championship Game is on Friday at 5pm for some reason (I guess the Pac-12 doesn’t like eyeballs on their marquee football teams), I’d say we have a marginal edge.

I think the Huskies SHOULD win, but obviously nothing is a given with this team.  Utah and Washington have the two best defenses by a mile in this conference, so I wouldn’t expect a ton of points.  Being clean on special teams is going to be paramount.  Ultimately, it’ll come down to a few big plays, and it’ll come down to which teams make those big plays.  Expect a frustrating, early bone-headed interception by senior quarterback Jake Browning (or, maybe just to fuck with our minds, a LATE bone-headed interception).  But, hopefully we can get Gaskin going and overcome.

I’ll predict a 22-21 Husky victory, as we go for 2 to play for the Rose Bowl at the end of the game.

The Huskies Won & Now We Have The Apple Cup To End All Apple Cups

The Huskies beat the Beavers 42-23.  I went to that game, thanks to a free ticket from a friend; I’m pretty sure we got there midway through the first quarter and by the end it was 28-3 and I was thoroughly checked out.  We spent, I want to say, most of the second quarter in a beer garden next to The Zone, and I think I was on my way out of the stadium before halftime.

Listen, this game was always going to be a walk-over, and really this was a day to spend with friends at our final tailgate of the season, as well as saying goodbye to the current incarnation of Dubs, WHO IS A VERY GOOD BOY YES HE IS YES HE IS!

This was all a nice little ramp-back-up for the ultimate showdown.  This year’s Apple Cup will decide who plays for the Pac-12 North, which for all intents and purposes means it will decide who plays for the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl (because, as usual, the Pac-12 South is a garbage fire).

The Huskies are 8-3 (6-2 in conference).  The Cougars are 10-1 (7-1 in conference).  With no third team involved, this is it.  All the marbles.

The Cougars are favored, as they should be.  They’re at home, but more importantly, they’ve been FANTASTIC this season.  Every time I think they’re gonna coug it, they turn that notion on its head.  In fact, if it weren’t for the Pac-12 Refs couging it in that USC game, they might be undefeated and in contention for a playoff spot.  Seriously, at the very least – if they were undefeated right now – they’d be ranked 5th, and when Michigan loses to Ohio State this week, that’s their opening!  With 1 loss, even if the Cougs win out, there’s just no way.  Notre Dame isn’t losing, Clemson isn’t losing, and even if Bama loses they’d still get in there.  Either Michigan wins out to take the final spot, or Ohio State leapfrogs everyone to get in there.

But, that’s neither here nor there.  This week, it’s all about the apples.

Washington hasn’t lost this game since 2012.  I can’t even remember the last time this game had so much riding on the line for both teams.  It might be as far back as the 1981 season.  The Huskies, under Don James, were 5-2 in conference at the time, looking to go back to their second straight Rose Bowl.  The Cougars, under Jim Walden, were 5-1-1 in conference at the time, looking to go to their first Rose Bowl in 51 years.  The game was played in Husky Stadium and the Huskies prevailed 23-10.  We’d go on to beat Iowa in the Rose Bowl, while the Cougars lost to BYU in the Holiday Bowl.

Is there a chance history repeats itself?  Boy, wouldn’t that be nice.

For what it’s worth, I know I should be more confident in the Huskies, but this just doesn’t feel like our year.  We’ve struggled to incorporate a brand new offensive coordinator, our senior quarterback hasn’t progressed the way we’d hoped, we have no pass rush to speak of, our defense might be overrated, and I think the coaching in general has been a little suspect at times.  It all boils down to the fact that the Huskies just might not be that good this year.  It’s okay.  They’re not always going to be like 2016.

Fortunes shine on the lucky sometimes, and the Cougars couldn’t be more fortunate with their scheduling.  They played a less-than-nothing non-conference slate.  They got all the best Pac-12 teams to come to Pullman (Utah, Oregon, Washington, Cal) and of their two tough road games, they lost to USC and the only really impressive win of their season game at Stanford a week after their tremendous home coronation against the Ducks.  So, while it’s been impressive to see them not-coug it week-in and week-out, what’s left to wonder is:  How good are the Cougars, really?

If there’s ever been a team built to beat the Cougars, it’s the Huskies.  Since Coach Pete got here in 2014, we’ve been undefeated against them (a point of pride, in that Luke Falk went winless in his entire tenure with the Cougs).  Now, obviously, Gardner Minshew is a million times better than Falk, but the offense is still that of Mike Leach, and we’ve still got one of the best secondaries in the nation.  I don’t remember sacks being a huge part of our game in these last few Apple Cups; what I do remember is a lot of errant throws and Cougar drives ending in punts.

Ultimately, I don’t have a strong feeling one way or the other about the game this Friday.  Gun to my head, I think the Cougs win it in a close one.  But, nothing would surprise me, not even another Husky blowout.  Which, if that’s the case, we’ll get to stop and smell the roses again VERY soon.