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The Good, The Bad, and the Unknown: Apple Cup Edition

It snowed! Maybeeee a team that plays in a place where it commonly snows in November shouldn’t run an offense based on throwing the ball 75% of the time. The Cougs can complain all they want about the snow, but the reality is that the Huskies played an away game in the very same snow as the Cougs and left with a win. Somehow, despite never having played in the snow, Jake Browning averaged 14.8 yards per completion. Gardner Minshew (tip of the cap on the season, he’s a great story) meanwhile, under the same conditions but playing at home, averaged only 4.3 yards per completion. Minshew pretty much never went deep on the Huskies and his longest completion to a WR was 11 yards downfield. Browning also managed to throw for 55 more yards on 21 fewer attempts. Hmmm… Yeah, it was the (cough) snow (cough).

The Cougs actually did attempt to run a more balanced game plan than usual with 24 running plays and 35 pass attempts. WSU RB James Williams seemed to be having a solid day running the ball with 11 carries for 65 yards and two touchdowns, so go figure why they didn’t run more of their offense through him. He did seem to get most of his snaps in the second half after the snow really started to stick, but it was too little too late for the Cougs. Snow or not, the Huskies were the better team. But given there was snow, the Huskies were CLEARLY the better snow team.

The running game was dominant. Myles Gaskin went out in style during his final Apple Cup, rushing for 170 yards on 27 carries, along with 3 touchdowns. He had a monster 80 yard run early in the fourth quarter that ended up being the final scoring play of the game:

To compliment Gaskin’s huge effort, Salvon Ahmed ran for 87 yards on 9 carries (a 9.7 yard average!), including a long of 18 yards. The snow ended up providing the perfect opportunity for the Huskies to flex their ground game muscle, while it exposed the serious flaw in the single-minded air raid offense.

The defense played one of its best games of the season. WSU’s vaunted air raid offense managed only 152 yards through the air against the Huskies’ secondary. Greg Gaines and Joe Tryon both brought home a sack lunch. Ben Burr-Kirven and Byron Murphy both had picks (and Taylor Rapp should have had one on the first play of the game). The defense as a whole held WSU to 237 yards of total offense and 15 points. This was a dominant effort.

The coaches game plan was on point. Offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan ran the ball down WSU’s throat and then caught them with their pants down on a handful of deep passes. He also mixed in one awesome trick play that lead to a Hunter Bryant touchdown (see clip below). Meanwhile, as previously mentioned, Jimmy Lake’s defense totally shut down everything the Cougs wanted to do through the air… which was most things. Kudos to these two coordinators and the coaching staff as a whole for this one.

Hunter Bryant had his first breakout game of the season. Given that this was only his third game this season after returning from injury, that might not be saying much. Regardless, it was great to see him back out on the field being the dynamic offensive weapon we know he’s capable of being. Bryant finished the game with a mere 3 catches on 3 targets, but translated that into 108 yards and a touchdown. 59 of those yards came on this explosive play early in the third quarter.

Browning’s turnovers. Maybe this seems a little unfair to pick on Jake, given that he played a solid game overall and there wasn’t a lot that went wrong in this win. That said, his two turnovers were costly and negatively impacted the final score. Browning’s FIRST RED ZONE PICK OF HIS CAREER (yeah, pretty nuts) came at the end of the Huskies’ 11-play opening drive. He clearly didn’t see the safety who was directly behind a ref and ended up throwing this pick:

Browning’s second turnover came on a pretty sloppy play that saw him hold on to the football for too long in a collapsing pocket. Despite the pressure, in lieu of tucking the ball and taking a sack on third and long, Browning held the ball out in his throwing hand in an attempt to keep the play alive and had it swatted away from him mid-sack. The Cougs recovered the fumble and started their following touchdown drive from the UW’s 23 yard line.

More special teams miscues and mistakes. The blocked PAT was frustrating as hell. The snap and hold seemed fine, but Peyton Henry’s kick came in really low and was blocked at the line, before being recovered by WSU and run back for a 2-point conversion. Who knows, you can probably blame some of this on the snow. Judge for yourself below:

Junior WR Max Richmond had the second special teams mistake when he fumbled on a kickoff return. There is no excuse for poor ball security, even in the snow.

Will Trey Adams start at LT in the Pac-12 Championship game on Friday? The championship game would be his third game back after returning from injury. He only saw a series or two against Oregon State, but due to an injury to LT Jared Hilbers, Adams played the final three quarters of the game. By all accounts Adams was solid in his Apple Cup performance, helping the Huskies’ impressive ground game. Hilbers’ injury is apparently minor and the coaches are saying that he has a chance to make it back by Friday. Whoever starts, the Huskies will have a talented and experienced veteran protecting Browning’s blind side.

Go Dawgs.

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