After an afternoon of heavy downpours, good ol’ Ralphie, Colorado’s famous grunting buffalo, was held out of action Saturday night.
That was OK. A cavalry of ground-pounding University of Washington playmakers came on to give a good show.
All week, Colorado players and coaches pointed to the Huskies’ physical dominance in last year’s Pac-12 championship game as the biggest reason why it was such a one-sided affair.
Well, it happened again Saturday. Led by Myles Gaskin’s career night, the No, 7 Huskies ran by Colorado, 37-10, in front of 47,666 at a rain-soaked Folsom Field.
Washington (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) totaled 254 rushing yards — the third time the Huskies have had 200 or more yards over a Mike MacIntyre-coached Buffaloes (3-1, 0-1) defense.
And without Lavon Coleman, Gaskin was the workhorse, finishing with a career-high 202 yards on 27 carries, scoring a pair of touchdowns.
“The rain and everthing kind of factored in, so we were kind of sticking to the run today, and it just worked out how it did,” Gaskin said.
After weeks of wondering when the UW run game would click, it finally did Saturday.
Especially in the fourth quarter.
On the first series of the final period, the UW covered 61 yards without attempting a pass. Gaskin began it with four runs, including a 27-yarder up the middle, and a 12-yarder that put the Huskies in the red zone.
Salvon Ahmed finished it off with his 6-yard touchdown scamper, and the UW led 31-10 with 11:16 to go.
Four minutes later, Gaskin got loose on a 57-yard touchdown, and the Huskies poured it on.
“Myles always gets better the more you give him the ball,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “He will get into a rhythm if you just give him a little bit of space.”
Once again, all three phases delivered. An early punt block led to the UW’s first touchdown.
Then came the Huskies’ three interceptions of new Colorado starting quarterback Steven Montez. The last one was returned 35 yards by Myles Bryant for a touchdown late in the third quarter that gave the Huskies a 24-10 lead.
And for the third time in four games, the UW scored a touchdown right after halftime. It came on Jake Browning’s 43-yard pass to Quinten Pounds, who split two defenders, then outleaped them both for the ball in the end zone.
“I didn’t realize who was really covering me,” Pounds said. “All I saw was the ball. That was a pretty big play. It got the sideline going, It was a spark.”
Much like the season opener against Rutgers, the UW defense allowed a quick touchdown on the Buffaloes’ opening series. Colorado went 75 yards in 11 plays. Montez completed all four of his passes, and tailback Phillip Lindsay finished it off with his 1-yard burst up the middle. The Buffaloes led, 7-0, just 4:36 into the game.
Frankly, the Huskies looked a bit lethargic on both sides.
Fortunately, they called upon their punt-return team to give them a necessary jolt.
Early in the second quarter, after Colorado’s first three-and-out series, punter Alex Kinney sat deep to try and boot it away.
But UW’s Vita Vea crashed through the wall, right up the middle, and got his big paw on the punt. Levi Onwuzurike recovered the deflection, and the Huskies were in business at the Buffaloes’ 12.
“That is what we want to be all about, to make a big play on something that is usually very inconsequential,” Petersen said. “That was big.”
Four plays later, Gaskin’s 1-yard touchdown run tied the game at 7-7 with more than nine minutes remaining in the first half.
Then the UW’s good-hands secondary, and cornerback Jordan Miller, in particular, started to make plays.
Miller’s first interception came off a Montez pass, which clanked off Lindsay’s hands in the left flat. Miller followed the deflection and corralled it at the UW 39.
The turnover set up Tristan Vizcaino’s 25-yard field goal that broke a 7-7 tie with 3:36 to go before halftime.
On Colorado’s next series, Montez tried to hit Shay Fields deep. Miller beat the receiver to the ball for his second interception of the half.