BY Art Thiel 11:37PM 11/23/2018

Thiel: Snow what? Huskies have the answers

The Cougars had everything going for them, including the weather. But since Mike Leach can’t improvise, the Huskies won their sixth Apple Cup in a row.

UW coach Chris Petersen had the answers, and the Apple Cup. / Tyler Tjomsland, Spokesman-Review

PULLMAN — For all of Mike Leach’s coaching acumen, in four years he’s never figured out what to do about RB Myles Gaskin. And for five years, he hasn’t figured out what to do about coach Chris Petersen. Even after receiving simultaneous visits from the Palouse football imps — snow, cold, dark and wind, all at once — he still can’t change the Cougars’ fate against the Washington Huskies.

Leach could well be voted coach of the year in the Pac-12 Conference. What we do know for sure is he’s not the coach of the Apple Cup.

With just about everything ahead of the game going in Washington State’s direction — 10-1 record, good health, home field, best quarterback Leach has had at WSU, a top-25 defense to go with the nation’s top passing attack that helped put up 69 points a week earlier — he had no counter for the Huskies.

They are North Division champions after the 28-15 triumph (box) Friday night in the snow globe of Martin Stadium because they do their stuff better under Petersen than the Cougars do their stuff under Leach.

As it seems it shall always be. Forever and ever. Amen.

Yes, it was a tad closer than the four previous Apple Cups (award juice boxes and orange slices here) that were lost by margins of 27, 28, 25 and 18 points. But the relative tautness was largely a function of UW special teams screw-ups, as opposed to the meat of the game.

When what Leach termed “bizarre conditions” descended upon the grounds — others who have witnessed a few more of the previous 110 games between the teams might term it just another Friday in November — he had no alternate gear. No chains to put on the offense. No gravel to throw under the defense.

As a result, a sixth consecutive win in the series happened for Washington, as does a match against Utah Friday in Santa Clara, CA., for the Pac-12 championship and a shot at the Rose Bowl.

“It becomes kinda random, as far as where the ball goes,” Leach said of the conditions. That’s mostly true. But randomness happens in every game, and coaches are paid big coin to have answers prepared.

The Cougars appeared to be catching on to a countermeasure. With 40 seconds left in the first half and trailing 14-0 with the ball at the UW 11-yard line, WSU crossed up the Huskies defense with a straight-ahead give to RB James Williams, who blew into the end zone unharmed. No pass in the flat, no fade to the corner, no shovel pass.

That was the first first-half touchdown against Washington in what seemed like since Drew Bledsoe was in diapers. In the four previous games, Washington had 12 first-half touchdowns, the Cougars one.

That’s about where original thinking ended. WSU managed a season-low 237 yards of offense when they mostly declined to run the ball despite QB Gardner Minshew (26 for 35 for 152 yards, two interceptions and two sacks) struggling with slippery footing. The Cougars’ only scoring drives came from 49 and 23 yards, directly the result of UW miscues.

The Huskies could not have been more delighted to see an absence of craftiness.

“I mean, we know what type of our offense we’re playing,” said UW defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake. “They do the same thing year in and year out. This is five years in a row now, and so it makes it real easy to game plan.

“With the conditions, they can only do one thing. It handcuffs (them) a little bit. So it was definitely to our advantage. And we took advantage of it.”

Were you surprised they couldn’t adjust?

“It does surprise me,” Lake said. “But knowing what I read about the head football coach here, he does things a little different way. So hopefully he remains here a long time. That would be awesome.”

Shots, as they say, fired.

Lake’s back of the hand may have breached Petersen’s protocols about trash talk, but it was hard to argue with the accuracy. The Cougars have won four in a row over Oregon, three in a row over Stanford, and should have had two in a row over USC but for some controversial officiating in the loss to the Trojans at the Coliseum.

Asked whether conditions should have dictated a change in playcalling, Leach said, “It’s tough to, because all of it was somewhat random. It kinda restricted things. It was hard for anybody to go way down field.

“But they did ambush us with an couple of explosives.”

And that was after Petersen said the weather trashed his playbook.

“Half our game plan was out the window by the end of the third quarter, when (snow) just kept coming down,” he said. “It was much different than I think everybody had planned on.”

Yet, the Huskies managed on their first possession of the half — after plows cleared the field — to connect on a 59-yard pass between QB Jake Browning and WR Hunter Bryant, followed by a double pass from Browning to WR Aaron Fuller to Bryant for a 22-yard touchdown and a 20-7 lead.

The breathing room allowed the Huskies to snuggle back into a ground game, which eventually produced an 80-yard blast from Gaskin with 12:30 remaining. It was his third touchdown of the game, following four in the Apple Cup a year ago with 192 yards rushing.

The result was the Huskies needed only 12 completions to get 229 yards passing, while the Cougars needed 26 to get 152. And as always with Gaskin, he provided a solution for all conditions and terrain — 170 yards in 27 carries. That gave him 550 yards for his four Apple Cups.

Leach did own up with a standard response to a defeat, this one leaving the Cougars with a 10-2 record that somehow seems disappointing.

“I do think they blocked better than we did and tackled better than we did,” he said. “They won.”

The Huskies indeed won.  It was the one thing that wasn’t random.

 


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YourThoughts

  • Williec

    Great title again…snow what!!

    • art thiel

      Thanks.

  • ll9956

    The Cougs played their hearts out and IMO they have nothing to apologize for. The weather seemed to hurt the Cougs more than the Dawgs, likely because the Cougs depend more on their passing attack. In the end the Dawgs just had too much power and too many weapons for the Cougs to handle. Especially under these conditions, their defense seemed vulnerable to the Huskies’ strong ground game.

