Andre Baccellia

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No. 17 Washington clamps down on Matt Fink, holds off No. 21 USC for big Pac-12 win

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No. 17 Washington was trending toward falling in the same old hole they did in a loss to Cal earlier this season, with big drops, lackluster red zone trips and a number of blown assignments holding back the Huskies from taking full control of a pivotal Pac-12 contest. Luckily tailback Salvon Ahmed was back in the lineup and proved to be fully healthy in breaking off a game-breaking 89 yard touchdown run that all but cemented their eventual 28-14 win over No. 21 USC on Saturday afternoon.

Ahmed wound up finishing with 153 yards on the day in his return to action after missing last week’s win over BYU, helping pace an offense that was solid but unspectacular in a situation where they simply didn’t execute up to a level you expect out of a Chris Petersen-coached team. A lot of that had to do with several overthrows and drops in the passing game, which was far from crisp on an otherwise perfect fall day on Montlake. QB Jacob Eason recorded only 180 yards on 16 completions and failed to find the end zone through the air.

Richard Newton chipped in with 20 yards and a score of his own on the ground, while wideout Andre Baccellia complemented two catches for 13 yards by falling on a fumble in the end zone for a big score late in the first half. The Huskies did move into the red zone two other times but had to settle for a pair of Peyton Henry field goals otherwise the final score could have been a lot more comfortable for the purple and gold.

The outcome probably wasn’t too surprising for those that follow the Trojans given how beat up the team was coming in. Matt Fink started for the first time on the road at quarterback in place of Kedon Slovis, who reportedly travelled to Seattle but didn’t play after suffering a concussion last week in the win against Utah. The veteran quarterback had a few moments where he flashed (one long TD pass to Michael Pittmanone scramble for a rushing score) but far more where he didn’t (163 yards passing, three bad interceptions that led to points the other way) against one of the league’s best defenses.

The end result dropped USC to 3-2 on the year, which somehow still allows them to stay in the thick of the Pac-12 South race but makes life difficult overall for head coach Clay Helton. The team heads into their off week with plenty of questions beyond the quarterback position and still has to travel to South Bend to face a Notre Dame squad in the top 10. The loss to the Huskies only further cements the head coach’s spot on the hot seat and the number of penalties and defensive lapses are enough to cause many in the cardinal and gold pining for a change being made sooner rather than later.

As for Washington, they’ll hit the road as well the next few weeks against Stanford and Arizona as that battle with No. 13 Oregon looms in the middle of next month as possibly the game of the year in the Pac-12 North.

No. 17 Washington jumps up early as major Pac-12 tilt against No. 21 USC hits halftime

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Matt Fink’s first road start as the new USC quarterback did not exactly go as well as his outing last week but the No. 21 Trojans were still in it trailing 17-7 at halftime to No. 17 Washington in an energetic atmosphere up in Seattle.

The one-time backup signal-caller was hot (one short touchdown run off a keeper) and cold (an interception that was later turned into a UW touchdown) in a difficult ask of anybody under center, much less USC’s third-stringer coming into the season and the starter for now with freshman Kedon Slovis still not cleared to play after suffering a concussion against Utah last Saturday. The play of Fink, who threw for 62 yards as well, was about all the team had going on offense with the big receivers Michael Pittman and Tyler Vaughns mostly kept in check on the outside and the ground game lacking for hardly any explosiveness.

The Huskies, meanwhile, were quite efficient at utilizing short fields on offense to jump out to an early lead. Off a solid punt return into plus territory, Richard Newton (14 total yards) wound up punching it into the end zone and Washington came right back again by scoring after their defense pulled in an interception. Andre Baccellia was the one who netted the six points on that latter score, falling on a fumble for a touchdown.

Strong-armed quarterback Jacob Eason didn’t have much of a chance to showcase what he could do under center in throwing for only 97 yards in the first half.

Washington does get the ball to start the second half and can put a little more distance between them and USC in what is shaping up to be a pivotal Pac-12 clash in the Pacific Northwest.

No. 9 Penn State tops No. 11 Washington in Fiesta Bowl as B1G sweeps Pac-12

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No. 9 Penn State burst to a 28-7 lead and held on for a 35-28 win over No. 11 Washington to take the Fiesta Bowl. The triumph clinched back-to-back 11-win seasons for Penn State for the first time since 2008-09 and moved the Nittany Lions to 7-0 all-time in the Fiesta Bowl, but it was hard to limit Saturday’s result strictly to what happened on the field.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 were both left out of the College Football Playoff this winter, and the leagues responded in completely opposite fashions. Penn State’s win lifted the Big Ten to 6-0 with two games still to go, while the Pac-12 completed its postseason with a dismal 1-8 mark, including losses in all four contests against the Big Ten. According to a tweet from ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura, the 1-8 record is the worst bowl season ever by a Power 5 conference.

