There were far more students in Washington State’s cheering section in the first half of Saturday night’s game than in the second, many of them heading elsewhere after spending two quarters in subfreezing temperatures at Martin Stadium.
But it’s hard to say whether the cold chased them away, or whether they simply tired of watching the Washington Huskies thwart the Cougars’ typically productive passing offense again and again and again.
The way the Huskies dominated this Apple Cup game, the latter seems more likely.
There was no drama. There was little intrigue. And by the time the fourth quarter started, there was no doubt, either, as the Huskies rolled to a dominant 31-13 victory in the 107th playing of the rivalry game.
The Huskies finish the regular season 8-5 (with a 4-5 Pac-12 record), and now wait to find out their bowl-game destination. The Cougars finish 3-9 and 2-7 in Pac-12 play.
Dwayne Washington rushed for 135 yards and touchdown runs of 51 and 60 yards on UW’s first possession of the first and third quarters, respectively.
Cyler Miles completed 25 of 39 passes for 249 yards, including touchdown throws to Kasen Williams and Joshua Perkins.
But the big story on a frigid, snowy day in the Palouse was the Huskies’ defense, which forced three turnovers, sacked WSU quarterback Luke Falk four times and held the Cougars scoreless until Falk’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Dom Williams with 9:55 left in the game. The score helped WSU avoid the first shutout of coach Mike Leach’s 13-year career.
Falk, a redshirt freshman who threw for 601 yards last week in a loss at Arizona State, completed just 27 of 49 passes for 355 yards and threw interceptions to John Ross III — the first of his career — and sophomore safety Kevin King.
He was hassled by UW’s pass rush, which yielded half-sacks for Danny Shelton, Evan Hudson and Hau’oli Kikaha, a sack for Joe Mathis and 1.5 sacks for Andrew Hudson, who boosted his season total to 11.5.
The Cougars also lost a fumble in the second quarter that set up UW’s second touchdown, Miles’ 6-yard pass to Williams that gave the Huskies a 14-0 lead with 50 seconds left in the first half.
UW received the opening kickoff of the second half, too, and on the Huskies’ second play, Washington took a handoff and gashed WSU’s defense for a 60-yard touchdown run. He wasn’t touched.
WSU had chances to make something happen on each of its first three possessions, but the Cougars were turned away on fourth-down attempts from UW’s 42-yard line, 19-yard line and 32-yard line.
After the Huskies took a 21-0 lead early in the third quarter thanks to Washington’s second touchdown run, they pushed WSU backward when Shelton and Andrew Hudson combined for a sack on third-and-12. And Falk was intercepted on WSU’s next possession.
A 15-play, 64-yard UW drive ended with an 18-yard field goal by Cameron Van Winkle, and after the Cougars were forced to punt — a holding penalty killed the drive — the Huskies moved 85 yards in 10 plays and took a 31-0 lead on Miles’ 18-yard touchdown pass to Perkins.
WSU’s final score came on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Falk to River Cracraft with 1:00 left, the game already long decided by then.
UW outgained the Cougars 437-376.
The victory gives the Huskies consecutive eight-win seasons for the first time since 2000-01. They finished 9-4 in 2013 after beating BYU in the Fight Hunger Bowl.
Washington is again headed to a bowl game, though it likely won’t know which one until after the Pac-12 championship game is played. The Cactus Bowl in Tempe, Arizona, on Jan. 2 is a possible destination, as are a couple bowls not affiliated with the Pac-12.
The Cougars, after breaking a 10-year postseason drought last season, will simply go home.