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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

November 25, 2014 at 5:46 PM

What was the most memorable Apple Cup game?

With the Washington State Cougars and Washington Huskies scheduled  face each other for the 107th time Saturday in Pullman, we looked back this week at some of the greatest Apple Cups in the storied in-state rivalry. Scroll through the list and tell us which game is most memorable to you in the poll below:

 


 

2002: UW wins 29-26 (3OT) in Pullman

Washington and its fans take the field after upsetting Washington State in triple overtime, 29-26. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times, 2002)

Washington and its fans take the field after upsetting Washington State in triple overtime, 29-26. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times, 2002)

More often than not, the Huskies have been the favorite in Apple Cup battles. In seldom cases have the Huskies entered the game as underdogs, but that was the case in 2002 when the 6-5 Dawgs entered Pullman to face the third-ranked Cougars.

With the Cougars looking to secure their second Rose Bowl spot in five seasons, the Huskies were the team that looked inspired to start the game. Washington took advantage of an early Jason Gesser interception for an early touchdown to quiet the Marin Stadium crowd. The Cougs, however, responded with 17 unanswered points later in the half to grab the 17-7 halftime lead.

In the fourth quarter, WSU appeared to have victory sealed, as the Cougars took advantage of a muffed UW punt attempt and recovered at the Husky 8-yard line with a 17-10 lead and just six minutes remaining. Despite the field position, the Cougs settled for three points and a 20-10 lead with just five minutes remaining.

The window was open for the Cody Pickett and the Huskies, and they took advantage. Pickett hit Paul Arnold for a 7-yard score to cut the deficit to 20-17, and after a defensive stand, the Huskies knotted the game with a 27-yard field goal to force overtime.

Two overtimes later, the game would end on the most controversial play in Apple Cup history. The play came on a throw by backup quarterback Matt Kegel – in for the injured Jason Gesser. The pass, intended to be a screen pass the wide receiver ended up being batted down by defensive lineman Kai Ellis. But rather than being ruled an incompletion, referee Gordon Riese swiftly ended the game with a call that will ring in the ears of Huskies and Cougar fans forever:

“The ruling on the field was that it was a backwards pass. Washington recovered that pass, and the game is over.”


 

2012: WSU wins 31-28 in Pullman

Chaos erupts at Martin Stadium as the Cougars defeat the Huskies 31-28 in overtime to win the Apple Cup game. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times, 2012)

Chaos erupts at Martin Stadium as the Cougars defeat the Huskies 31-28 in overtime to win the Apple Cup game. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times, 2012)

After much pomp and circumstance and renewed expectations, the Mike Leach era began with a resounding thud in 2012. The Cougars were just 2-9, without a win in Pac-12 play and were coming off eight-straight losses against a far superior 7-4 Husky team.

What seemed like an improbable task for the Cougars quickly disintegrated into an impossible one midway through the game, as the Huskies rallied for 21-straight points in the second half to take a commanding 28-10 lead into the fourth quarter.

But as Husky and Cougar fans know all too well, wacky things can happen when these two teams meet, and even crazier things happen when the two meet on the Palouse. The Cougars rallied behind senior quarterback Jeff Tuel to cut the Huskies lead, as Washington imploded to the tune of nine penalties in the final 16 minutes. Before UW fans could finish their celebratory fight song, “Bow down to Wash…” the comeback was on.

While the Cougars did even the score at 28, they also left the Huskies just enough time for a game-winning drive. UW quarterback Keith Price led a drive, setting up a 35-yard field goal attempt by Travis Coons. With the game in the balance, Coons’ attempt sailed wide right of the uprights and instilled new life in the Cougar team.

As Seattle Times’ columnist Bud Withers remarked, “it’s not a stretch to suggest that WSU seemed fated to win.”

WSU’s defense held strong in overtime as defensive lineman Toni Pole intercepted a Keith Price pass and stumbled and bumbled his way to the UW 5-yard line. Andrew Furney booted in the 27-yard attempt, completing the largest ever comeback in an Apple Cup game.


