Taylor Rapp returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown and Myles Gaskin ran for 159 yards to help No. 4 Washington strengthen its case for a playoff berth with a 41-10 victory over No. 8 Colorado in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night.
“We think we have a heck of a team and we think we belong in there,” coach Chris Petersen said. “I think they'll do what they should do, which is the right thing. … These guys have done everything they’re supposed to do.”
The Huskies (12-1, No. 4 AP) broke open a close game when Rapp intercepted Sefo Liufau’s passes on the first two drives of the second half for a touchdown and to set up a field goal that made it 24-7.
Washington rolled from there to its first conference title since 2000 with a performance likely to keep the Huskies in the top four when the College Football Playoff bids are handed out Sunday.
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“We didn’t play this game for the playoff committee,” receiver John Ross said. “We played this game because this is what we worked for.”
It was a rough day for Colorado (10-3, No. 9 AP) and Liufau, who was knocked out of the game after twisting his right ankle on a sack on the Buffaloes’ first drive of the game. He returned to start the second half and threw three interceptions, including one on the first play from scrimmage that Rapp returned 35 yards for a score.
Liufau threw another interception on the ensuing drive, and Colorado could never recover. Even a circus kick return in the third quarter couldn’t help the Buffaloes. Anthony Julmisse returned a kick to near midfield and fumbled. Phillip Lindsay scooped it up and ran down to the 2, but Colorado was held to a field goal.
“We just didn’t execute as an offense,” Liufau said. “It’s probably the most frustrating part, especially as one of the captains and one of the leaders and your group isn’t performing to the level it should be.”
▪ Colorado: From the opening kickoff that went out of bounds, little went right for the Buffaloes, who were unable to cap an impressive turnaround season with a conference title. Liufau’s injury didn’t help the cause. Steven Montez went 5-for-12 for 60 yards in the first half and was unable to generate any consistent offense, and Liufau was even worse when he returned. He threw as many interceptions in the third quarter (3) as he had all season and was 2-for-12 for 12 yards after coming back into the game.
▪ Washington: The usually efficient Jake Browning struggled throwing the ball, but it didn’t matter as the Huskies dominated the game with 265 yards on the ground behind Gaskin and Lavon Coleman (101 yards). Browning went 9-for-24 for 118 yards and two TDs. His second touchdown was far from his prettiest throw of the season. With a defender draped all over him, Browning threw a ball up for grabs that John Ross caught in front of Chidobe Awuzie and ran in 19 yards for the score. Browning’s 42 TDs are one shy of Jared Goff’s Pac-12 record.
▪ Colorado: The Buffaloes must wait to see whether they will remain ahead of No. 11 USC and get a Rose Bowl bid if Washington goes to the playoff, or they’ll likely head to the Alamo Bowl if they drop behind the Trojans.
▪ Washington: A likely berth in the playoff.