BY Art Thiel 11:29PM 11/30/2018

Thiel: Huskies grind their way to the Rose Bowl

A Pac-12 season of mediocrity and controversy fittingly had some of both in its championship. But since the Huskies won 10-3 over Utah, they don’t have to care.

Chris Petersen’s senior class will go to its third New Year’s Six bowl game. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Confirming: The Rose Bowl is obligated to take the winner of Friday night’s Pac-12 Championship. The news is important in case you were among the witnesses whose cringes were so severe that vision was impaired, and you walked away seeking medical attention.

In a title game with all the elegance of hiking boots in a clothes dryer, the Washington Huskies slow-rolled the Utah Utes, 10-3 (box). In a conference football season where mediocrity went rogue, and controversies were the rage, the season ended with representative feats for the sparse crowd at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara: No offensive touchdowns, and losing coach Kyle Whittingham screaming his contempt post-game at an official for a no-call on Utah’s final offensive play.

“Nothing,” said UW coach Chris Petersen, “has been easy this year.”

But for the Huskies, at least, it has also been victorious. As Pac-12 champs, the Huskies met the preseason expectations of many, even though at 10-3 with a decaying offense, they impressed few in the national TV audience who may have seen the 11th-ranked Huskies for the first time.

Nevertheless, for the first time since 2000, they are going to the Rose Bowl, against either Ohio State or Michigan. Still, even Petersen acknowledged the awkwardness.

“It’s really hard to describe” the post-game feeling, Petersen said. “There was so much positive emotion, and so much frustration that we couldn’t get anything going. So happy for the defense and (yet wondering) ‘Can we win this game?'”

The college football world wondered right along with him. Frankly, the biggest reasons the Huskies survived were a freakishly lucky bounce of the ball off the leg of a receiver that launched CB Byron Murphy on a 66-yard interception return for the game’s only TD, and the inefficiency of Utes QB Jason Shelley, a redshirt freshman backup starting only his fourth game.

Yet . . .

The Utes were driving for the game-tying touchdown in the final 30 seconds until a fourth-down pass was broken up by Murphy, the game’s Most Valuable Player, who appeared to bump the Utah receiver from behind before the ball arrived. Absent a flag for pass interference, Whittingham was sent into a rage on the sideline as the game ended.

“Wouldn’t you be?” he told reporters. “Did you see the same thing I saw? I don’t know how I can say anything without getting fined, but I’m used to it.”

In a season scarred by a officiating scandal that influenced USC’s win over Washington State and caused major damage to the conference office’s credibility, having the season end on another controversy was pathetically fitting.

For the Huskies, they didn’t care about the troubles of the conference or Willingham.

Screenshot of CB Byron Murphy’s breakup of Utah’s final play.

They had a senior class, led by QB Jake Browning, RB Myles Gaskin that finished with 39 wins, three 10-win seasons in a row and earned three New Year’s Day bowl bids.

“We brought these guys here and felt so good about them,” Petersen said. “We played a number of them as freshmen. We really felt these guys were going to be good. That came to fruition.”

The game between the conference’s top two defenses — the Huskies won the regular-season meeting in Salt Lake City, 21-7 — figured to be low-scoring. But not the full Flintstone.

The Huskies led 3-0 at halftime, holding Utah to 65 yards of offense. The Utes didn’t reach UW territory until late in the first half, and never came closer than the UW 36-yard line. Their only score was a 53-yard field goal that barely cleared the crossbar.  The Huskies, led by the inevitable LB Ben Burr-Kirven (10 tackles), intercepted Shelley on three of Utah’s final four possessions, and the fourth was the no-PI play.

The Huskies moved the ball some — 306 yards of offense, possessed more than 38 minutes — but mustered almost nothing down close. They failed on fourth down twice, Browning was intercepted and a field goal attempt at the end of a 10-minute drive in fourth quarter was blocked.

“It wasn’t like we couldn’t do anything against them,” Petersen said. “We got some hard five yards. We got down there (to the red zone) and couldn’t capitalize. Penalties, negative plays — we just couldn’t make the play.

