PULLMAN – Three times during the fourth quarter of Friday’s Apple Cup, officials stopped the game to chide Washington State fans for throwing debris onto the field to show their displeasure with their team’s performance.
The most anticipated Apple Cup in years quickly turned into just another dud, as No. 23 WSU was blown out by its rival for the third consecutive year in a 45-17 loss to No. 5 Washington.
WSU has lost its last four matchups with UW, the last three by at least 18 points. This was the first Apple Cup since 2001 in which both teams were ranked.
“I don’t think we psyched ourselves out,” WSU receiver Gabe Marks said. “We just got out-muscled by another team. We’re soft.”
Optimistic fans may have noted that the Cougars trailed by 18 points entering the fourth quarter, the same deficit they faced when they overcame a 28-10 UW lead to win the 2012 Apple Cup in overtime.
Instead the Cougars left the ball on the UW two-yard line, and the Huskies drove 98 yards. Lavon Coleman’s 15-yard touchdown run, his second score of the day, erased all hopes of a comeback.
Washington (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) will play in the Pac-12 championship game next week with a shot of playing in the College Football Playoff. WSU (8-4, 7-2) will have to wait a week to learn what bowl game it will play in.
WSU turned the ball over four times during Friday’s game, and had three additional turnovers on downs.
The Huskies scored on their first possession, and then promptly scored again after WSU running back Jamal Morrow fumbled at the Cougars 33-yard line.
“So coming out that first drive and making them fumble, that was a statement from the jump,” UW cornerback Kevin King said. “That’s what we planned to do and all night we were hitting ’em, hitting ’em, hitting ’em. And I’m sure the receivers are feeling it.”
Myles Gaskin put the Huskies on the board with a two-yard touchdown run that was set up by a 50-yard pass from wide receiver Dante Pettis to tight end Darrell Daniels. Such trick plays successfully kept the WSU defense off balance – wide receiver John Ross also gained 31 yards on a reverse.
The Huskies quickly put the game away and led 28-3 after one quarter. Pettis had two receiving touchdowns and quarterback Jake Browning threw for 202 receiving yards in that quarter alone. At the half, Browning had completed 17-of-22 pass attempts for 243 yards and three touchdowns. Backup running back Lavon Coleman added a 23-yard score.
“We came close early in the game to doing some good things until we let them off the hook,” Mike Leach said. “I thought we started pressing and doing too much. I think as coaches we have to get this out of them on offense, defense and special teams. I thought we were too quick to press and make more out of it than it was.”
The Huskies averaged 7.7 yards per offensive play, while WSU averaged just 4.5. Browning ended the game with just 292 passing yards as the Huskies turned to the running game. Gaskin had 50 yards on 16 carries, while Coleman finished with 82 on 10.
The Cougars scored on just three of six trips inside the UW red zone.
Falk was 33-of-50 for 269 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. His last two passes of the game were picked off.
The Cougars had a chance to make UW’s lead more manageable with the ball at the Huskies 14-yard line and less than a minute left in the first half, but Luke Falk’s pass was intercepted in the end zone by D.J. Beavers.
WSU’s first drive of the second half nearly ended in a similar fashion when Falk was sacked and fumbled on fourth down. However, UW cornerback Kevin King was called for defensive holding, and the drive ended with a touchdown pass from Falk to Gabe Marks to cut UW’s lead to 35-17.
Beavers also forced and recovered a fumble on WSU’s first offensive series, setting up and 18-yard touchdown pass to Pettis.
Jamal Morrow’s 64-yard punt return gave WSU a prime chance to get into the end zone. But the Cougars ended up just a few inches short of a touchdown after running on four consecutive plays.
However, Shalom Luani forced a fumble on UW’s ensuing possession and Jalen Thompson recovered it on the UW 18-yard line. Morrow later scored on a 1-yard run.
The Cougars were stopped for a second time on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line when Gerard Wicks’ run came up just short with 37 seconds left in the third quarter, when a score would have cut UW’s lead to 11 points.
The Huskies outscored the Cougars 10-0 in the fourth quarter to cement its victory. While UW converted six of its 10 third-down opportunities, the Cougars were just 7-of-19 on third and fourth down.
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.