There still would have been a lot of work to do for the Washington State Cougars to make up their second-half deficit, and the odds still would have been against them.
But it’s worth wondering how different the outcome of Washington’s 45-17 victory in Friday’s Apple Cup game might have been if not for a goal-line stand late in the third quarter.
With the Huskies leading 35-17, WSU had a first-and-goal at UW’s 4-yard line with a chance to cut the lead to two scores.
WSU tailback James Williams carried for a yard. Quarterback Luke Falk threw incomplete. Williams carried for two more yards, to UW’s 1-yard line.
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And on fourth-and-goal, the Cougars ran tailback Gerard Wicks into the middle of UW’s defensive line. He was smothered, tackled by Budda Baker and Elijah Qualls, and the Huskies got the ball back with 37 seconds remaining in the third quarter, and without surrendering any points.
“That’s ‘Death Row,’ ” said UW cornerback Kevin King, referring to the Huskies’ self-assigned nickname for their defense. “That is the epitome of ‘Death Row’ right there.”
They promptly drove 98 yards in 10 plays, scoring on Lavon Coleman’s 15-yard touchdown run to put the game away.
“That’s a hard run offense to stop when they only need a yard or two yards,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “They take those splits and they’ve got some big guys up there. It was awesome. That’s really where you want to see that D-line take over, because it’s a hard team for the D-line to take over, just in terms of the pass protection techniques, how much they throw it. A lot of times, it doesn’t turn into a physical game, but down there, you can kind of feel it turn into that.”
It was UW’s second goal-line stand of the game. The first came in the second quarter, though the Cougars eventually scored their first touchdown after John Ross lost a fumble at UW’s 18-yard line shortly after the Huskies had turned WSU away on a fourth-and-goal play from the 2-yard line.
“When they make goal-line stands,” Ross said, “it’s on us to make a play for them.”
WSU players seemed perplexed by their inability to convert in the red zone. Senior receiver Gabe Marks said the Cougars were too soft.
“I don’t know if they want it more than us,” said Marks, who finished with 11 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown in his final collegiate home game. “I don’t think that’s the case. It’s baffling.”
Said WSU coach Mike Leach: “It’s the type of crap where some guy has some preconceived notion of where somebody’s going to go, and then of course the guy doesn’t do that and then we’re totally out of position.”
Something was missing from the Apple Cup trophy awarded to the Huskies after their victory — namely, the apple.
Petersen confirmed that the apple fell off the trophy while in transit, joking that it must be time for a new one. But he would not divulge the name of the apple-busting culprit, a person Petersen said was “panicked” when they touched the trophy and the apple fell off.
“I’m not going to sell them out,” Petersen said, smiling.
Redshirt freshman linebacker DJ Beavers, filling in for injured starter Azeem Victor, recorded his first career interception late in the first half. “He plays hard, he practices hard,” Petersen said. “I think he’s elevating his game, getting confidence.” … Petersen said he did not think junior linebacker Keishawn Bierria, who sat out most of the second half, is injured. If he is, Petersen was not told. … With eight receptions for 80 yards, Ross became the eighth player in UW history to crack the 1,000-yard mark in a single season. He now has 72 catches for 1,071 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. The yardage total is tied for fifth-most in a season in school history with Andre Riley. … UW quarterback Jake Browning now has 40 passing touchdowns this season, third-most in a single season in Pac-12 history behind only Jared Goff (43 in 2015) and Marcus Mariota (42 in 2014). … The Huskies have outscored WSU 121-40 in the past three Apple Cup games and have now won seven of the past eight games in the series.