SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Coming into the Pac-12 championship game, Washington quarterback Jake Browning was seemingly the biggest threat to the Colorado defense.
Turns out, it was really the Huskies’ running back tandem that posed the main problem.
During Washington’s 41-10 win against the Buffs in Friday’s conference championship game, Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman both topped the 100-yard mark on the ground, the first time in the six-year history of the Pac-12 championship game that teammates hit that mark.
Gaskin finished with 159 yards on 29 carries, while Coleman had 101 yards on 18 carries. CU had allowed just two 100-yard rushers all season, and had now allowed two in the same game since Oct. 3, 2015, against Oregon.
Gaskin had the most yards by a CU opponent all season, and Washington’s 268 rushing yards was the most allowed by the Buffs this year.
“Every week that’s our focus to stop the run game, and obviously we didn’t do that today,” CU safety Tedric Thompson said.
CU came in allowing just 135.9 yards per game on the ground, and the Buffs had allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns (10) in the Pac-12. The Huskies had two rushing touchdowns on Friday.
Washington set the tone early.
On the opening drive, Coleman had runs of 11 and 26 yards, and then capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Browning, meanwhile completed just nine of 24 passes for 118 yards, but he did throw a pair of touchdown passes.
After Washington had scored to take a 31-7 lead midway through the quarter, CU’s Anthony Julmisse returned the ensuing kickoff 48 yards, but he fumbled.
The fumble bounded directly into the hands of CU’s Phillip Lindsay, who took it 48 yards to the Washington 2-yard line.
Prior to that play, the longest kickoff return in Pac-12 title game history was 40 yards. So, on one play, Julmisse and Lindsay established a new record.
Typical of CU’s night however, the Buffs were unable to punch it into the end zone from there. After a 2-yard loss and a holding penalty, they settled for a field goal from Chris Graham.
CU quarterbacks Sefo Liufau and Steven Montez combined to complete just eight of 25 passes for 81 yards and three interceptions – all thrown by Liufau.
The Buffs had their lowest passing yardage total since mustering just 51 yards in a 38-3 loss to Washington on Nov. 17, 2012.
Prior to Friday, there had been just five interceptions thrown in the previous five Pac-12 title games combined.
CU failed to force a Washington turnover, marking the first time in the last two seasons that CU did not get a takeaway. CU’s 25-game takeaway streak was the longest in the country.
“We already knew that if we didn’t get turnovers and stop the run, we were going to lose,” CU linebacker Jimmie Gilbert said. “We couldn’t stop the run, and didn’t get a turnover; the outcome was predictable.”
Washington safety Taylor Rapp was named the game MVP after picking off two passes, including one for a touchdown.
He’s the first defensive player to be named MVP in this game’s history.
CU once again won the coin toss, improving to 12-1 on the season. … This is the third year of a four-year agreement to hold the Pac-12 title game at Levi’s Stadium and Scott said the conference would re-evaluate the future of the title game at a later date. “We’ve been very happy with our partnership,” Scott said. … Buffs linebacker Kenneth Olugbode had 19 tackles to lead the team, while Addison Gillam posted 13. Olugbode set a Pac-12 championship game record for tackles.
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.