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Stopping Mighty Max Will Be Huskies' Primary Objective

The Apple Cup could be decided by the UW's efforts to limit Borghi's rushing output.

The University of Washington football team hasn't encountered Washington State running back Massimillano "Max" Borghi in two years, since the end of the Chris Petersen era, a couple of coaches ago.

Now is not a really good time, Max, to restore old acquaintances.

In the middle of a decidedly emotional Apple Cup — a game that will be held without either head coach who began the season and with a lot of players and other coaches likely moving on — the football side of it should come down to Borghi and the Husky run defense.

The 5-foot-10, 205-pound back from Arvada, Colorado, by way of the Palouse probably wants what nearly every other opposing lead runner has earned against the UW (4-7 overall, 3-5 Pac-12) this season.

A gift card redeemable for 100 yards rushing.

A half-dozen opposing tailbacks have cracked the century mark against this Husky generous defense, with the UW's inability to limit the run about the only thing that's played out consistently for this beaten-down team in a downtrodden season, which is far from a good thing.

Max Borghi scores against Arizona.

Max Borghi had 139 yards rushing at Arizona in his last outing.

In diminutive size and accelerant speed, Borghi is not unlike Oregon's Travis Dye, who rushed for 211 yards on 28 carries three weeks ago in Husky Stadium. 

"Certainly by spreading things out, by spreading the defense out, it creates lanes for him," said Bob Gregory, UW interim coach and defensive coordinator. "He's got a nice little speed cut and got a nice little stiff arm. I think he's underrated."

While playing much of his career in Mike Leach's Air Raid offense, Borghi still has managed to come up with five 100-yard outings on the ground for the Cougars (6-5, 5-3), including 139 against Arizona in his most recent game.

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His best season has been his second one, as a sophomore in 2019, when he rushed for 817 yards and 11 touchdowns on 127 carries and caught a school-record 86 passes for 597 yards and 5 more scores. His career totals are 1,495 rushing yards and 22 scores, and 143 catches for 1,029 yards and 9 TDs.

Even with the since-departed Leach demanding major air support from his guys at all times, Borghi enjoyed 100-yard rushing games against New Mexico State (128), UCLA (123), Colorado (105) and Stanford (111) in 2019.

This guy is so deceptive — he acts like he's leaving Pullman after recently going through senior day exercises — he actually could return for more college season, using his pandemic freebie card. Yet it sounds like he's already got his bags packed.

"I've been here for 12 years, I think," Borghi joked. "I'm forever grateful for this place."

Max Borghi breaks a big gainer against Arizona.

Max Borghi makes his third, and maybe final, appearance against the Huskies. 

The Huskies have seen him just twice and incurred minimal damage. In 2018 as a freshman, Borghi rushed 5 times for 20 yards and caught 7 passes for 47 yards in Pullman. Two years ago, he carried the ball 10 times for 50 yards and a score and caught 12 passes for 58 yards at Husky Stadium. Of course, the pandemic didn't permit these teams to play last year.

So Mad Max, who as a pro probably fancies himself as a Christian McCaffrey playalike, is all revved up and ready to go. The UW knows what's coming. It might not make one bit of difference.

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