Friday night’s Pac-12 Championship game between the # 10 ranked University of Washington Huskies (10-3,) winner of the North Division and the # 17th ranked Utah Utes (9-4) was a classic heavyweight prize fight that lived up to its billing. It was a game that featured two of the top defenses not only in the Pac-12 but the country.
The Utes defense was ranked in the top in 3rd down conversions and red zone defense, while the Huskies stingy defense led by game MVP Byron Murphy and Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year and national leader in tackles Ben Burr-Kirven.
It’s no wonder that after a scoreless first quarter slugfest the two teams retreated to their corners got a drink of water, some instruction and came out swinging in the second quarter. The slugfest continued and the only score was a 29-yard field goal by Peyton Henry.
The Huskies went into the locker room a holding on to a precious 3-0 first-half lead in which the Husky defense held Utah to just 61 offensive yards. The Husky offense made four first-half red zone trips, gained 114 total yards and dominated the possession battle19:53 to the Utes 10:7 and had just three points to show for their effort.
Despite being blooded and somewhat punch drunk Utah collected it’s self during the halftime break at it was the Utes who came out swinging.
Utah started with the ball in the second half and went on a 10 play 46-yard drive that tied the game at threes when Matt Gay’s 55-yard field just slid past the upright. It was the longest field goal in Pac-12 Championship history. The Huskies. The Huskies looked like they would counterpunch when they marched 52 yards on 14 plays to the Utah 28 yard line only to turn over the ball on down.
The Utah offense took over and it was then that Murphy delivered the knockout blow when he intercepted Utah quarterback Jason Shelley’s pass and returned it 66 yards for the game only touchdown.
The Utes offense trotted back on the field only to have the Husky defense deliver another punch to the jaw when Jordan Miller intercepted a second consecutive Shelley pass. The Husky offense once again looked like they were in the mood and marched 73 yards on 17 plays to the Utah 21 yard line. It looked like the Huskies offense would deliver a knock out blow of its own when Henry trotted out to attempt a 38-yard field goal. The knock out punch turned into flailing punch when Henry’s kick was blocked and Utah was just seven points from tying the game.
The Utes hopes of an eighth come from behind win were quickly dashed three plays later when Murphy straight out debolted Shelley and pulled down his second interception of the game. After another misfire by the Husky offense, the Utes got the ball back at their own seven-yard line and marched 51 yards but could not get the ball past the Huskies 42-yard line as Shelley’s fourth-down pass attempt to Siaosi Mariner fell incomplete.
With the win the Huskies are 2018 Pac-12 Champions and will play in the Rosebowl for the first time since the 2000 season.