Everywhere you looked, there were roses.
Following Washington’s 10-3 victory over Utah in Friday’s Pac-12 championship, head coach Chris Petersen cut across the field carrying a bouquet of them. He took them to the end zone where the UW band was playing, climbed over the railing and delivered them to director Brad McDavid.
Linebacker Joe Tryon walked by, yelling, “Give me a rose! Give me that rose!” as he weaved through a crowd of celebrating teammates, many of whom already had long-stemmed roses in their hands.
Later, as the Huskies were presented with the Pac-12 championship trophy, JoJo McIntosh and Brandon Wellington sat on the edge of the stage and posed for photos with roses between their teeth.
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The Rose Bowl, that’s what Friday night’s victory meant to UW. The Huskies haven’t been there since 2001, when they defeated Purdue 34-24.
Defensive back Myles Bryant grew up in Pasadena, Calif., five minutes from the Rose Bowl Stadium. He’s attended the Rose Bowl before — USC vs. Texas, USC vs. Michigan — but he’s never played in one.
And while the Huskies faced UCLA at the stadium earlier this season, he knows it will be completely different this time around.
“I understand that when it’s the actual Rose Bowl, the place gets filled up,” he said. “The whole city shuts down. They have the parade. … You can’t get within 10 blocks of the Rose Bowl. It’s a fun opportunity to play on that stage.”
It will all be made official during the College Football Playoff Selection Show on Sunday evening. That’s when the Huskies will find out their opponent, which will most likely be Ohio State or Michigan.
The Buckeyes — ranked No. 6 — could still earn a berth in the playoff. They’ll play Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game on Saturday.
“It’s a special feeling,” said UW quarterback Jake Browning. “I don’t think it’s totally set in yet, just because we beat a really good Utah team and (we’re) still excited about that.
“But, yeah, I think once it sets in. I grew up in California, and watched a lot of Rose Bowls and to be able to play in one now, it’s a special game, and this is a special team.”
The Pac-12 has six other bowl eligible teams.
Washington State is currently No. 12 in the College Football Playoff rankings, meaning the 10-2 Cougars will most likely be left out of a New Year’s Six bowl. The most common prediction for Washington State is the Alamo Bowl against a Big 12 school, although the Holiday Bowl is also an option.
As the Pac-12 runner-up, Utah could also get the Alamo Bowl bid. If it doesn’t, look for the Utes in the Holiday Bowl or the Sun Bowl. Oregon also appears to be in the mix for those two games.
Stanford, Cal and Arizona State will also be heading to bowl games. The Pac-12’s other options are the Redbox Bowl, the Cheez-It Bowl and the Las Vegas Bowl.
For the Huskies, making the Rose Bowl wasn’t easy.
At the start of the season, they were ranked No. 6 and considered contenders to reach the playoff. Then came the season-opening loss to Auburn and the overtime loss to Oregon. The third defeat, a 12-10 loss to Cal, dropped the Huskies out of the top 25.
But UW rebounded after that, winning its final three regular season games to reach the Pac-12 championship. Defensive back Jordan Miller said the season’s ups-and-downs made Friday night’s celebration even more enjoyable.
“It’s just a great way to go out,” Miller said of the Rose Bowl, “especially how hard the season’s been, how much adversity we faced.”
Said Bryant: “This season was a grinder, obviously. It just feels fantastic to end this way.”