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‘Exactly the same’ Washington State offense held in check by hard-hitting Washington defense

Washington Huskies make snow angels after defeating Washington State during the second half  Friday at Martin Stadium in Pullman. Washington won  28-15. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
By Josh Wright For The Spokesman-Review

PULLMAN – After another no-doubt Apple Cup victory, a few Washington Huskies slid headfirst onto the snowy Martin Stadium field. A few others made snow angels.

Then there was UW defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake, who dodged several snowballs but didn’t hold back about Washington State coach Mike Leach after the Huskies’ 28-15 win over the Cougars on Friday night.

“It does surprise me,” the North Central grad said when asked if he thought Leach would add a wrinkle to his Air Raid offense to counteract the stout Washington defense. “But knowing what I read about the head football coach here, he does things a little different way, so hopefully he remains here a long time. That would be awesome.”

Later he added that the Cougars’ game plan was “exactly the same” as in years past. The result was also the same, as Washington won for the sixth consecutive time over WSU – all by double digits – to punch a ticket to the Pac-12 title game.

“It makes it real easy for us,” Lake said. “Next year, maybe he’ll throw a little curveball. But it makes it very easy when you know what you’re going to get, so it’s awesome.”

The whiteout conditions after the first quarter forced the archrivals to adapt. For Gardiner Minshew and the Cougs’ usually potent aerial attack, that meant going almost exclusively to short swing passes and dump-offs to tailbacks James Williams and Max Borghi.

Minshew managed just 152 yards on 26-of-35 passing. He was intercepted twice and could have been picked off twice more.

“They were disciplined in their zones and they came up and tackled well,” Minshew said. “I think that makes for a tough opponent.”

Huskies coach Chris Petersen said his offensive staff tossed out half its plays when the snow really started to stick. The nonstop snow seemed to impact the Cougars more.

But not the Washington defense.

“It didn’t, actually,” Lake said. “I mean, we know what type of offense we’re playing. They do the same thing, year in and year out. This is five years in a row now, and so it makes it real easy to game-plan.

“And so now with the conditions, and they can only do one thing, it handcuffs you a little bit. So it was definitely to our advantage. And we took advantage of it.”

Minshew’s longest throw of the night was a short toss to Borghi, who rambled 22 yards. Keep in mind, he came in averaging 393.2 passing yards per game.

Meanwhile, the Cougars’ running game never got on track.

“I think that (when the weather changed), I think it changed everything for the offenses,” Petersen said. “They were trying to spread us and run the ball, or spread us out and run crossing routes. It was just hard to throw it past 10, 15 yards.”

UW quarterback Jake Browning only threw for 207 yards, but he uncorked a couple of well-timed deep throws. Senior running back Myles Gaskin went wild again for the Huskies, rushing for 170 yards and three TDs.

With an 80-yard TD dash early in the fourth quarter, Gaskin eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing, becoming the first Pac-12 player to do so in four seasons.

Last year, Gaskin galloped for 192 yards and four TDs in the Apple Cup.

The Huskies’ dominant ground game paired well with a defense that’s keyed in every year against Leach’s offense.

Who deserves the credit for that? For UW leading tackler Ben Burr-Kirven, it’s Lake.

“Coach Lake’s got a sneaky good game plan against these guys,” said Burr-Kirven, a senior linebacker who had 10 tackles and an interception. “He knows what he’s doing. He puts in so much time behind the scenes. Everybody knows Coach Lake’s a great coach, but nobody really knows.”