At the half: Turnovers plague Cougars in Apple Cup’s opening act

From staff reports

Through one half of football at Husky Stadium, Washington is doing everything it needs to in order to become bowl eligible.

The Huskies (5-6, 3-5 Pac-12) lead the Cougars (8-3, 6-2), 17-3, at the half, and so far, redshirt freshman quarterback Peyton Bender has yet to figure out the Pac-12’s top defense.

The Cougars turned the ball over twice in the first half, both times in UW territory.

The first turnover came with WSU leading 3-0 with 6:20 to go in the first quarter when Bender fired a screen pass out to redshirt freshman running back Keith Harrington. With nothing in front of him, Harrington tried breaking through a wall of UW defenders, and sophomore linebacker Keishawn Bierria forced a fumble.

The ball squirted into the backfield and was eventually recovered by UW sophomore linebacker Azeem Victor. The official result of the play was a 29-yard loss for the Cougs.

Browning would lead the Huskies on their first scoring drive of the game on the ensuing possession, a four-play, 41-yard drive capped off by a 26 yard rush by freshman Chico McClatcher on a reverse play.

WSU also turned the ball over at the end of the half when junior defensive end Joe Mathis sacked Bender and forced a fumble. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jaylen Johnson recovered the fumble on the UW 32 to keep the Cougs from putting more points on the board.

The last fumble came with three seconds left in the half, and WSU moved the ball 35 yards in 1:18 on the drive leading up to the turnover.

The UW opened up its 10-3 lead nearing the end of the second quarter when freshman tailback Myles Gaskin – who became the first UW true freshman to rush for 1,000 yards earlier in the half – took a toss from freshman QB Jake Browning and scampered two yards into the end zone.

The play was set up when WSU senior defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao slammed Gaskin into the Husky Stadium turf on the play prior and picked up a personal foul in the process.

Browning has been the mark of efficiency in the first half, orchestrating a UW offense that moved the ball 236 yards. Browning went 9-11 for 153 yards with senior Jaydon Mickens emerging as his favorite target – 5 catches for 81 yards and a 41 yard grab that set up the Dawgs’ second TD of the half.

In spite of a few big misses and some dropped passes, Bender has helped the WSU offense move well between the 20s thus far. He went 24-34 for 192 yards in the first half. No passing touchdowns or interceptions have been recorded for either team.

WSU won the opening coin toss and received, so Browning and the Huskies will get the ball to start the second half.

Reporting by Dustin Brenman