The misery continued for the Pac-12 Conference on Saturday night in Glendale, Arizona. The bowl season for the conference has been abysmal to say the least. The Washington Huskies were looking to bring back a little respectability by attempting to beat the Penn State Nittany Lions in the Fiesta Bowl.
Washington came into the Fiesta Bowl looking to show people that they were a team that you don’t want to forget about. Having gone to the College Football Playoff and winning the Pac-12 Conference Title in 2016, the Huskies haven’t repeated those feats in 2017.
Penn State was a team that gave USC all they could handle in the Rose Bowl at the beginning of 2017. Things have not gone as well as the Nittany Lions have wanted. Saquon Barkley, Penn State running back started off the season on fire, but cooled off late in the year.
Something was going to have to give between these two teams.
The Huskies played about a bad of a first half as you could in a big bowl game.
Jake Browning, Washington quarterback, was consistently running for his life from the Penn State defense. The pressure the Nittany Lions were getting on Browning made the quarterback miss wide open throws or throw the ball short to his receivers. The frustration was evident with Browning with his body language.
Browning was throwing his hands up in the air, yelling at himself, or just had his head down when he headed back to the Husky sideline. He was clearly frustrated with how he was playing. It didn’t help that Washington’s offense could not get anything generated with their run game.
The Huskies did finish with 104 yards, but take away a 69 yard touchdown run from Myles Gaskin, and the Huskies had a paltry 35 yards rushing.
The Penn State defense shut everything down on the Huskies. The Nittany Lions were getting penetration from their defensive line and their linebackers. It wasn’t a matter if Browning was going to get chased around or sacked, it was a matter of when.
Penn State, on the other hand, was threatening to run away and hide from Washington. The offense was clicking behind the play of their quarterback, Trace McSorley who was getting chucks of yardage on just about every play.
By the end of the first quarter McSorley had 121 yards passing and by halftime he had 219 yards passing. McSorley was in a groove and he never really came out of that groove. McSorley finished with a game high 342 yards passing and finished with games Offensive MVP.
The other weapon that the Nittany Lions have is their monster running back Saquon Barkley. By halftime, Saquon had 126 yards on the ground. That total was helped by a Fiesta Bowl record 92 yard touchdown run.
Barkley is a back that seems to get stronger as the game goes on and he doesn’t shy away from contact. He gladly accepts the contact. Seeing him perform in person was truly special. This kid should be a top 10 NFL Draft choice if he decides to make himself available for the NFL Draft.
To the Huskies credit, they didn’t stopping fighting. When the score was 28-7 there were people texting me saying that they couldn’t watch the game anymore. When Washington got the score to 28-14 at half I text some of those people back saying don’t give up just yet.
The Dawgs would get the ball to start the second half.
The Huskies took the second half kickoff and went down the field in a very efficient way and scored. Now we had a ballgame at 28-21 Penn State with the lead.
The teams exchanged scores in the third quarter. The score was 35-21 heading to the fourth quarter.
The Huskies get a Myles Gaskin touchdown with just under seven minutes left and now were within a touchdown at 35-28. Washington could not let the Nittany Lions just run the clock out. A stop was needed.
Penn State drove the ball down to the Husky 28 and set up for a game icing field goal by Tyler Davis. The ball goes wide right.
Washington got the chance they wanted.
The whole time I’m thinking, “Hook and ladder, hook and ladder.”
On fourth down for the Huskies break out the hook and ladder. Dante Pettis takes the toss from Aaron Fuller and could have stepped out of bounds to stop the clock with about five seconds left in the game. Pettis decides to throw it back to the center of the field. The toss is intercepted by Penn State’s Brandon Smith.
Game. Set. Match. Penn State walks away with a 35-28 victory.
The poor first half just killed the Huskies in this game. The protection of Jake Browning didn’t help anything as well. There were missed opportunities by Washington and they know that. The game was there for the taking and the Huskies let it slip through their hands.
Once again, the Pac-12 was faced with playing a more physical team and didn’t measure up. Will the conference ever measure up?