The offenses shined. The defenses struggled.
But 12th-ranked Washington made more plays, many more, and earned the right to dance on Gesa Field with a 51-33 Apple Cup victory Saturday night from Pullman.
The revenge-fueled victory was brought to us on ESPN, with veteran Clay Matvick on the play-by-play, former NFL linebacker Rocky Boiman supplying analysis and Dawn Davenport braving the chill on the sidelines.
“They have won 10 of the last 12 Apple Cups, suffered a 27-point beatdown last year in Seattle,” Matvick said of the Huskies late in the third quarter. “They want to make amends tonight.”
What they saw
“I could not be more impressed by Ryan Grubb as a play caller,” Boiman said as the Huskies (10-2 overall, 7-2 Pac-12) scored their sixth of seven touchdowns. Before he began mentioning the Washington offensive coordinator, he had praised the UW offensive line often – WSU had no sacks – and quarterback Michael Penix Jr.’s outstanding performance.
It all added up to 703 yards of total offense – about 500 of them coming on first down.
Penix runs the nation’s best passing game – and all those words fit.
His arm sliced up the Cougars (7-5, 4-5) secondary to the tune of 25 completions on 43 attempts for 484 yards. He had completions of 75, 48, 47, 41, 26, 25, 23 and many others over 10 yards.
Penix also had a 30-yard touchdown run on a trick play as well as a 4-yard draw for six more points. As ESPN relayed in a graphic, it was the first time the Indiana transfer had two running scores in his career.
• Maybe this section should be labeled “what they heard.”
Boiman seemed impressed with the noise the Gesa Field crowd was making right from the start.
“Wow, this crowd is loud,” the former Notre Dame linebacker said 6 minutes in. That may have been the first time it was mentioned, but not the last. The Huskies had to call two first-half timeouts as the play clock ran down. And they also had a delay of game. Each was accompanied by comments on the crowd.
• The weather – it was right at freezing at kick – had an impact. At least it seemed that way to Boiman and Matvick in relation to the early quarterback play.
“We mentioned the weather,” Boiman said as each quarterback struggled out of gate, “but you’ve got to wonder if it’s affecting these quarterbacks. Neither one of them have been accurate at all so far this game.”
Penix came out of his funk quickly.
WSU’s Cameron Ward took more time – and actually missed way too many open receivers throughout the night.
Boiman, at times, was not impressed.
“That’s about the third throw tonight where they’ve had a wide-open wide receiver, a potential big play and Ward has just missed it,” he said after Ward missed an open Robert Ferrel in the first half.
And again, when Ferrel broke free in the middle and Ward missed.
“That’s an easy throw, right in the middle of the field, right in front of the quarterback,” Boiman said. “He’s got to complete that.”
Ward completed 33 of 52 passes for 322 yards. He had two touchdown throws. And he also was under pressure often. He was sacked six times and pressured many others. He rarely seemed settled in.
What we saw
• Pac-12 officials never fail to amaze. Every game there is at least one play that makes viewers shake their heads.
Saturday’s example was one of the key plays of the second half with UW leading 35-33.
On a third-and-10 from the Washington 28, Penix tried to hit Polk down the middle. The Cougars’ Derrick Langford outjumped Polk for the ball, and it sailed too high for either player to grab it.
“A flag comes in,” Matvick said.
As did replay. And it showed?
“Did he interfere with Ja’Lynn Polk?” Matvick asked. “I didn’t think he did.”
“I don’t know,” Boiman said. “I choose to let them play on that one. He’s going up, he’s making a play on the ball. His eyes are on the ball …”
“That’s not a penalty,” Matvick interjected twice, before saying, “Lankford played that clean.”
“I don’t agree with that penalty at all,” Boiman finished.
The Huskies took advantage. Three plays later, they scored to go up 41-33. It was enough.
• Was this game decided by whomever picked the shoes?
It sure seemed that way early, as the Cougars, playing at home, seemed unprepared for how slippery the Gesa Field turf would be.
On Washington State’s first possession, receiver De’Zhaun Stribling slipped on Ward’s first throw. It fell incomplete.
Later, Ward fell, slowing a drive that ended with Dean Janikowski’s career-long 50-yard field goal.
But the slip that hurt the most came on Washington’s first touchdown, Penix ’s 26-yard throw to Ja’Lynn Polk. Armauni Archie, playing nickel in place of Armani Marsh, slipped in coverage, allowing Polk to turn up the field and score.
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