Use whatever adjective you want to describe the 2018 Pac-12 Championship Game but chances are it will be a synonym of ugly.
And it won’t matter one bit to fans of No. 11 Washington as they topped No. 17 Utah by a very indicative 10-3 score on Friday night to capture the league title for a second time in three years and book their trip to the Rose Bowl Game for the first time since 2001.
As one would expect in a game featuring two of the best defenses West of the Mississippi, offense was hard to come by in this one — both because of what defenders were doing and want offensive skill players were not. Huskies quarterback Jake Browning was again a bit of a liability as a passer with one interception (and several others that could have been picked) but did wind up making a few key plays to move the sticks in the second half and finished the game with 187 yards and a few key scrambles as well. He combined with Myles Gaskin (71 yards rushing) and Salvon Ahmed (28 on the ground) to help Washington dominate time of possession nearly 2-to-1 in the game however, certainly a winning formula given they could lean on their defense pretty much all night.
And what a defensive performance it was.
The Huskies held the Utes to only 188 yards in the game and recorded three turnovers to go with two sacks and numerous pressures. Defensive back Byron Murphy also all but won UW the game in the third quarter with one of the most remarkable pick-sixes you’ll ever see as he snatched the ball off an opposing wideout to return it 66 yards for the game’s only touchdown.
While many in purple will note how good the team is on that side of the ball, there was also plenty of issues getting anything going for the team in red as a 53 yard Matt Gay field goal that barely cleared the crossbar was the only bright spot of the game for the Utes. Quarterback Jason Shelley must have used up all his second half magic last week against BYU as it was rough from start to finish for the youngster in throwing for 137 yards and a trio of interceptions all on consecutive drives across the third and fourth quarters.
Tailback Armand Shyne chipped in with 37 yards rushing to barely outpace receiver Britain Covey and his 14 yards on the ground. Crazy as all those numbers were, the team still had a chance to tie things up in the final few minutes before turning the ball over on downs.
While the ending wasn’t quite what Utah wanted at Levi’s Stadium, it was still a remarkable campaign for Kyle Whittingham as he guided his team to their first South Division title, a victory over their in-state rival and a 9-4 record in the regular season despite losing their entire starting backfield down the stretch.
Washington will wind up with the ultimate prize in the end however, doing just enough on offense to eek out the victory and capture the school’s second Pac-12 championship under head coach Chris Petersen. While the league was knocked out of the College Football Playoff weeks ago, a trip to Pasadena is nothing for any of these schools to overlook and will be a very welcome sight at the beginning of next year when the Huskies take the field at the Rose Bowl for the first time in 18 years.
Let’s just hope UW can figure out an offense between now and taking the field against Northwestern, Ohio State or Michigan in January…