Ticket punched? It looks that way out West.
No. 4 Washington stated their case for the College Football Playoff in impressive fashion on Friday night by blowing out No. 8 Colorado 41-10 to capture the program’s Pac-12 championship since 2000.
The Huskies struggled to move the ball against the stingy Buffs defense for most of the first half but broke things open with 24 consecutive points in the third quarter. That run was fueled in part by back-to-back interceptions from the defense to start the half, which clamped down on the South Division champions like they were the Colorado of old.
Quarterback Jake Browning had one of his worst outings of the season despite having the stage he needed to possibly get invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. The signal-caller finished just 9-of-24 for 118 yards but did throw two touchdowns on the night, one of which was a remarkable escape job from a sack before finding wideout John Ross for a 19 yard score.
Washington didn’t need their passing game with as effectively as they ran the ball however. Myles Gaskin picked up 159 yards on the night while backup Lavon Coleman added another 101 on the ground in addition to finding the end zone.
Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau was knocked out of the game with a lower leg injury in the first half but emerged from the locker room to start the third quarter. He promptly struggled upon his return, throwing an interception off a receiver’s hands that was returned for a score and tossing another on the next series. He finished the game with as many passes completed to the Buffs as he did to the Huskies.
To add injury to insult to Colorado and put a slight damper on their Cinderella season, the performance from Levi’s Stadium probably cost the Buffs a shot at the Rose Bowl. The selection committee could still keep them above red-hot USC in the rankings but based on the result in the title game, it seems likely that the Trojans will be smelling the roses in 2017.
Washington’s postseason destination won’t be known until Sunday either but they can rest easy after that outing in knowing they will all but assuredly go to either the Peach Bowl semifinal or stay closer to home for the Fiesta Bowl semifinal in the playoffs.
That will be a celebration for another day however, as all Chris Petersen and the Huskies could do on Friday was hoist a conference title and savor being champions of the Pac-12.
Colorado’s unlikely road to the Pac-12 title may have gotten a little bit harder on Friday night.
Buffaloes starting quarterback Sefo Liufau suffered a lower leg injury midway through the first quarter and missed most of the half as the unlikely South Division champions trailed Washington 14-7 in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Liufau eventually headed to the locker room before the whistle at the end of the second quarter but it’s possible he will return to the game.
Backup Steven Montez did lead the team down on a scoring drive shortly afterward (capped off by a Phillip Lindsay touchdown run) but was under pressure on nearly every snap by the Huskies’ pass rush.
His counterpart similarly didn’t have much luck against Colorado’s stingy defense either. Washington signal-caller Jake Browning finished the half just 4-of-12 for 38 yards but the Huskies didn’t bat much of an eye by doing what they wanted on ground — rushing for 148 yards behind the tough running of both Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman.
It should make for a fantastic second half from the Bay Area as both teams harbor hopes of making it into the College Football Playoff after capturing a Pac-12 title.
If you want to go undefeated, chances are you need a few breaks along the way.
Washington needed one in a bad way in Salt Lake City and got one from Dante Pettis on a 58-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to escape with a 31-24 win over Utah on Saturday afternoon.
The two teams had gone back-and-forth over four quarters in a great battle between two of the best in their respective Pac-12 divisions. Washington had jumped out to an early lead and appeared poised to take control of the game but Utah responded in the third quarter with an interception that led to a touchdown and a late field goal just before halftime to cut it to a four point game. Eventually they took the lead as a result of a 17 point run.
Huskies quarterback Jake Browning would not be denied however, leading back-to-back scoring drives in the third quarter to re-take the lead. The Heisman candidate wasn’t the sharpest he’s been all season — throwing an interception for the first UW turnover in over a month — but did toss two touchdowns and converted several times on third down thanks to his ability to escape the pocket and make a clutch play.
Tailback Myles Gaskin also found it tough to get going against a stingy Utah defense but wound up with 151 yards and a score to extend his lead in the Pac-12 rushing standings. Counterpart Joe Williams looked much better on the ground and chipped in 172 yards and a score thanks to some tough running for the home team.
