The Washington football team’s secondary can’t wait for this matchup.
Byron Murphy started to grin as he talked about Ohio State: Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ accuracy, the strength of Ohio State’s receivers. This, he said, is exactly the kind of offense UW’s defensive backs live to face.
They like the challenge they’ll face in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
“We want teams to come out there and throw,” Murphy said. “Also, knowing that their quarterback can throw (and) they have good receivers, that even puts more of a chip on my shoulder because we got to go out and actually play, compete again their best.”
The Buckeyes have the nation’s No. 2 passing offense, averaging 373 yards per game. Haskins, who was a Heisman finalist, has completed 348-of-496 passes for 4,580 yards and a country-best 47 touchdowns.
The Huskies have already played, and beaten, the team with the nation’s top passing offense. Washington State averages 379.8 passing yards per game, a Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew is right behind Haskins with 4,77 passing yards.
During this year’s snowy Apple Cup, the Huskies held Washington State to just 237 yards of total offense, including 152 passing yards.
“Just knowing that (Ohio State) throws the ball a lot, that’s what we like to do,” Murphy said. “We like to cover receivers. That’s when they make plays that we got to defend. They have a good quarterback that’s going to put the ball on the money. We just have to go out there and play our game.”
For most of the year, UW didn’t force as many turnovers as it would’ve liked. But that started to change down the stretch of the season.
Murphy had an interception against Washington State and two in the Pac-12 championship game against Utah, including one he returned for the game-winning touchdown. Jordan Miller also had an interception against the Utes.
“I feel like these past couple games we’ve been making more plays on the ball, which has always been a thing for our defense, getting more plays on the ball,” Murphy said.
“But also I feel like everyone just feels more comfortable. Everyone is going out there, keeping their head straight on everything they need to do, their assignments and all that. I just feel like everyone is going out there even going harder and knowing (the Rose Bowl) is special for everyone.”
Murphy, named the Pac-12 championship’s Most Valuable Player, helped lead UW to this Rose Bowl berth. The Huskies have had some time away from football since winning the title, going through their first bowl practice on Saturday.
In between school work, Murphy has been on YouTube watching highlights of old Rose Bowls. He hasn’t stopped thinking about the game. Unlike several of his teammates, many of whom are from California, Murphy has never been to a Rose Bowl in person. This will be his first one.
“It’s a thing we all wanted,” Murphy said. “We’ve all been waiting for this.”
The Huskies know what kind of opportunity they have, going against an Ohio State team that narrowly missed the College Football Playoff.
For UW’s secondary, at least, it’s the perfect way to end the season.
“We’re always connected together,” Murphy said. “This unit right here is together. When we’re on the field, we’re communicating together. When we’re going against an offense, we’re doing it together.
“Just knowing stuff, knowing how we do everything. This unit is special. We always stick together through the ups-and-downs.”