Washington runs through Colorado as increasingly important Apple Cup looms

This isn’t basketball.

But Washington’s ball movement was something to see.

Leading 7-0 with 3:03 left in the first quarter Saturday, Michael Penix Jr. took a shotgun snap and handed to wide receiver Jalen McMillan on an end-around. McMillan lateraled to fellow wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk, who passed it back to the waiting Penix. The redshirt junior collected the ball at Colorado’s 42-yard line and whizzed a pass to McMillan along the left sideline.

Which is when the sophomore wide receiver got to work.

With a fleet of blockers in front, McMillan darted to the 18-yard line, where 325-pound defensive tackle Jalen Sami tripped over a teammate while attempting the tackle. McMillan cut inside and swiveled at the 6, bouncing off diving defensive backs Nikko Reed and Tyrin Taylor. Safety Jeremy Mack froze in place at the 2, as if operated by a video game controller with a bad battery.

One handoff, two laterals, one pass, three missed tackles, 27 yards and 12 seconds later, McMillan trotted nonchalantly into the end zone — leaving a trail of wreckage behind.

“It was time to go back to that (play),” UW coach Kalen DeBoer said after Washington’s 54-7 win. “(UW offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb) was actually thinking about calling it right away, right off the bat. But we weren’t at the right spot on the field. I was excited to see the guys (execute). There’s a lot of execution to that and a lot of ball handling. We just trust our skill guys to do that, and J-Mac I thought did an awesome job of making some guys miss.”

Added McMillan, who led the Huskies with eight catches for 98 yards and a score (as well as 31 punt return yards): “Grubb has the weirdest plays, but they’re awesome. They’re so fun to run.”

So it was in Washington’s blowout win over Colorado, a glorified Pac-12 practice sandwiched between Husky rivalry games. Fresh off a legend-making performance in the 37-34 road win at Oregon, Penix completed 19 of 31 passes and threw for 229 yards and a touchdown in a workmanlike effort. Sophomore Dylan Morris added 66 passing yards, 32 rushing yards and a 15-yard touchdown to running back Sam Adams II in relief.

But outside of one particularly memorable play, the Husky running game ruled the day.

Senior Wayne Taulapapa — who excelled in difficult circumstances, with three former teammates at Virginia being shot and killed Sunday — rushed for 107 yards, 9.7 yards per carry and two touchdowns, with a 57-yard sprint nearly yielding another score. Sophomore Cameron Davis added 59 rushing yards, 4.9 yards per carry and two touchdowns of his own — including a leaping third-quarter somersault into the end zone. Junior Richard Newton also contributed 21 yards and a 2-yard touchdown in mop-up work.

“We go back and forth. Every time I see Wayne make a good run, I’m like, ‘I need to do the same thing,’” said Davis, who leads the Huskies with 13 rushing touchdowns. “I guess we feed off each other a lot.”

On senior day, the Huskies produced one half of a basketball score — and Colorado’s not-so-special teams certainly helped. A second quarter snap sailed over punter Trent Carrizosa’s head and into the end zone for a Husky safety. The Buffs muffed a punt as well, immediately resulting in a 33-yard Peyton Henry field goal to close the half with a 33-0 lead.

Speaking of …

This isn’t basketball.

But the Buffaloes couldn’t defend the three.

With that half-ending field goal, Henry — a sixth-year senior, who played his final game inside Husky Stadium on Saturday — surpassed Jeff Jaeger’s 380 career points to become UW’s all-time leading scorer. The Danville, California, product and former walk-on logged one field goal (while missing a 49-yarder) and six extra points, sitting at 384 points with two (or three?) games to go.

Granted, this was not a perfect performance. UW’s tackling is still suspect, and Colorado running back Alex Fontenot totaled 6.5 yards per carry in defeat. True freshman corner Jaivion Green also misjudged a fluttering deep ball, resulting in a 69-yard touchdown from Colorado quarterback J.T. Shrout to wide receiver Montana Lemonious-Craig. In the third quarter, Taulapapa was stoned on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to result in a rare turnover on downs. And after replacing Penix, Morris threw a tough-luck interception that clattered off tight end Jack Westover’s normally reliable hands.

But the positives outweighed all else. After the verdict was long decided, redshirt freshman Maurice Heims snared his first career sack and safety Makell Esteen added an interception. UW wrapped up an undefeated 7-0 sprint inside Husky Stadium by amassing 280 rushing yards, 6.5 yards per carry and five touchdowns in a dominant display.

Plus, a healthy Penix played only two and a half quarters.

Which tells you everything you need to know.

And, speaking of, you probably know what comes next. At 9-2, No. 15 Washington will travel to meet 7-4 Washington State next weekend in an increasingly important Apple Cup. In-state bragging rights and bowl positioning will be at stake.

On Saturday, UW effectively dunked on Colorado.

It won’t be so easy this time next week.

“There are two games that I know all of Husky Nation circles each and every year,” said DeBoer, referring to UW’s rivalries with Washington State and Oregon. “We’re really looking forward to having a great week. We’re playing for a lot of stuff. It’s not just that trophy.”


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