The sunglasses fell out of his backpack, John Ross said, so he thought it would be cool if he and teammate Dante Pettis put them on during their postgame interviews, Blues Brothers style.
And, maybe, wear them to pose with the Apple Cup trophy.
“It’s something we always wanted to do,” said Ross, Washington’s star junior receiver, “but we’re not trying to be cocky or anything, (or) look like we’re better than anyone.”
It is far too late for that.
The Huskies have proved throughout this football season that they are, indeed, better than everyone in the Pac-12 North. Far better, in most cases. So Friday’s rivalry showdown at Washington State, the team tied with UW atop the division standings, served as an opportunity for the Huskies to show just how wide the gap separating them from the rest truly is.
In the end, it all felt pretty routine. Coach Chris Petersen climbed atop a makeshift stage, again, and accepted the Governor’s Trophy from Gov. Jay Inslee, again, and the Huskies celebrated a victory over their in-state rival for the fourth consecutive season.
This one means more than most: Washington’s 45-17 drubbing of WSU at Martin Stadium clinched the Pac-12 North title for the Huskies, who will face either USC or Colorado next Friday in the conference championship game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
The league expanded to 12 teams — and split into two divisions — in 2011. Stanford and Oregon had won every Pac-12 North title since. Now, Washington is king of its region after beating each of its five North foes by at least 24 points this season. The Huskies outscored those teams — WSU, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford and California — by a combined total of 266 to 88.
Friday’s result might have been the sweetest. The stakes, the atmosphere, the hype suggested an Apple Cup classic. It was anything but.
Washington (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) scored touchdowns on its first four possessions, all of them in the first quarter, three of them via passes by quarterback Jake Browning.
It was 14-0 after 7 minutes and 15 seconds of game time. UW used a 50-yard, trick-play pass by Pettis to tight end Darrell Daniels to set up its first touchdown (a 2-yard run by Myles Gaskin), before turning a WSU fumble into another touchdown on an 18-yard pass from Browning to Pettis in the back of the end zone.
Browning’s 61-yard touchdown pass to Pettis — a highlight-reel grab made over a defensive back flagged for pass interference — made it 21-3. And it was 28-3 after Browning capped a 57-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Ross on an end-zone fade.
“I think when we start fast,” Browning said, “we’re pretty dangerous.”
The Huskies had 274 yards of total offense after the first quarter to 64 for the Cougars. UW again stifled WSU’s Air Raid offense, holding it to 4.5 yards per play, and has held the Cougars to 40 points total in three Apple Cup games with Petersen as coach.
The first quarter, UW cornerback Kevin King said, “felt like how I thought it was going to be. None of this is surprising.”
WSU (8-4, 7-2) had chances to make this one more interesting. The Cougars drove to UW’s 9-yard line in the final seconds of the first half before quarterback Luke Falk threw an interception to Huskies linebacker DJ Beavers in the end zone.
And after WSU scored a third-quarter touchdown to cut the deficit to 35-17, the Cougars drove inside UW’s 5-yard line with a chance to make it a two-score game. But tailback Gerard Wicks was stuffed on a fourth-and-goal carry from the 1-yard line, and the Huskies followed with a 10-play, 98-yard drive, capped by Lavon Coleman’s acrobatic, 15-yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach.
“They were playing physical. You can hear it from the sideline, and it was awesome,” Petersen said. “You kind of thought they’d probably run it down there, which they should, and guys answered.”
On a day when the Cougars mostly thwarted Gaskin, Coleman excelled instead. The fourth-year junior finished with 10 carries for 82 yards and two touchdowns, including a pair of tough runs that helped extend the aforementioned 98-yard drive.
Browning finished 21 of 29 for 292 yards and three touchdowns, and has 40 touchdown passes this season, third-most in a single season in Pac-12 history. With eight catches for 80 yards, Ross became the seventh receiver in UW history to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in a single season.
So there he was afterward, shades covering his eyes as he laughed with Pettis, celebrating Washington’s ninth victory this season decided by 24 or more points.
If the Huskies win the Pac-12 title game, expect the sunglasses to make an encore appearance.
“Definitely,” Ross said, smiling. “I might have two on.”