 

1991: UW wins 56-21 in Seattle

Washington State quarterback Drew Bledsoe gets pulled down by Huskies Emtman. (Rod Mar / The Seattle Times, 1991)

Washington State quarterback Drew Bledsoe gets pulled down by Huskies Emtman. (Rod Mar / The Seattle Times, 1991)

Having already sealed both a Pac-10 title and a trip to the Rose Bowl, the 10-0 Huskies entered the 1991 Apple Cup with their sights set on a national championship. Head Coach Don James and the Huskies also entered the day having won 12 of the last 16 matchups with Washington State, including the previous two.

In a seemingly lopsided affair, the game as much excitement as any other that season for Husky fans. As former UW football reporter Bob Condotta pointed out, Washington’s 7-6 deficit after the first quarter marked just the second time all season the Huskies trailed a team after one quarter. And while WSU sophomore quarterback Drew Bledsoe offered a glimpse of what Cougar fans would come to cherish – throwing for 430 yards against a stout Husky defense – it was far from enough to take down the behemoth that Washington had become that season.

Washington quarterbacks Joe Hobert and Mark Brunell combined for four touchdown passes on the day, while a late interception by Husky safety Tommie Smith delivered the dagger to Washington State and its upset bid. Even with the 56-21 shellacking, Coach James was far from happy with the effort, saying postgame: “I wasn’t very pleased with the way we played. I don’t think we could play like that and expect to win a lot of games.”
James’ Huskies would go on to complete their unblemished 12-0 season en route to their second national title with a convincing 34-14 Rose Bowl victory over Michigan.


 

1992: WSU wins 42-23 in Pullman

The 1992 Apple Cup was played in heavy snow in Pullman. (Rod Mar / The Seattle Times)

The 1992 Apple Cup was played in heavy snow in Pullman. (Rod Mar / The Seattle Times)

If you ever want to make a Coug fan smile, all that is needed is two words: “Snow Bowl”.

On a blustery day in Pullman with snow falling and wind chills reaching negative-18 degrees, a much-improved 7-3 WSU team hosted the defending champion Huskies, who entered with a 9-1 record and already having secured a Rose Bowl berth for the second-straight year. Washington had bullied the Cougars for the better part of a decade, having won five of the previous six meeting. But this was a game where the bullied Cougars decided to do a little bullying of their own.

While the blizzard-like conditions hindered the Huskies, Bledsoe was unphased. The legendary WSU quarterback three for 260 yards and two touchdowns despite the snow, including perhaps the most important touchdown pass in Washington State football history. The play came in the third quarter as the Cougars had found themselves in an early 7-6 hole as the weather had acted as the best defensive player for both teams to that point. But despite the swirling winds, Bledsoe dropped back and hurled a 44-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Philp Bobo, who caught the ball over a Husky defender in the back of the end zone and promptly slid into a mound of snow underneath the goal posts. The touchdown connection sparked a 29-point outburst by the Cougars in the third quarter and an eventual 42-23 win,  and instantly etched its place into Cougar lore, as the moment is now widely regarded as the greatest in Cougar history.


 

1981: UW wins 23-10 in Seattle

Members of the UW Marching Band cheer with the crowd at Husky Stadium. (Barry Wong / The Seattle Times, 1981)

Members of the UW Marching Band cheer with the crowd at Husky Stadium. (Barry Wong / The Seattle Times, 1981)

1981 was a year in which Cougs and Huskies alike yearn to replicate. It was an Apple Cup matchup for the ages, as the Cougs entered the game with an 8-1-1 record and looking to make their first Rose Bowl appearance in 50 years. Meanwhile, the Huskies – fresh off a Rose Bowl appearance of their own – entered the game with a record of 8-2, needing a win and a little help to get back to Pasadena. On that Seattle day, both the Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl were on the line – just like Cougar and Husky fans had always dreamed of.

The game itself didn’t quite live up to the anticipation, at least not until after an unfortunate turn of events for the Cougars in the first half. Leading 7-3, and in complete control, WSU quarterback Clete Casper went down with an injury. After that, Washington took over and never looked back en route to a decisive 23-10 victory in front of a then record 60,052 Husky Stadium crowd.

The win was especially sweet for the Huskies, as the team received help by way of a USC victory over UCLA on that day to help buoy Washington to its second straight trip to Pasadena and third Rose Bowl appearance in just five years. Meanwhile, WSU was left with the bitter sting of defeat, having let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers.


