Glendale, AZ – Once the first quarter was over, the blowout seemed evident.
Washington, plagued by a slow start, trailed 28-7 by the second quarter. The Huskies defense allowed 367 total yards to Penn State in the first half while the offense only managed to get 136.
On the ground, Huskies running back Myles Gaskin was held to 17 yards and a touchdown while quarterback Jake Browning was limited to 7-of-11 for 67 yards.
However, Washington never gave up. They still had a chance to tie it with just under a minute left but three straight incomplete passes and a catch which was lateraled and intercepted sealed the 35-28 loss to No. 9 Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday.
Washington coach Chris Peterson has led the program to successful back-to-back season. They were in the College Football Playoff a season ago and a New Year’s Six bowl this season. Both bowl games ended in losses but the Huskies are heading in the right direction.
Peterson said it’s not just about executing on the football field, it’s about what the culture is like on a day-to-day basis.
“These guys understand what it’s going to take,” Peterson said. “It’s hard to win 10 games and make it to the playoffs but they’ve had a taste enough that they understand that.”
Penn State took an early 7-0 lead on Trace McSorley’s 48-yard touchdown pass to DaeSean Hamilton. After Saquan Barkley’s 2-yard touchdown run, Washington got on the board with a 1-yard keeper by Browning.
DeAndre Thompkins’ 34-yard catch set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Miles Sanders, giving the Nittany Lions a 21-7 lead in the second quarter.
After a Washington punt, Barkley scored on a 92-yard touchdown run to give Penn State a commanding 28-7 lead. Barkley’s touchdown run is the longest in Fiesta Bowl history.
The Huskies defense led the nation in run defense during the regular season, allowing 92 yards a game but Barkley rushed 145 yards and two touchdowns.
“They just made plays,’ Washington linebacker Keishawn Bierria said. “Third downs are money downs, we have to get off the field. They got the better of us tonight.”
Washington caught a break when Penn State muffed the punt and the Huskies were able to recover the fumble. With the ball at the Nittany Lions’ 33, the Huskies capitalized on the good field position as Gaskin scored on a 13-yard run to cut the lead, 28-14, heading into the half.
The 11-seeded Huskies opened the third quarter with a 13-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a Browning 28-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Fuller.
Although the Huskies were being outgained on offense, they got within seven points twice in the game but could not overcome costly turnovers.
“This team is going to be way better next year,” Bierria said. “I could do nothing but be proud (of the younger guys).”