Washington’s Myles Gaskin is the Pac-12′s No. 3 all-time rusher with more than 5,000 yards. Nearly 10 percent of those yards have come vs. Utah’s proud defense, and the Huskies’ tailback will take one last shot against the Utes in Friday’s Pac-12 championship game.
Thanks to the Pac-12’s scheduling rotation and the extra meeting they’ve earned as the Pac-12 South champions, the Utes will become the only team to face Gaskin and Washington quarterback Jake Browning five times in their college careers. They’ve succeeded against them in the sense of allowing only one player or the other to have a great game against them, although the Huskies have beaten Utah each of the past three seasons.
Utah will compete against them once more, with a Rose Bowl bid at stake in Santa Clara, Calif.
The Utes did a reasonable job against both players in a 21-7 loss at Rice-Eccles Stadium in September. Gaskin gained 143 yards on 30 carries. Other than a 38-yard touchdown run on the Huskies’ first possession, though, he had to work for those yards.
“We didn’t let him go crazy,” Ute coach Kyle Whittingham said during his weekly news conference Monday. “If he gets going and has a big game, our chances of winning aren’t very good. … He’s one of the best backs in the country, in my opinion.”
Gaskin missed two late-October games due to injury, as the Huskies were upset by California. He came through Friday in No. 10 Washington’s 28-15 win at Washington State for the Pac-12 North title, running for 170 yards and three touchdowns in the snow – including an 80-yard burst in the fourth quarter. Gaskin ranks behind only USC’s Charles White and Oregon’s Royce Freeman among the Pac-12′s career rushing leaders.
Browning was briefly benched in the second half of that 12-10 loss at Cal, during a senior season of inconsistency. The best of his four career performances against Utah came last November, when he passed for 354 yards and helped the Huskies score 10 points in the last minute of a 33-30 victory in Seattle.
Browning posted only 155 yards passing in Washington’s win over Utah in September, struggling in the second half. One would-be interception was scratched by a late-hit penalty, but Browning later made a poor decision under heavy pressure. His pass was picked off by Ute defensive tackle Pita Tonga, who probably should have returned the interception for a touchdown, but he lost the ball out of bounds without being touched.
Whittingham wouldn’t play along with suggestions that pressuring Browning is the way to stop him, not wanting to give away Utah’s defensive game plan. That’s what the numbers have said, though, throughout his college career.
Whittingham is a combined 5-1 vs. successful coaches Nick Saban of Alabama, Jim Harbaugh of Michigan and David Shaw of Stanford. Yet he’s 1-5 vs. Washington’s Chris Petersen, counting two losses in Petersen’s Boise State tenure.
Petersen is “very consistent; disciplined,” Whittingham said. “He’s just a guy that’s rock solid … in my opinion, one of the premier coaches in the country.”
Utah beat the Huskies 34-3 in 2015, the freshman season of Gaskin and Browning, and have been very competitive against highly ranked Washington teams the past three seasons. The Utes lost 31-24 in 2016 via a controversial no-call on the Huskies’ punt-return touchdown. They led 30-23 late in the 2017 game, but allowed Washington to convert a fourth-and-10 play on a tying drive and ended up losing on a field goal as time expired.
MYLES GASKIN VS. UTAH
2015 – 20 carries, 93 yards, one touchdown.
2016 – 19 carries, 151 yards, one touchdown.
2017 – 17 carries, 52 yards, two touchdowns.
2018 – 30 carries, 143 yards, one touchdown.
JAKE BROWNING VS. UTAH
2015 – 23 of 39, 257 yards, one touchdown, one interception.
2016 – 12 of 20, 186 yards, two touchdowns, one interception.
2017 – 26 of 35, 354 yards, two touchdowns.
2018 – 14 of 24, 155 yards, one touchdown, one interception.