To celebrate, they threw snowballs. And even after the No. 16 Washington Huskies exited the field, remnants of their snow angels remained.
For many Huskies — Taylor Rapp and Andre Baccellia and even Jake Browning — Friday’s Apple Cup was their first snow game. It didn’t matter. UW embraced it. Enjoyed it even. Rapp even said sliding across the fresh powder reminded him of his days playing baseball.
When it was all said and done, the Huskies defeated No. 8 Washington State 28-15 at Martin Stadium. The victory clinched the Pac-12 North title and next Friday, UW will play No. 17 Utah in the Pac-12 championship game.
Afterward, the Huskies celebrated on the Cougars’ field. They played in the snow like children. They sang the fight song. Extra loud, said head coach Chris Petersen, for the UW band that couldn’t make the game after a bus crash on Thursday night.
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“(The snow) was something new,” Baccellia said with a grin. “It was pretty cold, but I thought it was a lot of fun. Just going out there and competing in that, it was awesome.”
At halftime, two plows took turns clearing the snow from the field. But by the third quarter, it was covered again. Workers with shovels ran back-and-forth, carving out yard markers.
It wasn’t snowing when the teams came out for warmups. Instead, the players were drenched with a pounding rain. Most of the Huskies agreed that was worse than the snow, even if they’d never played in the latter before.
“Pretty awesome, actually,” Rapp said. “It was pretty hard to play. You’re catching your feet and stuff like that. The conditions, catching balls and stuff like that. But the snow was beautiful. It was snowing sideways. It was a lot of fun.”
Said tight end Hunter Bryant, also playing his first game in the snow: “When it turned to snow it became a little easier just to catch the ball and do everything. I really liked that it snowed.”
The game was as wild as the weather. Three interceptions. Five fumbles. A botched extra point returned 90 yards to the end zone. But UW defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said at least one thing stayed predictable: Washington State.
He hopes the Cougars never change.
“It makes it real easy for us,” Lake said. “Maybe next year, they’ll throw us a little curveball. It makes it very easy when you know what you’re going to get. It’s awesome.”
It’s hard to argue with his success. Head coach Chris Petersen and Lake have never lost to the Cougars, and UW has now won six straight Apple Cups. Linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven said the latest victories have a lot to do with Lake.
“Coach Lake’s got a sneaky good game plan when we play this guys,” he said. “He knows what he’s doing. He puts in so much time behind the scenes.
“Everyone knows Coach Lake is a great coach, but no one really knows. … That dude, he knows everything. He’s just one of those guys that whatever he does, he’s going to do it better than anyone else.”
Rapp said the Huskies were confident coming into Friday’s matchup. Lake and the defensive staff dial in before facing the Cougars, he said, and it’s the most fun UW has all season.
“This is our biggest game of the year,” Lake said. “This is our rival. We got to make sure we secure the Apple Cup every single year whether it’s at home or it’s here. It feels really, really good. The whole locker room’s going crazy right now.”
Browning said the Huskies’ success hinged on their ability to run the ball. They were able to get a ground game going; Washington State wasn’t. That made all the difference.
“That was a tribute to Myles Gaskin, Salvon (Ahmed), our O-Line, our tight ends, our receivers,” he said. “Basically everybody but me. All I did was hand the ball off.”
Gaskin made the game’s decisive play in the fourth quarter when he broke free on a 3rd-and-1, racing 80 yards for his third touchdown. After a successful two-point conversion from Ahmed, the Huskies had pulled ahead 28-15 with 12:30 left in the game.
Even on a night where nothing seemed sure or safe, that was enough to seal the Huskies’ victory.
Gaskin finished with 174 yards on 27 carries. He passed 1,000 yards for the fourth consecutive season. Ahmed had nine carries for 87 yards. Browning completed 11-of-14 passes for 207 yards while Bryant caught three passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. Burr-Kirven led the Huskies with 10 tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception.
“Half our game plan was out the window by the third quarter when (the snow) kept coming down,” Petersen said. “The same thing I’m sure for Washington State on their side of the ball as well. It was much different than I think everybody had planned on.”
The Huskies led 14-7 at the break and opened the second half with their third touchdown drive.
Browning’s 59-yard pass to Bryant moved UW to the Cougars’ 22-yard line. The Huskies then scored on a double pass from Browning to Aaron Fuller to Bryant to take a 20-7 lead.
“It wasn’t the best throw,” Fuller said. “It kind of slipped out of my hands, but the result was good.”
But then, almost predictably, UW botched the extra point. Dale Hunter returned it 90-yards to pick up two points for Washington State.
After UW came up with a stop, Browning hit Baccellia for a 33-yard gain to move the Huskies to their 45-yard line. But after a holding call erased a Gaskin run, Browning was sacked three plays later and fumbled.
Dillon Sherman recovered for Washington State at the Huskies’ 23-yard line and the Cougars took five plays to score on a 1-yard run from James Williams. After a failed two-point conversion attempt, Washington State had pulled within five points, 20-15, with 4:44 left in the third quarter.
UW’s first touchdown came on a 77-yard, six-play drive. The Huskies scored on a 5-yard run from Gaskin to pull ahead 7-0 with 8 seconds left in the first quarter.
UW added another touchdown on its next offensive possession. Gaskin again went 5 yards, pushing into the end zone with a second effort. That gave the Huskies a 14-0 lead with 5:37 left in the first half.
The Cougars responded with an 11-play, 49-yard drive capped by an 11-yard run from Williams. Trailing 14-7, Washington State then recovered a Max Richmond fumble on the ensuing kickoff.
The Cougars took over at the Huskies’ 27 yard line with 28 seconds left in the first half. On third-and-7, Minshew took a shot at the end zone but Byron Murphy made a leaping interception in the back corner.
With a berth in the Pac-12 championship game secured, the Rose Bowl is within reach. But Browning said the Huskies aren’t thinking about that quite yet.
“I’m pretty focused on this Pac-12 championship,” Browning said. “That’s kind of where I’m at right now. But I think everyone on the West Coast wants to play in the Rose Bowl. We know what’s at stake but we’re not thinking ahead.”