Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 19, 2018 at 11:26 pm.

Healthier Huskies ready for key Apple Cup matchup

A North divisional title and berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game come down to the Apple Cup.

No. 16-ranked Washington (8-3, 6-2 Pac-12) held Oregon State at arm’s length for a 42-23 win on Saturday, setting up a de facto North championship game with rival and No. 7-ranked Washington State on Friday.

The Cougars (10-1, 7-1) were going to play for the division win or lose last week, but they kept their College Football Playoff hopes alive with a 69-28 rout of Arizona.

In the process, Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew II strengthened his burgeoning Heisman Trophy candidacy, setting a program record with seven touchdowns passes.

Minshew wasn’t the only Apple Cup-participating quarterback to make history in Week 12.

Washington Jake Browning bid farewell to Husky Stadium with a 17-of-23 passing performance, including three touchdowns. Browning become the all-time winningest starting quarterback in Pac-12 history with the victory.

“He’s a rare individual, never flinching, always the same, always prepping as hard as he possibly can,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said in his postgame press conference of Browning. “He’s completely locked in at all times. It’s hard to do for anybody, especially a college kid going through this process.”

Last week also marked the final home game for Huskies running back Myles Gaskin, another four-year starter. Gaskin — who has battled injury this season — is finding his stride at the right time for Washington’s Pac-12 championship push. His 135 yards against Oregon State and 148 two weeks prior against Stanford mark the first time this season Gaskin has put together consecutive 100-plus-yard games.

“These guys we are talking about are as good as they come,” Petersen said. “You ask them to do something and they do it; they take care of business, they’re always all-in.”

Washington’s corps of seniors restored the program to its championship glory of the 1980s and 1990s, and can add another Pac-12 title to the resume. Aiding in that pursuit is that the Huskies have the closest thing to a complete roster at any point in the 2018 campaign.

Injuries hit the Huskies hard beginning in the offseason, with tight end Hunter Bryant and offensive tackle Trey Adams shelved. Both returned this month, with Bryant debut Nov. 3 against Stanford, and Adams coming back last week. Adams, thought out for the season because of a back injury, is expected to return as a fifth-year senior in 2019.

Washington’s stout defense also welcomed back a host of players: defensive back Jordan Miller, linebacker D.J. Beavers and defensive end Shane Bowman. This lineup looks like the one Pac-12 media overwhelmingly voted to win the conference during the summer.