Washington was without a key piece of its defense during Tuesday’s Rose Bowl, and the absence of All-American safety Taylor Rapp was noticeable from the start.
Rapp reportedly suffered a hip injury in the Pac-12 championship game and didn’t play in the 28-23 loss to Ohio State. He was replaced by sophomore safety Brandon McKinney, who was making his first-career start.
McKinney said he was practicing with the first-team defense a week in advance. He finished the game with two tackles.
“That guy is one of the heart and souls on the defense,” McKinney said of Rapp. “Just watching him fly around and hit people makes me want to do the same.”
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Rapp could often be found standing next to McKinney on the sideline.
“He was … always coaching me up,” McKinney said. “He was trying to get me the calls too on the sideline, too, when I couldn’t see the coach.”
Although Ohio State gained 364 yards of offense, the Buckeyes led, 21-3 at the half and never trailed in the game.
Baccellia big early
Quarterback Jake Browning’s connection with Andre Baccellia was one of the few positives for UW during the first half.
Baccellia finished with a game-high 12 receptions for 109 yards and had eight catches for 65 yards in the first half. No other Husky receiver had more than three receptions or 11 yards at halftime.
It was Baccellia’s best performance of the season. His previous high came against Washington State when he caught five passes for 89 yards.
“We just had some things dialed up,” Baccellia said. “I think Jake played a great game just finding those open guys and putting the ball on us.”
Fellow wide receiver Aaron Fuller, who finished seven receptions for 80 yards, described Baccellia as “a very savvy player.”
“He finds those holes in the defense,” he said. “Very strong. When he gets the ball in his hands, he can get the extra 5, 10 yards that you need. He’s going to be a nice player to have after this year.”
The game was the last for UW’s accomplished senior class. They group, which tied the school record with 39 wins, won two Pac-12 championships, played in three New Year’s Six games and made the College Football Playoff in 2016.
As he addressed the media in the locker room, Browning said he wanted to make sure he didn’t leave the locker room feeling bitter.
“I’m not going to see these guys as much as I’m used to,” said Browning, who finished 35-of-54 for 313 yards and a touchdown, “so I’m trying not to let the game and the result dictate how I say goodbye. … It still sucks that we lost but I’m trying to say bye the right way.”
Sitting next to Browning and Myles Gaskin at the post-game press conference, head coach Chris Petersen said it felt like they both walked onto campus for the first time yesterday. Browning finished as UW’s all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns, while Browning set the school’s career rushing record.
“Didn’t really know what they’ve give us,” Petersen said. “We thought they’d give us their heart. We kind of figured that or we wouldn’t have recruited them. … But just their consistency and really wanting to do the bet they can and not flinching, no matter good, bad or in between.”