“If we could have gotten another field goal or touchdown, we could have felt good about ourselves on both sides of the ball.”

Petersen preferred to look upon the stultifying outcome as a matter of conference balance.

“Our league is so competitive,” he said. “There’s so much parity. Everybody knows each other. Then you have to play really good ream a second time.

“You just try to figure out a way to keep battling.”

That, the Huskies did. And no matter the controversies nor the mediocrities, the Rose Bowl, where they will meet the winner of Saturday’s Ohio State-Northwestern game (unless the Buckeyes sneak into the College Football Playoffs, then it’s Michigan), is theirs.

“We’re excited,” he said. “When I grew up, that’s how I knew Washington — the Rose Bowl, competing year in and year out, doing awesome things.

“I haven’t been to a Rose Bowl. Our coaches have not. None of our players, of course, but a lot are from Southern California. It’s going to be quite an experience.”

Fortunately for the Huskies, style points are not required for entry.



  • dingle

    I was going to watch this. I even thought briefly of attending in person, since tickets cost less than a Coors Light (small) at Levi Stadium.

    After reading the accounts, I’m glad I didn’t. I’m not burdened with the regret of four hours of Friday that I’ll never get back. Woof.

    • art thiel

      I thought about going, but as I wrote earlier this week, the set-up is just not compelling.

  • ReebHerb

    The networks need to do a better job with the color commentators. Most of them talk too much. Every play doesn’t need to be explained in molecular detail. Some of the NFL broadcasters do it right.

    • Sterling Rothchild

      Amen Brother I agree tell them again ReebHerb!!! Big Udub sarge & 12th man South Carolina

    • 1coolguy

      Just filling space – when there is no action on the field, are they supposed to just have dead air? That game was a long slog to comment on and I wouldn’t have wanted to be in their seats. Only once were they happy – when it was finally over and they were rushing to the airport!

      • art thiel

        Easy solution: Mute button.

  • 1coolguy

    I am very happy you told it like it is, Art. This “thing” stunk to high heaven and it was fitting the last play was a no-call PI.
    Browning is gone, after the Rose Bowl, so that issue is taking care of itself, with Eason, et al, bringing a true QB arm back into the Husky lineup.
    More importantly, the question is:
    With an experienced O line that outweighs their D line by 20-30 lbs, AND a 5,000+ yard HB, AND in light of a non-performance by the QB, don’t you think Hamdan would have scored at least 6 by simply handing off to Gaskin more? What are your thoughts on Hamdan, Art – Is there any reason CP should not replace him with an OC with successful D1 experience? Tonight’s performance was simply inexcusable, and BTW, that wasn’t Alabama out there tonight.

    • Howard Wells

      Alabama is in the PAC-12?

      • 1coolguy


    • art thiel

      UW offense laid an egg a year ago at ASU without Hamdan as OC. He’s made his rookie mistakes, but he’s not the issue. Injuries to Adams, Bryant and O-line under-performance was the larger issue. Also: They lost 3 games by a total of 10 pts.

  • coug73

    As a Nation slept thru the PAC 12 Championship Game the offenses muddle along while the defenses dominated the game. Full disclosure I did fall asleep several times. Hugely surprised UW offense couldn’t score a TD, not so much for UU.

    Rose Bowl, UW bound, hard for me to anticipate anything other than a drubbing for the dogs. Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance Pete really has his work cut out for him

    • Howard Wells

      sleeping between 5pm and whenever…? really? and I thought I was old hehe

      • coug73

        I watched an episode of Maigret after the game. Murder mystery and I stayed alert.

    • Howard Wells

      a drubbing? could be.. but a return to the Rose Bowl? Despite its second tier status, for us old f**ks, I still think it will be a fun trip. I’ve enjoyed every Rose Bowl I’ve been to. Well, except the losses hehe.

      • coug73

        The Rose Bowl has always been special to us PNW folks.

      • art thiel

        You were almost a kid the last time the Huskies went.