 

2007: WSU wins 42-35 in Seattle

Brandon Gibson runs a 40 yard pass from Alex Brink into the endzone to tie the score at 35 with 7:29 to play. (Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times, 2007)

Brandon Gibson runs a 40 yard pass from Alex Brink into the endzone to tie the score at 35 with 7:29 to play. (Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times, 2007)

The 100th meeting between the two teams also turned into one of the most thrilling. In what was a classic shootout between Washington’s Jake Locker and Washington State’s Alex Brink, the Cougars stunned the Husky crowd in Seattle, taking down the Dawgs in the game’s waning minutes, 42-35.

The Huskies jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead, before Washington State rebounded to take a 28-20 lead in the second half. That’s when Locker and the Huskies seemed to take control, scoring consecutive touchdowns to regain a 35-28 advantage in the fourth quarter. But Brink and the Cougs would not be outdone on this brisk November day in Seattle. In his last game for Washington State, the senior quarterback rebounded immediately with a touchdown pass to knot the game at 35-35. The Cougs would get the ball back to set up the thrilling finale with 2:18 remaining. With 37 seconds to play and the ball on the 35-yard line, Brink dropped back on a play-action fake, nearly getting sacked, and delivered a strike to wide receiver Brandon Gibson for the dagger.

Brink ended the day with 399 yards and five touchdowns in one of the greatest Apple Cup performances in history. The win also marked Brink’s third defeat of the Huskies in four tries; most ever by a Cougar quarterback.


 

1975: UW wins 28-27 in Seattle

Al Burleson returned an interception 93 yards for a touchdown during the Apple Cup game between the UW and WSU in 1975. (Vic Condiotty / The Seattle Times), 1975

Al Burleson returned an interception 93 yards for a touchdown during the Apple Cup game between the UW and WSU in 1975. (Vic Condiotty / The Seattle Times), 1975

After a disappointing 5-5 start to the season, Husky fans were unsettled with the team and first-year coach Don James. Tensions only escalated after the Huskies fell behind the Cougars (3-7) by 13 points late in the game, after entering the contest as a double-digit favorite. The Cougars had the ball and the lead in Husky territory when WSU coach Jim Sweeney opted for the knockout punch rather than settling for a field goal that likely would have iced the game. On fourth-and-one from the UW 14-yard line, WSU quarterback John Hopkins threw a pass over the middle that was picked off by UW safety Al Burleson and returned 93 yards for a touchdown. The Huskies got the ball back With 1:58 to play and needed a touchdown to win. Quarterback Warren Moon heaved a deep pass toward wide receiver Spider Gaines. Two WSU defensive backs couldn’t pick it off, and the ball was tipped into the arms of Gaines, who took the ball the rest of the way for a touchdown and a 28-27 UW victory.

The game was one WSU fans never would forget. For the Huskies, it was the beginning of the program’s greatest era to date, with Don James at the helm.


 

1982: WSU wins 24-20 in Pullman

WSU fans, hungry for a victory over the hated Huskies, tore down the goalposts following the WSU win that knocked Washington out of the Rose Bowl. Credit: Chris Johns / The Seattle Times, 1982

WSU fans, hungry for a victory over the hated Huskies, tore down the goalposts following the WSU win that knocked Washington out of the Rose Bowl. Credit: Chris Johns / The Seattle Times, 1982

Don James entered his first game in Pullman, with his Huskies 7-0, ranked No. 5 in the country and the Rose Bowl on the line against the two-win Cougars. WSU Coach Jim Walden, however, was intent on ruining Washington’s hopes for a trip to Pasadena. Walden and the Cougars did their best to switch things up on the Huskies, according to WSU sports information. WSU moved the Apple Cup to Pullman after 28 years of competing in Spokane, switched the date of the game, wore all crimson for the first time since the 1931 Rose Bowl and switched from a two-quarterback system to a single quarterback in senior Clete Casper.

The Cougars, who were 18-point underdogs, rallied behind the Martin Stadium crowd from a 17-7 halftime deficit to pull ahead in the second half. But after a costly interception by Casper, the game seemed all but over for Washington State as UW lined up for a field goal that would have put the Huskies ahead 23-21. But UW kicker Chuck Nelson, who hadn’t missed a kick all season, missed the 32-yard attempt and the Cougars went on to win, 24-20. WSU fans stormed the field and tore down the goal posts.

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. Opinions expressed are those of authors, and The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

 

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