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Myles Gaskin, No. 17 Washington runs away with Apple Cup to deny No. 13 Washington State the Pac-12 North title

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No. 13 Washington State had everything to play for, including a division title, a trip to the Pac-12 Championship Game and the slim hopes of sneaking into the College Football Playoff on a chaos-filled weekend. Predictably, for fans on both sides of this rivalry, the Cougars barely showed up to play on a rainy Saturday night in Seattle and lost the Apple Cup 41-14 in a runaway for No. 17 Washington.

The result gave the Huskies double-digit wins on the year for the first time since the dawn of the 1990’s and was perhaps the team’s most complete effort of the season, especially when considering the stage, the opponent and the weather. Quarterback Jake Browning didn’t need to throw the ball much given the sub-par conditions, managing just 93 yards though the air and finding the end zone only off a short keeper past the goal line.

Of course it’s not like he needed to do much when he could just turn around and hand it off to Myles Gaskin. The junior, who very well could have played his final game at Husky Stadium, was terrific from the opening whistle and finished with 192 yards and four scores to pace an offense that wasn’t quite hitting on every cylinder but was fairly efficient once it found its legs. Backup Salvon Ahmed added another 82 yards as two of the team’s biggest weapons (tailback Lavon Coleman and wideout/return man Dante Pettis) both left in the first half with leg injuries.

Such offensive numbers weren’t bad but they were overshadowed quite a bit by the phenomenal performance from UW’s defense. They recorded four turnovers in the game, five sacks and didn’t allow a third down conversion until late in the fourth quarter. Defensive linemen Vita Vea was a constant presence in the backfield all night despite double-teams and the secondary seemed to have no issues with Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense.

That played a big role in record-setting quarterback Luke Falk looking even less than pedestrian against his rival to go 0-fer in his Apple Cup career against the Huskies. He wound up throwing for 369 yards and a touchdown but had three interceptions and a fumble on a night where not much could go right for the Cougs. Even worse, the team’s best defender — defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa — was called for targeting in the third quarter and will miss the first half of their bowl game next month.

He will not miss the Pac-12 Championship game next week though because the team will be sitting at home in Pullman watching on. By virtue of Stanford’s win over Washington a few weeks ago, the Cardinal got the result they needed on Saturday to book their ticket to face USC at Levi’s Stadium on Friday for the league title.

That wasn’t how Wazzu wanted things to play out of course after controlling their own destiny in the conference but it was one that their rivals at Washington were happy to give them in order to keep the Apple Cup in Seattle yet again.

No. 17 Washington jumps out to big Apple Cup lead at halftime over No. 13 Washington State

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The Pac-12 North title is on the line for No. 13 Washington State as they take on rival No. 17 Washington in the Apple Cup but neither team seemed to sense the urgency of such stakes after a half of play in rainy Seattle, with the Huskies slogging their way to a 24-0 lead in a game mostly dominated by defense.

Quarterback Jake Browning threw for only 68 yards but couldn’t find much down the field and was pressured several times as Chris Petersen’s team stuck mostly with the ground game given the conditions. Running back Myles Gaskin ran for 114 yards and two of the game’s touchdowns while Browning had a keeper for the other score.

Injuries were perhaps the bigger story for Washington in the half as two of the team’s biggest playmakers both went to the locker room with lower leg injuries. FBS record holder and leading receiver Dante Pettis was hurt while fielding a punt while No. 2 tailback Lavon Coleman seemed to twist his leg into the turf while getting tackled.

Much of the offense was the result of big defensive plays amid a pretty fired up crowd on Montlake. Wazzu quarterback Luke Falk managed just 132 yards through the air, getting sacked four times while throwing two interceptions. To make matters worse, the senior signal-caller also fumbled on a scramble in what was a nightmare start for the team needing a win in order to take the division crown and wind up in the Pac-12 title game.

The Cougars still have plenty of time and firepower to get back in this one but Washington is looking pretty determined to ruin their rival’s title hopes and hit the double-digit win mark for the second year in a row. The Apple Cup has been full of some wild games but you don’t get the vibe that this year’s edition will be all that memorable unless Falk, Mike Leach and company get things fixed in the locker room and come out determined to reverse this outcome.

Kyle Whittingham attempts to defend bizarre timeout decision that doomed Utes vs. Washington

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If you went to bed a little early on Saturday night then the chances are pretty good you missed one of the more baffling coaching decisions of the season. With Washington and Utah tied at 30-30 after the Huskies battled back in the second half, Washington received the football with under a minute to play. Washington seemed to be playing for overtime with a short run to keep the clock rolling when Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham called a timeout. This gave Washington head coach Chris Petersen a chance to change the mindset on his sideline and go for the win before overtime, and it led to a game-winning field goal as time expired.

Whittingham essentially gave Washington a chance to win the Huskies had no intention of playing for in regulation, and it may end up costing Utah a spot in a postseason bowl game. After the game, Whittingham defended his decision-making by saying he was attempting to be aggressive, suggesting that if Washington really was playing for overtime, they would have taken a knee.