        • Howard Wells

          You’re too kind you young whippersnapper. I remember lingering near the goal line after the game when Rick ran out to conduct the band and sing our fight song from atop the band director’s ladder. I thought the good times are definitely back. Ahh well…now the Rose Bowl is just an old meaningless shadow of itself.

    • art thiel

      We need to adjust your meds to a level that stimulates Pac-12 interest. But maybe those are illegal.

  • Diamond Mask

    “All the elegance of hiking boots in a clothes dryer.” Thanks for that Art. Made me laugh out loud.

    • Howard Wells

      although it made me wonder who the heck would put hiking boots in the drier?!

      • art thiel

        Work with me here, Howard.

        • Howard Wells


    • art thiel

      That’s why I’m here.

  • Mark Frost

    Read John Canzano’s 4 part series on the Pac-12 in the Oregonian or Outstanding reporting. This championship game sums up the League as it is.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art! As usual, you hit it on the head. Yes, still cringing! Might be the most mediocre a fan can feel heading into the Granddaddy-of-them-all.

    Still, looking forward to the Rose Bowl (got a month to let the taste of chalk fade away). These games are all about matchups. I’ll be watching the possible opponents this weekend to try to assess where the Dawgs would stand. One thing for sure, gotta get sharper with passing on offense. I love Jake, but he seemed in slow motion with his decision making compared to the tight coverage of Utah’s secondary. It might have helped for UW’s OC to discuss scenarios with the DC, kinda like Gilby did with Lambright back in the day. No worries about the defense. They may not be the best in the nation, but they are formidable and fun to watch. ahem…… GO DAWGS!

    • art thiel

      My guess is the OC and DC are well-acquainted. Petersen doesn’t miss the obvious.

  • jafabian

    Not an offensive show but the defense for both teams came to play. So far underneath Chris Petersen has had the secondary set the tone for the defense and its paid off. Last year the Seahawks passed on drafting Kevin King, Sidney Jones and Budda Baker. Hope they don’t repeat that when the current Huskies are available.

    • art thiel

      If they had a 2nd-rounder, it may have happened.

  • Husky73

    Let the south have the playoffs. I would much rather see the Huskies in the Granddaddy of Them All (channeling Keith Jackson) on New Years Day in Pasadena, than to go to a neutral field (with no San Gabriels in sight) populated by a bunch of MAGA hat-wearing Bubbas led by Saban and Dabo. Indeed, nothing came easy for this UW team all year long, but they got to where they needed to be.

    • 1coolguy

      ” populated by a bunch of MAGA hat-wearing Bubbas cheering Saban and Dabo.”
      This pretty much sums you up – and here I thought al the snowflakes had melted. Sheeez, stick with the game, Mr Elite

      • art thiel

        Maybe you need to build a wall around him.

      • Husky73

        Not elite. Just level headed.

        • rosetta_stoned

          And arrogant. Don’t forget condescending.

      • Tian Biao

        come now, Coolguy, you have to pick and choose your name-calling: is he Mr Elite, or is he a snowflake? maybe next time, you could call him Mr. Elite Snowflakeist.

    • art thiel

      How about Rick Neuheisel for the coin toss? He was the most recent UW coach to make it.

      • coug73

        As a player and coach, cool.

      • Husky73

        He is busy with the Arizona Hotshots.

    • bevdog

      OK Husky 73….. trivia question for you….who was the injured Husky starting quarterback that backup Bob Schloredt replaced?

      • Husky73

        Was it Bob Hivner?

        • bevdog

          Good job! You are right!!

  • woofer

    The Dawgs are a talented group of players who very well could be undefeated if they were in the habit of finishing out close games. But of course that’s exactly what separates champions from the hordes of pretenders. It’s a thin and often maddeningly vague line, but it exists.

    This time we were spared the possibility of another ignominious finish by the kindly officials. It’s probably a good thing to the extent that the Huskies are more capable of playing a competitive Rose Bowl game than Utah. The defense is certainly good enough to keep them close. And there is just something about a sunny winter New Year’s afternoon in Pasadena in historically the greatest college game of them all. It sometimes inspires an exceptional effort in even the most laconic underachievers. Can the old magic work again here? One can only hope.