No. 4 UW Huskies prove the value of offensive balance in Pac-12 championship, Apple Cup wins
Dec 3, 2016, 12:08 PM | Updated: Dec 4, 2016, 9:43 am
Balance on offense can take a team pretty far. In fact, it just may have sealed Washington’s place in the College Football Playoff.
The No. 4 Huskies had perhaps their worst effort from the passing game all year in Friday night’s Pac-12 championship game against No. 9 Colorado, but you’d have no idea judging simply by the 41-10 final score. And that wasn’t even the first time in a seven-day period that Washington had an aspect of its offense stumble out of the gates in a game that it won handily, either.
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Just a week prior, the Huskies’ running game was grounded in the first quarter of the Apple Cup against Washington State, totaling just 22 yards on six carries. And yet UW still jumped out to a 28-3 lead thanks to 252 yards and three touchdowns through the air.
While it’s not typically a positive to have a key part of your offense shut down in back-to-back weeks, the Huskies can lay claim to just that. The reason why is because the Dawgs rolled to blowout victories over ranked opponents in each of those games.
Just like Jake Browning and his receivers picked up the slack when the run game struggled at first in Pullman, the favor was returned Friday night at Levi’s Stadium by Myles Gaskin, Lavon Coleman and the strong UW offensive line against Colorado.
The Buffaloes’ 13th-ranked defense – also the best in the Pac-12 – took Browning out of his game from the start, with the secondary forcing him to hold on to the ball longer than usual, allowing the pass rush to pressure the sophomore regularly and keep him from finding a rhythm. What Colorado couldn’t do, though, was keep Coleman from leading the way to a touchdown on Washington’s first drive or stop him and Gaskin from both piling up over 100 yards in the game.
So no, Browning’s 9-for-24 night wasn’t pretty, and it probably didn’t impress the CFP committee all that much. But the rushing effort did, just like what could be said of the week before, when Browning torched Washington State’s secondary until it opened up the room needed for Gaskin and Coleman to get things going downhill. And if there’s one thing that may have impressed the CFP committee, it’s how well UW pivoted in both games to the part of its offense its opponent couldn’t get a handle on.
That’s what great teams do. When one aspect of their game isn’t working, they find another way to win – and in the Huskies’ case, convincingly, even against Top 25 teams. That’s as much of a reason as any that Washington took its place as the fourth and final team in the College Football Playoff when they were announced Sunday morning.