The Nittany Lions accepted the ball to open the game and promptly moved 83 yards in eight plays, the final 48 on a Trace McSorley dime to DaeSean Hamilton. McSorley fired an interception in the end zone on Penn State’s next possession, but made up for that mistake by piloting an 11-play, 64-yard drive that culminated in a 2-yard Saquon Barkley rush to put the Lions up 14-0 just over a dozen minutes into the game.

Needing a score, Chris Petersen cracked open his book of trick plays. Jake Browning fired a backward pass to wide receiver Andre Baccellia, who then lofted the ball to defensive lineman Will Dissly for a 52-yard gain down to the Penn State 12. Browning put the Huskies on the board two plays later on a 1-yard keeper. 

Though Washington (10-3) was back in the game, that didn’t last long. Penn State pushed the lead back to two scores with a 7-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, then broke it open when Barkley charged for a 92-yard touchdown run to give the Nittany Lions a 28-7 lead at the 9:01 mark of the second quarter.

The Huskies cut back into the deficit with help from Penn State, thanks to a fumbled exchange between McSorley and backup running back Miles Sanders at their own 33. Myles Gaskin pulled the Huskies back within 14 with a 13-yard scoring jaunt with 4:15 to play in the half. Washington then opened the second half with a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ended on a 28-yard toss from Browning to Aaron Fuller.

Their deficit shrunk to seven points for the first time since it was 7-0, Penn State responded with a 70-yard touchdown drive, culminating in Hamilton’s second touchdown catch of the game and the 212th total grab of his career, setting the Penn State career record. The Nittany Lions had a chance to push their advantage to three scores early in the fourth quarter, marching to the Washington 18, but McSorley’s 2nd-and-5 pass was tipped and intercepted.

Washington could not immediately capitalize but did on its next possession, as Gaskin burst free for a 69-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 35-28 with 6:52 to play. Penn State consumed all but 34 remaining seconds on its ensuing drive, setting up a 4th-and-1 that would have clinched the game. However, the Nittany Lions were flagged for a false start and, faced now with a 4th-and-6, Tyler Davis‘s 45-yard field goal sailed wide right, giving Washington the ball back at its own 28.

Armed with no timeouts, Washington attempted a hook-and-ladder play but, playing on the same field as the mythic 2007 Fiesta Bowl, no miracle was in order for Petersen’s team this time. Dante Pettis crossed midfield with the opportunity to go out of bounds and regroup for a Hail Mary, but his lateral attempt back toward the middle of the field was intercepted by Penn State’s Brandon Smith.

In (probably) the final game for college football’s best backfield tandem, McSorley and Barkley were as good as ever. McSorley completed 32-of-41 passes — including a perfect 12-of-12 on third down — for 342 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing 12 times for 60 yards, and Barkley rushed 18 times for 137 yards and two scores while catching seven passes for 38 yards. Hamilton added five grabs for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Facing a defense that ranked in the top five nearly across the board, Penn State gained 545 yards on 6.9 yards per play with 25 first downs and 13 third-down conversions on 17 tries.

Browning completed 18-of-28 passes for 175 yards and a score, while Gaskin led the Huskies with 14 carries for 98 yards and two touchdowns.

Same song, different verse as Penn State all over Washington in Fiesta Bowl

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The divergent bowl seasons of the Big Ten and Pac-12 continues to rule the day as Penn State holds a 28-14 lead over Washington halfway through the Fiesta Bowl.

The Nittany Lions accepted the ball to open the game and promptly moved 83 yards in eight plays, the final 48 on a Trace McSorley dime to DaeSean Hamilton. McSorley fired an interception in the end zone on Penn State’s next possession, but made up for that mistake by piloting an 11-play, 64-yard drive that culminated in a 2-yard Saquon Barkley rush to put the Lions up 14-0 just over a dozen minutes into the game.

Needing a score, Chris Petersen cracked open his book of trick plays. Jake Browning fired a backward pass to wide receiver Andre Baccellia, who then lofted the ball to defensive lineman Will Dissly for a 52-yard gain down to the Penn State 12. Browning put the Huskies on the board two plays later on a 1-yard keeper. 

Though Washington was back in the game, that didn’t last long. Penn State pushed the lead back to two scores with a 7-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, then broke it open when Barkley charged for a 92-yard touchdown run to give the Nittany Lions a 28-7 lead at the 9:01 mark of the second quarter.

The Huskies cut back into the deficit with help from Penn State, thanks to a fumbled exchange between McSorley and backup running back Miles Sanders at their own 33. Myles Gaskin pulled the Huskies back within 14 with a 13-yard scoring jaunt with 4:15 to play in the half.

McSorley closed the half hitting 18-of-24 passes for 219 yards with a touchdown and an interception while rushing six times for 26 yards, and Barkley added nine carries for 126 yards and two scores. The Nittany Lions racked up 367 yards of total offense (on 8.74 a play) with 15 first downs and 7-of-8 third-down conversions against a defense that averaged 277.4 yards (on 4.18 a play) while allowing just 16 first downs and 5.3 third-down conversions per game.

Browning completed 7-of-11 passes for a modest 67 yards while Gaskin led the Huskies with 17 yards on seven carries.

Washington will receive to open the second half.