By winning an all-time Apple Cup shootout Huskies become an all-time team
Facing a fourth-and-10 from Washington’s 34 on the ensuing drive, Cougs quarterback Cameron Ward found receiver Robert Ferrel for a touchdown to put his team back up by three. No surprise that Washington State averaged more than four yards less than Washington per play in the opening two quarters en route to its 304 first-half yards.
Washington knows how to do this better than most teams in the country, and it did so on the first play on the third quarter, when Penix connected with McMillan for a 75-yard TD pass.
PULLMAN — Players will always tell you they want it easy. They’ll say they prefer to sail instead of stress — to dominate from the start instead pulling in the final quarter.But legacies aren’t born out of coasting or cruising. They’re formed by enduring blow after blow and responding in ways their fans simply can’t forget. That’s what the Huskies exemplified Saturday night by beating Washington State 51-33 Saturday night. More significantly, it’s what they exemplified all season.They are the embodiment of what it means to bounce back, and in winning one of the all-time great Apple Cups, solidified their place as one of the all-time great Washington teams.There were a number of UW drives in which even the slightest lapse of focus could have ceded the momentum to the relentless Cougs, but those lapses rarely came. Behind a herculean effort from quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who finished 25 of 43 for 485 yards, three passing touchdowns and two rushing TDs, UW (10-2, 7-2 in the Pac-12) survived to reach a double-digit victory total one year after going 4-8.The No. 12 Huskies are now likely — though not guaranteed — to play in a New Year’s Six Bowl, which seemed borderline unfathomable before the season began. So celebrate, Husky Nation — under first-year coach Kalen DeBoer, your team just proved to the country that it’s among the nation’s best.
In fact, celebrate as much as you can now — because that game likely took 20 years off your life.
The first half was the epitome of entertainment, even if it momentarily served as the death of defense. Washington and Washington State combined for just two punts through the opening 30 minutes, scoring on nearly every opportunity — albeit in contrasting manners.The Huskies were the heavyweights throwing haymakers, overwhelming the Cougs (7-5, 4-5) on each possession. Trailing 3-0 early in the quarter? Washington found the end zone on a four- play , 44-yard drive that ended with Penix connecting with Ja’Lynn Polk on a 26-yard touchdown pass. Trailing 10-7 later in that frame? The Huskies found the end zone on a seven- play , 79-yard drive that ended with Penix hitting Rome Odunze for a 47-yard TD.Trailing 17-14 in the second quarter? UW went 75 yards on four play s — this drive ending with Penix taking a backward pass from Jalen McMillan 30 yards to the end zone. And down 24-21 with less than two minutes in the second quarter, Penix capped an eight- play , 83-yard drive with a four-yard scoring run.By halftime, the Huskies had accumulated a ridiculous 326 yards on an even more ridiculous 10.2 yards per play (including 18.6 yards per completion). And yet they led only 28-27 due to an WSU that survived as much on will as it did skill.The Cougars didn’t overwhelm Washington in the first half Saturday. They exhausted them with jab after jab and uncanny fourth-down fortitude. Down 4 and facing a fourth-and-1 on their own 34 in the first quarter, WSU punter Nick Haberer completed a 36-yard-pass to linebacker Daiyan Henley — extending a drive that had a second fourth-down conversion and ended with a Wazzu touchdown.Facing a fourth-and-10 from Washington ’s 34 on the ensuing drive, Cougs quarterback Cameron Ward found receiver Robert Ferrel for a touchdown to put his team back up by three. And facing a fourth-and-7 from Washington ’s 34 one drive later, Ward completed a 14-yard pass to De’Zhaun Stribling that set up a touchdown two play s later.Four fourth downs, four conversions — all adding up to 21 points. No surprise that Washington State averaged more than four yards less than Washington per play in the opening two quarters en route to its 304 first-half yards. But it’s not how you get the points — it’s how many you score. Washington knows how to do this better than most teams in the country, and it did so on the first play on the third quarter, when Penix connected with McMillan for a 75-yard TD pass. That put UW up by eight, but the Cougars didn’t back down.They forced a fumble and scored a touchdown to make it 35-33 after a failed two-point conversion. Then they intercepted Penix in the WSU end zone.But despite their fight, they couldn’t match the Huskies might, as Washington eventually pulled away in the final 15 minutes. Valiant effort for WSU, but the victorious effort was Washington ’s.There will be plenty that the Huskies regret this year — particularly that seven-point loss to Arizona State midway through the season. But there won’t be much they forget — and what they did Saturday will be etched in their and their fans’ minds for a lifetime.