SEATTLE — It was three years and 66 days earlier that Myles Gaskin first stepped onto the turf at Husky Stadium and announced himself to the college football world.
On Saturday afternoon Gaskin jogged off that same field for the final time, having led the University of Washington to yet another victory, and trailing in his wake was a seemingly endless ticker-tape listing all his accomplishments during his record-setting career as a Husky.
The Huskies’ star senior running back bid farewell to the stadium he’s called home the past four seasons, and he did so with yet another vintage performance in Washington’s 42-23 victory over Oregon State.
Gaskin, a Lynnwood native who attended O’Dea High School, had a big game Saturday, rushing 18 times for 135 yards and a touchdown and catching four passes for 24 yards and another score. He set the tone early as he broke a run for 64 yards on the game’s third play from scrimmage.
But that’s nothing new from a player who’s made excellence seem routine.
“He’s a special player,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said. “He’s just a rare, unique running back for us, for sure. He’s just got tremendous vision, and he’s a guy who’s been exactly the same since he showed up here as a freshman. He’s worked his tail off, he really loves football, he loves to practice. You never know sometimes what these kids are like from the outside, they show up on Saturday and are good players. But he’s as good as they come. If you ask him to do something he does it, he takes care of business, he’s always all-in, and he’s been awesome to be around.”
Gaskin was not made available for comment after the game, but his play over the course of four seasons has spoken volumes.
When Gaskin arrived as a freshman in 2015 he wasn’t considered a can’t-miss prospect. As a three-star recruit who lacked either massive size or blazing speed, he was viewed as a player who may contribute eventually, but not as someone likely to make an immediate impact.
But in his first ever game at Husky Stadium he broke out with 146 yards on 14 carries in a 49-0 victory over Sacramento State. And that was no case of a third-stringer taking advantage of an early season cupcake. Gaskin ended his debut season with seven 100-yard outings, breaking the school’s freshman record for rushing yards with 1,302.
Ever since Gaskin has been perhaps the most dependable source of offense in the nation. Saturday’s effort gave him 4,961 career rushing yards, putting him on pace to pass Oregon’s LaMichael James (5,082) and Oregon State’s Ken Simonton (5,044) and move into the top three all-time in Pac-12 history. He needs just 94 yards over Washington’s final two or three games to become just the 10th player in FBS history to rush for 1,000 yards in four seasons.
Those are the deeds of a legend.
“I don’t think you can really put that into words (what Gaskin has meant to the program),” said Washington quarterback Jake Browning, who’s four-year career as a starter has mirrored Gaskin’s. “He’s done a lot, been a very consistent person for us, and he’s someone I’ll be really close to the rest of my life.”
On Saturday the Huskies seemed determined to send Gaskin out with a bang. Gaskin handled the ball on each of Washington’s first four plays. Those resulted in a 14-yard run, a negative 3-yard reception, a 64-yard run, and a direct snap in the wildcat in which he handed the ball off to Salvon Ahmed for a 4-yard touchdown. When he received the handoff on Washington’s first play of its second possession he scampered 23 more yards to break the 100-yard mark just 5 minutes, 30 seconds into the contest.
Gaskin scored his first touchdown in the last minute of the first half when he made himself available to a scrambling Browning in the right flat, then reached the ball over the goal line while running out of bounds for a 10-yard TD. He scored his second midway through the third quarter, this time keeping the ball in the wildcat and picking his way 6 yards off left tackle for a score.
“I’m really happy for him,” Ahmed said. “He works hard and he deserves everything coming his way. I assumed he had about 100 yards (after three carries), he broke a couple big ones and he was able to put that together.”
Next up for Washington is a winner-takes-all game against Washington State in Friday’s Apple Cup in Pullman. Gaskin has a history of being a difference-maker against the Cougars, rushing for 138 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-10 victory at Husky Stadium in 2015, then going for 192 yards and four TDs in last year’s 41-14 win on Montlake.
But regardless of whether Gaskin carries Washington to another Pac-12 North title, his legacy is already secure. The Snohomish County native is one of the greatest Huskies ever, and Saturday was the perfect send-off.
Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.