After losing the previous five Apple Cup’s the 2018 111th meeting between the # 7 Washington State Cougars ( 10-2 overall, 7-2 Pac-12) and the #16. University of Washington Huskies ( 9-3, 7-2 )was on paper supposed to be the theCougars best chance of snapping the losing streak.
TheCougars were the host, the higher ranked team with a prolific offense that was led by Gardner Minshew a swashbuckling transfer quarterback from Brandon Mississippi who was in the Heisman Trophy conversation. The Huskies to their credit rolled into Pullman with the Pac-12 top-ranked defense and the senior dynamic duo of running back Myles Gaskin and quarterback Jake Browning two players who had never lost to the Cougars.
The one element neither team could control Friday night in the Palouse was the weather. The game started with a heavy snowfall and win that made it hard for the players to hold on to a wet ball and find their footing. The wind made it especially difficult for the quarterback to get any type of consistent velocity on deep routes.
The Washington State Cougars started the game with the ball and punted the ball to the Huskies after just three plays. The Huskies ran the ball eight out of the next ten plays and the strategy had the Huskies with the ball at the Cougar nine yard. Rather than run another run play on second and nine, the Huskies elected to pass the ball and the result was a drive-killing interception byJake Browning WSU cornerback Skyler Thomas snagged the Browning pass in the end zone and returned it to the Cougar 18 yard line.
The LSU offense found its footing and drove the ball to the Huskies 12-yard line and went for it on a 4th and 1. The snap on the 4th and 1 play was high and Minshew II was unable to corral the ball resulting in a fumble that was recovered by Husky quarterback Ben Burr-Kirven
The Washington Huskies went back to basics to re-establish the momentum by running that the ball. The result was a six play, 77yard drive that was capped by a Gaskin five-yard TD run. The Huskies ran the ball on five of the seven plays in the drive. A 48-yard pass play from Browning to Andre Baccellia was the one pass play that stood out.
The Huskies defense flexed its muscle and forced a Cougar punt as the WSU offense could go no further than the Huskies 48-yard line. The Husky offense was back on the field and continued it’s dominance of the WSU defense when it went on a nine play 80-yard drive that was capped by another five-yard TD run by Gaskin to give the Huskies a 14-0 lead halfway through the second quarter.
The two teams then traded turnovers as Washington’s Max Richmond fumbled the kickoff and gave the ball back to the Cougar offense. The Huskies defense made a defiant stand as Byron Murphy picked off a Minshew II pass in the end zone to end the half.
The Huskies received the second half kick and extended the lead on a trick play on which Browning pitched the ball to Wide Receiver Aaron Fuller who then passed the ball to a wide-open Hunter Bryant for the 22-yard score. The Huskies PTA was blocked and Dale Hunter scooped up the loose ball and returned it for a defensive two-point conversation.
The footing became difficult and both offenses struggled in their next
possession but it was the Cougar defense that was able to force the third
turnover by the Huskies. DillionSherman recovered a Browning fumble and the Cougars James Williams scored on a one-yard run to bring the Cougars within a touchdown at 20-15. The Cougars attempted a two-point conversion after the touchdown but it was no good as Minshew’s pass fell incomplete.
The wind and snow picked up causing loose footing and poor visibility for
both teams. The elements made it difficult for either quarterback to pass the ball with any velocity. With the elements dictating the game, the Huskies went back to the run game and a Gaskin 80 yard scamper gave the Huskies the game-winning touchdown at 26-15. Salvon Ahmed three-yard two-point run after the TD stretched the Huskies lead to 28-15.
The Husky defense stuffed the Cougars offense on its next possession and the Husky offense literally the game with a 14 play drive that went 76 yards and used up 8:47 seconds of game clock to give the Huskies the Pac-12 North Division Title and a ticket to compete in next Fridays Pac-12 Championship Game against Utah in Santa Clara.