Three things from the Huskies’ Apple Cup win over WSU
In a must-win game in the Apple Cup, the Washington Huskies showed up in a big way, beating No. 20 Washington State 45-10 at home Saturday to reach six wins and bowl eligibility in their final regular season game. Here’s what we learned and what we’re still trying to figure out as UW prepares for a postseason game to be named.
What we learned:
1. Myles Gaskin is the next great Husky running back.
O’Dea product Myles Gaskin had a day to remember in his first Apple Cup, rushing for 138 yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 32 carries, becoming the first UW true freshman to reach 1,000 yards on the ground in a season and passing Chris Polk for the most yards rushed in a season by any freshman period in school history. Gaskin entered 2015 simply as a second consideration behind Dwayne Washington at tailback, but he had a breakout performance in Week 2 against Sacramento State and never looked back. Now he’s in the Huskies’ record book, and it looks like the 5-foot-9 Gaskin, who has 1,121 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, is just getting started.
2. The Huskies are in good hands under Chris Petersen and his staff.
Chris Petersen isn’t very accustomed to losing, nor is he particularly understanding of it. That’s likely a big reason why in his second year at Washington, he’s taking a Husky team full of freshmen in important roles that not many expected to sniff the postseason to a bowl game. Petersen has looked more comfortable this season with his first recruiting class on campus, and the effectiveness of his play-calling has reflected that. Washington obviously agrees, having given Petersen a two-year extension that was announced on Thanksgiving morning. Credit also needs to be given to his staff, though, including offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith, whose unit has steadily improved throughout the season despite a ton of turnover from 2014, and defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski, who somehow made his defense even more formidable than last year’s squad that featured current NFL players Danny Shelton, Shaq Thompson, Marcus Peters and Hau’oli Kikaha.
3. Expect a fired up Washington team in their bowl game.
The Huskies are riding a wave of momentum, having outscored their opponents 97-17 over their last two games. The one good thing about their 6-6 standing is they’ll likely be in one of the earlier bowls of the postseason schedule, which would allow them to strike quick and take advantage of that momentum as they look to finish the season a game over .500 as opposed to a game under it.
What we’re still trying to figure out:
1. What would the outcome have been if Luke Falk was able to play for Wazzu?
A lot of talk heading into the Apple Cup focused on if Washington State backup quarterback Peyton Bender, a redshirt freshman with no career starts entering the game, could prove to be a worthy replacement for injured started Luke Falk (head). While Bender started strong, he didn’t finish that way and the Huskies ran away in the second half. It wasn’t the tooth-and-nail matchup it could have been between one of the nation’s top passers and a stingy Washington secondary, and one would have to think the score would have been very different had Falk been healthy enough to go.
2. Do the Huskies have a trio of star receivers in the making?
The passing game has been a work in progress all season long, which is to be expected with a true freshman serving as the starting quarterback. The good news is that the Huskies’ air attack has shown steady improvement, and while no one receiver has truly stood out besides senior Jaydon Mickens, there has been promising results from a trio of young wideouts over the second half of the season. Freshman Isaiah Renfro was the latest to turn heads against Washington State, hauling in a 43-yard bomb from Jake Browning and finishing with a career-high 51 yards on two catches. Along with sophomores Dante Pettis and Brayden Lenius, the Huskies’ receiving corps suddenly looks like it could be a force come next season.
3. Which bowl are the Huskies headed for?
As a six-win team, Washington can’t expect too much in terms of bowl invitations. The good news is the Huskies kept their bowl streak alive – now at six years – and they’ll get some valuable extra practice and a game before hitting a break. They can also cap off the season with a win to get themselves over .500, which would be quite the accomplishment considering the young team’s tempered expectations entering 2015.