“You’d have to ask Chris that. But if they were not being aggressive they would have taken a knee,” Whittingham explained. “What’s the point in running a play if they’re not going to try to at least maneuver into field goal range. So we called timeout, had them in decent field position, second and eight or second and nine, and one incomplete pass and another timeout if they decide to run the ball. So it was a long shot, but we’re just trying to win and it obviously didn’t work out.

Here’s the play where Utah called the timeout. It sure seemed as though Washington had no real intention of playing for a field goal unless Utah made a huge mistake, which as it turned out they did,

Whittingham had no legitimate reason to call for the timeout and admitted it was a decision he would take back given the hindsight of knowing how the game would eventually end.

“In hindsight, I probably wouldn’t have called the timeout,” Whittingham said. “But at the time, we were just trying to be aggressive and get the ball back to a guy who has about a sixty-yard range field goal wise.”

Petersen said after the game they were merely trying to run Myles Gaskin to see if there would be a crack or a big play. That never developed, but the timeout changed the situation for Washington. Petersen, not one to go out and trash an opposing coach over a questionable decision that benefits him, said he understood what Whittingham was trying to do.

“We wanted to run the ball and see if we could pop through with Myles and maybe get a 10-yard run,” Petersen said. “I get what Kyle was trying to do. You have to play aggressive in these situations.”

No, you do not.

There is a time to play with aggression, but this was not the time. Washington was settling on playing overtime, and Whittingham overthought the situation and got burned by it.

Bryce Love and Stanford knock over No. 9 Washington to knockout Pac-12 playoff hopes

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The Pac-12’s chances of participating in the College Football Playoff were on life support heading into a huge weekend of action.

Unfortunately for Larry Scott and company on the West Coast, those postseason dreams didn’t even make it to Saturday. Stanford once again threw a wrench into the league’s playoff hopes and did so in impressive fashion to upset No. 9 Washington 30-22 on Friday night behind the team’s big hitters on both sides of the ball.

Running back Bryce Love was not surprisingly the focal point of the Cardinal offense, looking solid despite still dealing with some issues from a bum ankle that was hurting coming into the game and was re-injured in second quarter. The Heisman candidate battled through all that though, not ripping off his typical huge runs but grinding away at one of the best defenses in the country to the tune of 160 yards and three touchdowns.

Stanford didn’t just rely on Love to be the only way to move the ball though, as quarterback K.J. Costello had his best game of the season on the way to 211 yards and several huge throws down the field to loosen up the box for his tailback.  Most of those throws went to his biggest target in receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who didn’t find the end zone but did rack up five catches for 130 yards in the upset.

The Huskies had been holding onto the slim hopes of sneaking back into the College Football Playoff again this season but never seemed to put a consistent effort on the field on both sides of the ball after jumping out to an early lead. Running back Myles Gaskin was nearly the equal of Love, managing 120 yards and three scores on the ground to help his team control some of the clock down on the Farm. Backfield-mate Jake Browning started the game with 10 straight completions but was lackluster in the second half — including an awful sack in the fourth quarter that later setup a Stanford touchdown.

Gaskin also added a fumble to Chris Petersen’s issues in the loss and Washington recorded an uncharacteristic seven penalties for 73 yards to set them back even further as their Pac-12 title hopes went almost completely out the window.

The victory allowed Stanford head coach David Shaw to tie Hall of Famer Glenn ‘Pop’ Warner (71) for most wins in school history and keep his team’s hopes for yet another Pac-12 title alive by the thinnest of margins. The Cardinal moved a half game up in the North division with only Bay Area rival Cal remaining on the conference slate (Notre Dame also comes to town) and will need these same Huskies to beat their in-state rival Washington State in the Apple Cup in order to make it to Santa Clara.

RB Myles Gaskin rolling as No. 9 Washington leads Stanford at halftime

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If you expected a heavy dose of the running game with No. 9 Washington traveling to Stanford, you would be spot on. The Huskies put together several impressive drives in the first half offensively to jump out to a 14-10 lead after two quarters in a battle of Pac-12 North heavyweights.

Tailback Myles Gaskin proved to be a workhorse in the backfield to edge out his more highly touted counterpart on the other sideline, rushing for 87 yards in the half to go along with his two scores for the College Football Playoff contenders. He wasn’t the only one racking up yards however, as the play-action game was working well for quarterback Jake Browning (120 yards) on his way to 10 consecutive completions to start the game. Washington really mixed in tempo to their advantage and moved the ball against the normally stingy Stanford defense.

The Cardinal offense was also surprisingly effective despite Heisman contender Bryce Love being bottled up fairly well. He still finished the half with 43 yards and a touchdown but never busted any sort of big run and had a long of eight at the break. Love’s first quarter score did allow him to extend his streak to 11 straight games with a touchdown, tied for the longest in school history and the best active mark in the FBS right now. Just as interesting was the fact that the team came out throwing a lot more than they have in recent weeks, with starter K.J. Costello throwing for 137 yards on 10 completions.

Given the past history of these two programs, a low-scoring affair that is built around defense and running the ball should come as no surprise. It should be fascinating to see what adjustments will be made in the locker room as the game carries several division and national title implications.