Utes signal-caller Troy Williams couldn’t quite complete the rally against his old school but it wasn’t for lack of trying after a dreadful start. His numbers didn’t wind up looking all that great (14-of-31, 163 yards, two touchdowns) but he was much better in the second half and came up with some big throws down the stretch to even get the team in position to make it a game.
Surprisingly it was the Utah special teams who made the key mistake in the fourth quarter however on a play that ultimately proved to be the deciding score. Pettis took a deep punt, ran backwards a bit to avoid a pair of gunners and hit the edge to race up the sideline for the game-winning touchdown. It was a lucky break for the Huskies but one they had to have in order to win the game.
The victory moves Washington to 8-0 for the first time since 1992 and keeps them atop the Pac-12 North standings. While it was the second time the team has struggled in a Pac-12 road game this season, it does keep their record unblemished ahead of the very first College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday.
While many expected the conference to be left out of the final four this season, thanks in part to Washington surviving their big test at Utah, the Pac-12 will be in prime position to land a team in the playoff as a pretty clear path has opened up for the undefeated Huskies.
A battle for Pac-12 supremacy and a potential spot in the College Football Playoff got off to a fun start in Salt Lake City, as Utah stepped up before halftime to cut Washington’s lead to 14-10 before heading to the locker room.
The Huskies’ offense sputtered a bit in the hostile environment of Rice-Eccles Stadium as they face what is likely their stiffest road test of the year. Quarterback Jake Browning was just 7-of-12 for 128 yards and a touchdown as he was forced to move around in the pocket on nearly every pass. Tailback Myles Gaskin was able to average 5.8 yards a carry but wasn’t heard from much after a quick start to the game.
Utah completely flipped the momentum midway through the second quarter when they captured their 15th interception of the season as Chase Hansen stepped in front of an under thrown ball from Browning. It was Washington’s first turnover in over a month and one that the Utes made them pay for with a Joe Williams touchdown run a few minutes later.
Williams finished the half with 110 yards to help pick up the offense that didn’t get much of anything going through the air against the stingiest defense in the Pac-12. Quarterback Troy Williams was just 5-of-15 for 25 yards against his old team but did add 24 yards on the ground.
The Utes added a late field goal as time expired in the half as well and will get the ball back to start the third quarter.
It all sets up what should be a fun second half between the two teams tied for the lead in their respective Pac-12 divisions.
It’s been 16 years since Washington has won a conference title but the Huskies took another step toward their goal of ending that streak on Saturday as they blasted Oregon State in a game that wasn’t even as close as the 41-17 final score indicated.
While most of the college football world was undoubtedly focused away from the Pacific Northwest, quarterback Jake Browning did not hamper his budding Heisman Trophy campaign by throwing for 291 yards and three touchdowns in just over three quarters worth of work (he also added a rushing score). Fellow sophomore Myles Gaskin didn’t need long to top the century mark on the ground, finishing with 128 yards and a touchdown before the fourth quarter began.
Receivers John Ross and Dante Pettis both had big games as well, with each going over 100 receiving yards and recording catches of over 40 yards. Pettis also found the end zone twice.
The Huskies defense also stepped up to turn in another nice outing, recording four sacks and two interceptions while holding the Beavers to just 4-of-13 on third down. It was a tough task for Oregon State quarterback Marcus McMaryion (148 yards in the air) as the team’s third-stringer was making his first start of the year on the road in a difficult environment and facing one of the best defenses west of the Mississippi.
The win keeps Washington undefeated on the year and sets up a big showdown in Salt Lake City against fellow top 25 team Utah, which moved to 7-1 on the season with a nice win over UCLA earlier in the day. While it might be quite unexpected on both sides, it’s probably not a stretch to think that contest is the Pac-12 game of the year and a potential league title game preview given how both sides looked this weekend.