This Apple Cup was supposed to be different.
Washington State entered Saturday with the No. 11 defense in the nation. There was talk Washington’s reign of dominance over its in-state rival could come to an end.
The Cougars were set on taking the fight to the Huskies. Instead, they were knocked out early. UW jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead and never looked back in a 41-14 win at Husky Stadium.
“I think everybody has played in some type of rivalry game or had some type of rivalry,” Huskies quarterback Jake Browning said. “It’s always good to beat them and not have to hear about ‘Wazzu this, Wazzu that’ for a whole year. So, everything is right in the world.”
UW (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12) has won five consecutive Apple Cups and four in a row during the Chris Petersen era. It’s the longest streak since the Huskies won six in a row from 1998 through 2003. The longest run of dominance by any team in The Apple Cup is eight games. UW achieved the feat twice from 1959 through 1966 and again from 1974 through 1981.
As for WSU (9-3, 6-3), the loss knocks the Cougars out of the Pac-12 North crown and the conference title game.
The Huskies showed early they were trying to make a statement. UW opened with an 11-play, 75-yard drive which ended with Myles Gaskin scoring on a 2-yard run and a 7-0 lead with 9:25 left. It was the start of a memorable evening for Gaskin, who finished with 192 yards and four touchdowns.
UW’s opening drive somewhat softened the blow of losing receiver Dante Pettis and running back Lavon Coleman. Pettis suffered what appeared to be an ankle injury while Coleman hurt his lower left leg. Petersen said neither injury appears to be serious and he hopes to have both back for the bowl game.
Washington, at first, struggled before finding some continuity by taking a run-heavy approach. Browning’s 1-yard run made it 14-0 with 12:34 left in the second quarter.
The Huskies pushed it to 21-0 when Gaskin scored on another 2-yard run. Senior kicker Tristan Vizcaino made it 24-0 with 1:37 left in the half off a 44-yard field goal.
Gaskin and the Huskies ran for 181 yards on the first half and averaged 7.2 yards per carry.
“Huge, huge,” Gaskin said of the holes created by the offensive line. “Anybody could have run through those. Some of y’all could run through them.”
While the No. 11 defense in the nation faltered, the No. 4 unit in America lived up its billing.
Cougars quarterback Luke Falk was 14 for 21 for 135 yards in the first half but did it under pressure. He was sacked four times and threw two interceptions.
The Cougars’ longest play came when Falk found receiver Tavares Martin Jr. on a 23-yard pass. Falk’s pass appeared to be a sign of momentum until he was intercepted by Ezekiel Turner a few plays later with six seconds left in the half.
Just when it seemed WSU’s night couldn’t get worse, it did. Star defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa was ejected for targeting around midway through the third quarter. With Mata’afa gone, the Huskies tacked on another field goal for a 27-0 lead with 8:45 left.
UW’s field goal did more than just increase its lead. It marked a fifth straight Apple Cup where the Huskies scored 27 or more points against the Cougars.
Minutes later, the Huskies made it a full-blown rout when Gaskin’s third touchdown pushed it 34-0 with 6:06 left in the third.
With the regular season over, UW will now await its bowl game fate.
A few projections have the Huskies playing at the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27 in San Diego or going to the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 28 in San Antonio.
For UW, this is the 12th time in school history the team has won 10 or more games. It is also the first time since the 1990 and 1991 seasons the Huskies have pieced together consecutive seasons of 10 or more victories. Should the Huskies in their bowl game, it would give them an 11-win season for the third time in the school’s 101-year history.
This was also the final Apple Cup for longtime Huskies play-by-play announcer Bob Rondeau, who retires after 37 season.
“Happy for our seniors, happy for Bob Rondeau and happy that we played our best ball late in the year,” Huskies coach Chris Petersen said. “It’s how you want to do and I think these kids are awesome to coach.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark