All right, I know you’re all dying of suspense. The other day, I posted prominent Apple Cup memories Nos. 7-12 I have from having covered 27 of them. Here’s the last six-pack; you can find the first six lower on the blog here. Keep in mind, from 1970-87, I saw only one game live (1981), so I can’t include any of those.
I’ll repeat the caveats: I never saw guys like Hugh McElhenny back in the ’50s, never saw Sonny Sixkiller play live in one, never saw Rico Tipton’s personal-foul penalty that sustained the Huskies in 1984. So I’m not including those.
And the term “memorable” is a hair-splitting adjective. It doesn’t necessarily mean I think one was a better game than one ranked below, only that it had trappings that made it stand out. Sometimes, that wasn’t even part of the 60 minutes on the field, but something that happened around the game.
And finally, omitted are some landslide UW victories – in 1990 and 1991, for instance – that were no doubt big fun for Washington fans, but the Huskies were so good then that the games themselves weren’t particularly notable. You could throw in the 2000 game, a 51-3 UW rout in Pullman. A big day for the purple, obviously, one that cinched the Rose Bowl, but it doesn’t resonate as one that stands out in the memory bank – through no fault of the Huskies.
6. 1996 – Are we there yet? In the first year the NCAA mandated overtime, the Huskies outlasted the Cougars on the road, 31-24. But I’m betting that if you went to the game, like me you remember more about the weather. Before we get to that, the game: I sat in the stands with a wife who was so cold she vows never to go to another Apple Cup, and a couple of young kids who didn’t know whether to side with her or the obstinacy of their dad. At any rate, virtually all the action happened at the west end of Martin Stadium, maybe 80 yards from us. At the end of the third quarter, my wife got up and announced she was going back to the motel. About then, Mike Price had the Cougars kick a field goal, and since they were down 24-0 at that point, you couldn’t help but wonder why. But Ryan Leaf had a hot fourth quarter, Corey Dillon cramped up and couldn’t finish the day, and the Cougars came back and tied it. But about the weather: Across the state, including Seattle, it had snowed on Tuesday, and the drive east two days later took seven hours on washboard roads. Compared to the return trip, that was cruising. It snowed lightly after the game, it turned colder that night and the roads in eastern Washington were a mess. We left Moscow at 10 a.m. Sunday, and it took five hours to get to Othello, normally a two-hour drive. But sometime between Washtucna and Othello, our VW van – which had the look (and the traction) of a loaf of bread on wheels – slowly began a spinout on State Hwy. 26 in steady westbound traffic. Fortunately, we were probably going only 35, so, even as we braced for the worst, we did a perfect 180 – now we were pointed eastbound, where the traffic was very light. (If only we’d been going that way.) Long story long, it took 11 hours to get home, with two times putting on chains (a personal best). And no, my wife has never been back to the Apple Cup.
5. 2006 – If we can’t go, you’re not going, either. Washington’s 35-32 victory was really strange in that it was built on five huge plays. There wasn’t much in the way of driving for scores, just gouging out touchdowns with huge strikes. The Huskies, carrying a six-game losing streak and already out of the bowl picture, had a 77-yard run by Louis Rankin, a 69-yard catch-and-run play from Marcel Reece for a score; a bizarre, 64-yard catch for a touchdown by Cody Ellis on which he picked the ball off his calf before it hit the ground; a blocked punt and touchdown by Chris Stevens; and an 87-yard kickoff return to set up a touchdown by Marlon Wood. It was a thoroughly confounding loss for the Cougars, an eight-point favorite, dropping them to 6-6, and to a place where there was no bowl available. It’s intriguing to wonder what might have become of the Bill Doba regime with the victory most people were expecting. Win the Apple Cup, and the Cougars are 7-5 and bowling. That surely would have made the 5-7 record of 2007 more palatable to WSU fans, and even though Doba was fatigued and probably ready to hang it up, he might not have been so inclined with the momentum, and sustenance, of a bowl game in 2006. Who knows: Maybe the extra 15 practices in ’06 would have pushed the Cougars over the hump and gotten them that .500 record they needed in ’07.
4. 1981 – It was for all the marbles, or most of them. My little paper in Eugene deemed this one big enough to send me north. Damn, it’s been 30 years ago, so the memory is a little hazy on the specifics. But the Cougars were in position to get to their first Rose Bowl since 1930, and the Huskies could get there with a victory and a USC win over UCLA. Only two things I really remember – there was a vendor outside Husky Stadium, selling T-shirts commemorating WSU’s stab at the Rose Bowl; and with seconds left in the half, Paul Skansi of Washington made the memorable weave around WSU corner Nate Bradley in the end zone for the go-ahead, momentum catch of an underthrown Steve Pelluer pass that led to a 23-10 victory. USC came through for Washington, and the Huskies went on to the Rose Bowl, shutting out Iowa, 28-0.
3. 1997 – Cougars shed 67 years of frustration. It’s easily forgotten that Washington State, even as it was having a dream season and had Ryan Leaf at quarterback, was a six-point underdog to the Huskies on the road in a game they won, 41-35. All things considered, Chris Jackson’s eight-catch, 185-yard performance might have been the best by a receiver in Apple Cup history, given the stage and the stakes. Of course, it was Jackson who early in the week rattled the cages of not only the Huskies but his own coach, Mike Price, by telling the Spokane Spokesman-Review he wanted “to go in there and kill them. We’re looking forward to going out to put 40, 50 points on them. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the Huskies get in my way of going to the Rose Bowl.” UW standout safety Tony Parrish had an interception return for a touchdown against Leaf, but Jackson had a 57-yard score in which he ran over Parrish on the way to the end zone.
2. 2002 – Neuheisel adds to his Apple Cup plunges. That was what the ex-Washington coach called it when he hosted gatherings to celebrate victories over WSU; party-goers would take a bracing dip in the waters of Lake Washington off the dock at his home in Bellevue. It was Neuheisel’s last victory (29-26) at Washington – the Huskies would lose in the Sun Bowl to Purdue – and on the other side, many WSU partisans will tell you it was their most painful loss ever. Jason Gesser suffered a high ankle sprain when he was taken down with 9:44 left by the Huskies’ “Tank” Johnson with the Cougars ahead 17-10, and from then on, WSU struggled behind backup Matt Kegel. The Huskies came from 10 down in the final few minutes to tie it, and kicker John Anderson had a great game with five field goals. Forever lodged in the craws of WSU fans was a game-ending controversial call from referee Gordon Riese — that Kegel’s hitch pass, batted down, was a lateral and thus a fumble recovered by the Huskies.
1. 1992 – White lightning in the Palouse. Of course, this was the famous Snow Bowl, with the two-touchdown-underdog Cougars pulling the 42-23 upset behind Drew Bledsoe’s 259 yards passing. There were scads of future NFL players on the field that day, not the least of whom was Bledsoe. What amazed me was how the blizzard began in the morning, continued through the game, and, lo and behold, stopped shortly afterward, turning to rain and allowing motorists to leave town.