No. 15 Washington knows it’s the spoiler in the Apple Cup
SEATTLE (AP) — Chris Petersen was in the process of reliving the wild final minutes of No. 15 Washington’s comeback when he was asked if the victory over Utah ranked among the most exciting finishes in his career.
Petersen paused for a moment.
“No. We’ve had some pretty good ones,” he said.
What Petersen is hoping for is that the 33-30 victory over the Utes late Saturday night gives the Huskies a boost heading into the Apple Cup against No. 14 Washington State. Washington was on the verge of entering its rivalry game next Saturday on a two-game losing streak until Jake Browning rallied the Huskies for 10 points in the final 58 seconds to stun Utah.
In the immediate aftermath of the victory, Petersen talked about the Huskies regaining a bit of the swagger that took a hit when they lost to Stanford, which knocked Washington out of contention for the College Football Playoff. The Huskies also can’t win the Pac-12 North because of the loss to the Cardinal.
But the Huskies (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12) do know what their role is for this week: Spoiling Washington State’s chances at a division title and finishing off consecutive 10-win seasons for just the fourth time in school history.
“Rivalry games are huge and we always want to beat Wazzu,” Browning said after Saturday’s game. ”... Having a 10-win season would be pretty cool. I don’t care what game we’re playing for or whatever. I want to win regardless.”
Washington’s rally for its ninth win was somewhat inexplicable and took help from the Utes. Most notable was Utah’s decision to call timeout with 23 seconds left after Myles Gaskin’s 2-yard run put the Huskies at their own 30. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was trying to be aggressive and give his team a chance to get the ball back with the game tied at 30-all, but the move backfired.
Browning hit Dante Pettis for 18 yards and Andre Baccellia for 31 yards on consecutive plays and Tristan Vizcaino was good on a 38-yard field goal on the final play to give Washington the win. Vizcaino was three of six on kicks of 30 to 39 yards on the season before hitting the game-winner.
Petersen said the decision to run Gaskin on the first play of the drive wasn’t to be taken as a sign the Huskies were playing for overtime. But Utah’s decision to call timeout allowed Washington to get aggressive.
“We said let’s see if we can hit something here. But it’s also concerning, because if you turn the ball over, they are thinking just like we are. They are thinking, let’s get this ball back and if we can get some good field position we’ve got a shot at a field goal. That field goal kicker has a big leg,” Petersen said. “So you can see where they were thinking the same thing and if they hit the quarterback or if we have an errant pass and they pick it off, now they are in great shape. We just happened to hit the pass and away we go.”
An emerging concern for Washington is the vulnerability of its defense. The Huskies have allowed more than 400 total yards and 30 points to each of their last two opponents and now here comes the Air Raid offense.
But what’s impressed Petersen the most is the improvement of the Cougars defense. Washington State (9-2, 6-2) is third in the conference in scoring defense, second in rushing defense and second in passing defense. A year ago, the Cougars were middle of the pack in the conference rankings in most defensive categories.
“I think the thing that jumps out to me is how good their defense is. It’s always been, since Mike Leach has been there, about that offense and everybody knows how prolific they are in terms of scoring points and moving the ball and what a great system they have and that hasn’t changed,” Petersen said. “The thing that has changed is the type of defense that they’re playing. It’s impressive and they do a great job. Those kids play hard and everybody struggles with it.”
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