Has Washington’s football season gone as expected? No.
The Huskies playoff hopes were put on life support early on in Atlanta, then dashed in Eugene then put six feet in the ground after a rough Saturday in Berkley.
The Pac-12 North title and a Rose Bowl trip? Still alive, though.
Washington’s season has taken the form of a NASCAR stock car; they’ve been in a few wrecks, been brought back to the middle of the pack, and now seeming surging forward as the end nears. A win in Pullman and a win in the Pac-12 title game puts the Huskies in Pasadena for a Rose Bowl for the first time since 2000.
“All these games are so important,” Huskies head coach Chris Petersen said following the Huskies 42-23 victory over the Oregon State on Saturday.
“The kids know, the coaches know what we’re playing for and all of that. Kids and the coaches put their heart and soul into every single game. We’ll just continue to prepare like we have and we gotta play as well as we’ve played all year.”
The final home game for the Huskies was, in some ways, a microcosm of the season.
Great at some points, a bit rough at others, but in large a success.
UW built a 28-3 early lead but surrendered 363 yards to Oregon State, mostly in the first half.
“It was a pretty frustrating game after we played very well honestly, ” linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven said. “I think on defense we have a lot to work on, we let them hang around and we got hit on like six trick plays so it was a frustrating game I think.”
Huskies running back Salvon Ahmed caused frustration for the Beavers with two first quarter touchdowns and 86 yards rushing on nine carries. He helped the offense start hot but it didn’t last; UW was limited to just a touchdown in the second and third quarter.
Ahmed’s said adjustments must be made if the Huskies want to beat their cross-state rivals in Pullman on Friday.
“Just know that you’ve gotta fix some things coming out of halftime and execute them,” Ahmed said. “You’re never frustrated, just knowing we’ve gotta pick it up as a team.”
The Beavers, at 2-8 entering the game, was no one’s idea of tough competition. But sometimes playing a team with nothing to lose can be difficult, Petersen said.
“It’s hard,” Petersen said. “In some ways that’s the way you want to play — I mean, why doesn’t everybody play like that? But you know when you’re behind playing catch up you gotta do some of those things but it is hard. You gotta be on point when a team plays like that-reverses and all kinds of different stuff it can come back to get you.”
The Huskies were able to handle what the Beavers threw at them and now face an Apple Cup week that has the usual rivalry intensity and a Pac-12 North Division title on the line. Making the College Football Playoffs may not be possible, but there’s still plenty to play for.
“I really don’t care what people were hoping for,” Huskies quarterback Jake Browning said about the expectations. “Every team is undefeated at the beginning of the season. Everybody beats the crap out of each other in the Pac-12 and it’s who can absorb the blows and just keep at it. There’s plenty of teams like us who have high expectations going into the season and we just keep battling.”