    • art thiel

      No apologies needed from the Cougs. I would like a better explanation from Leach.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    “I expect a close game , but if the weather is wet , windy and cold per forecast , Mr. Mustache might discover that this ain’t Mississippi anymore Toto . It’s the Palouse in late November . The running game could become a larger factor than either Minschew or Browning’s arm – we’ll see . In that scenario , I’ll hitch my wagon to Mr. Gaskin .”

    I’m not gonna say I told ya so , but …

    • art thiel

      You’re a regular Nostradamus. Even Leach and Petersen didn’t know about impending snow.

  • 1coolguy

    I liked the D plan that Lake used, a 3-3-5 with all the DB’s playing up as WSU throws most of their passes underneath, 5-20 yards, with a lot of crossing routes. With a surfeit of very good to excellent DB’s, together with the weather that was not a friend to a passing attack, WSU didn’t stand a chance.
    That said, given the TD run you mention off the left side – That is the strength of WSU’s line, with the left guard mentioned as a first rounder, so after that run I’m thinking they will go to the run in the second half, but they did not change their game plan, even when the snow persisted – very odd. So I expected their RB James Williams to get the ball often in the second half. What was Leach thinking? Maybe he was just blank???
    I will say that I was surprised Hunter Bryant did not get any more looks after his early 3rd qtr TD – he is obviously a very talented asset and the game was not out of reach until Gaskin’s coffin nail 80-yarder in the 4th.
    Of course I was pulling for the Dawgs, yet at the same time I wanted Minshew to light it up, so that he would be considered for the Heisman, but that could be out of reach now.

    • jafabian

      I’d love to face Michigan. It’s been so long since we’ve beaten up on Jim Harbaugh!

      • art thiel

        Many in Seattle would agree. I miss the guy.

    • Effzee

      According to Millen they were playing a 3-6-2, taking away the entire middle of the field, which is where Leach/Minshew reside. Wazzu totally should have run the ball more, but apparently Mike Leach doesn’t adjust, or prepare for the future (except in that he will probably leave after the season). The one thing he has to have learned in the last six years is that his system needs better athletes than he can get at Wazzu.

      • art thiel

        His system works to the extent that he can make sub-prime recruits effective enough in the spread to win 10 games. We shouldn’t diminish that feat. But it works until it doesn’t.

    • art thiel

      BBK is a special teams star in waiting for the NFL. Speed, aggression, strength. He might get some snaps at SS as a backup.

      Don’t ask me to explain Leach. If he can’t, I can’t.

  • coug73

    Cougs could have been a contender.
    Jimmy Lake knows how to defend the air raid. End of story.

    • art thiel

      Lake has done this four years running. Leach is an easy mark,

  • jafabian

    When it started snowing prior to kickoff for the 92 Apple Cup WSU Coach Mike Price called it “anti-Husky weather” so I hoped that the Dawgs would recall Coach Don James words after the game. He said if he could do the game over he would have had FB Darius Turner run the ball more since he was the most sure footed player on the team. Pass-and-catch just isn’t reliable in snow conditions as Mark Brunell can attest. The Cougs decided to stick with what got them to be ranked at number 8 and it cost them. I’m assuming Coach Petersen had enough snow games at Boise State to where he knew what to do with his game plan. I don’t think Coach Leach has enjoyed any snow during football season in his Cougar tenure.

    Looking forward to Apple Cup 2019. Where the Cougs could very well face weather conditions like the 1998 Seahawks vs Chiefs game. In that game it rained so hard during play that rain totals of six inches or were registered in the area around Arrowhead Stadium. If that happens Mike Leach will probably wonder if Bill Moos needs a coach. Welcome to the Evergreen State! You ain’t experienced weather until you’ve seen our weather!

    • art thiel

      Leach post-game seemed a little bewildered with the weather. I’m surprised none of his assistants with snow experience didn’t have the courage/standing to insist the ball be given to Williams.

  • Diamond Mask

    An entertaining game to watch especially the “snow globe” effect. I thought Minshew looked out of sorts immediately. Where as the Huskies first drive, even though it ended in a Browning interception, was run, run, run. It looked like the Seahawks. Just run the ball until they stop you from running the ball. That’s especially hard to do in the snow. So now we’re meeting Utah again. It’s going to be a tougher game than the one we just played. Go Dawgs.

    • art thiel

      Browning needed only 15 passes. Much as Wilson in the teens with pass attempts is running a more efficient operation.

  • Husky73

    The team with the better coach, better defense, better quarterback and better running back won the game. Dedicate this one to the band, Elwood, the band!

    • art thiel

      The Blues Brothers would have been proud of both schools.

  • Archangelo Spumoni

    Mr. Art:
    Translation: The Pirate is Coach Petersen’s b*tch. Coach Lake doesn’t have to work hard at all.
    Go back and look at the first series. Gardner Minshew II hit Taylor Rapp right in the chest, and on the next pass attempt, the Huskies had 3 rushing, 2 deep, and 6 (SIX) under. The targeted receiver was open until a hand knocked the ball away. You now see the defensive game plan for the remaining 59:30.
    The Pirate has not and apparently cannot adjust. There is a reason these games have the same result.

    • art thiel

      Even he knows he can’t do much beyond what he does. But when he’s called on them to carry more of the load this season, they’ve done so. Why he didn’t again is baffling.

  • Karl Robert Neice

    Leach and Minshew. Gone now?

    • art thiel

      Minshew, of course. Leach, who knows? He was ready to bolt to TEN a year ago until the offer went away.

  • antirepug3

    The Cougs played like it was snowing and cold. The Dawgs must have set a record for big plays under lousy conditions.