SEATTLE -- Wayne Taulapapa’s voice was still laden with emotion after he rushed for two touchdowns and 107 yards in No. 15 Washington’s 54-7 victory over Colorado, his best performance of the season.
The Washington senior transfer running back wore a leigh made of flowers and a candy-bar necklace, offerings from supporters who knew what a difficult week it’s been for the Virginia transfer after three Cavaliers were killed by a former teammate this week.
“I’ve just been leaning on the support system I have here,” Taulapapa said. “I have great brothers and great father figures here in my coaches and I try to lean on them every day.”
The Huskies (9-2, 6-2 Pac 12) leaned on Taulapapa a little, too, as they rushed for five touchdowns in their fifth straight victory. Coach Kalen DeBoer said Taulapapa’s grit got the team rolling and teammates rallied around him.
“He’s been hurting,” receiver Jalen McMillan said. “We’ve been loving him up and huddling around him to make sure we have our arms locked around him.”
Taulapapa scored from 8 and 2 yards out to get the Huskies to a 21-0 lead. Cameron Davis added two more scores for Washington, which finished 7-0 at home after rushing for 280 yards in the game.
“When we get in the red zone, we smell blood,” Davis said of the running back duo.
The victory gave DeBoer nine wins in his first season, a school record. And it kept the Huskies in the race for a berth in the conference title game with one contest to go, though they need lots of help after USC clinched a spot earlier Saturday. Up next is the Apple Cup against Washington State, a game that means more this year than rivalry bragging rights.
“We don’t have that trophy in our trophy case right now,” DeBoer said of the Apple Cup. “I know it means a lot … (but) we’re playing for a lot of stuff. It’s not just that trophy.”
With the running backs grinding, Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. passed for a season-low 229 yards, though he figured in the game’s most electric play. Penix handed the ball off to Jalen McMillan on the double reverse, then eventually found the receiver in the left flat. McMillan weaved through the secondary, breaking four tackles on the way to a 27-yard touchdown for a 14-0 lead. He finished with eight catches for 98 yards.
The Huskies led 33-0 at halftime after scoring 12 points in the final 1:21, including a safety.
Washington held Colorado (1-10, 1-7) to 202 total yards in their fifth straight loss. Colorado didn’t pass 100 total yards until quarterback J.T. Shrout found Montana Lemonious-Craig for a 69-yard touchdown with 1:45 left in the third quarter. The seven points matched a season-low for the Buffs.
Washington painted the hashmarks orange at the 1, 15 and 41 in tribute to D’Sean Perry, Devin Chandler and Lavel Davis Jr., the Virginia football players who were killed this week by a fellow student while returning from a field trip in Washington, D.C.
Fifth-year senior Peyton Henry, who kicked the winning field goal in last week’s upset of Oregon, got the largest cheer from the crowd on senior night. Then he broke a scoring record — finishing with a field goal and six extra points to give him a total of 384 career points, topping Jeff Jaeger’s record of 380 set from 1983-86.
Colorado: It’s almost over. That’s about the only positive that came out of the game for the reeling Buffs, who fell behind 47-0 and had their worst offensive performance of this (very long) season.
Washington: The Huskies kept alive their long-shot hopes for a Pac-12 Conference championship berth. They’ll need a win in the Apple Cup and lots of help. If the Huskies can win out, a plum bowl assignment likely awaits.
Colorado: Hosts No. 10 Utah on Saturday.
Washington: At Washington State on Saturday.
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