Media personnel waited in silence as they held out their iPhones, hoping Washington State University coach, Mike Leach, might provide some answers to another Apple Cup disaster. The warehouse conditions of the room only emphasized the sense of irrelevancy produced by WSU’s 14-41 loss to University of Washington.
The Cougars lost the previous four of their Apple Cup matchups, outscored 148-57 in total. The Cougars defeated both Stanford and Utah this season, understandably fueling hopes for a balanced matchup with the Huskies this time around, considering UW’s losses to both Stanford and Utah this year.
Similar to last year, a win would have carried the Cougars to the Pac-12 conference championship game against University of Southern California. Unlike last year, the Huskies were no longer in contention due to their loss at Stanford.
Washington State’s loss in the Apple Cup means Stanford will have a shot at the Pac-12 title instead.
When Leach finally arrived for the post-game press conference, he said Washington’s strategy against the Cougars did not differ from the strategy the Huskies used to defeat other teams.
“I kind of do get a kick out of it, you know,” Leach said, addressing the reporters, “they’ll rank them on the nation’s top recruiting classes and then ours comes in at whatever you rank that. And then if we don’t beat Washington, then you’re stunned. How’d this happen?”
“Right now we’re in a long line of a lot of people,” he said, referring to the long list of other teams Washington has beat.
From the start it was clear the Huskies were hungry to dominate the Cougars. Their opening drive culminated in a two-yard rushing touchdown by Myles Gaskin.
In contrast, it seemed the Cougars did not show up at all. On the ensuing drive, the Huskies forced Cougar offense to a three-and-out and a punt. Washington’s wide receiver, Dante Pettis, was hit immediately on the return and left the game with an injured foot, prompting an indignant roar from the 71,265 fans in attendance.
WSU’s punter, Erik Powell, was the only player to show up for the Cougars that night. Three of his four punts were downed deep in Husky territory, preventing a dangerous return by the home team.
Punts, however, do not win football games.
Though one of the most dangerous Husky players was taken care of early on, the Cougars could not keep up with Gaskin, allowing for a total of four touchdowns and 192 rushing yards.
Washington State quarterback, Luke Falk, had three interceptions, an overturned fumble and was sacked four times in his last Apple Cup.
“You turn it over four times, it’s a bad night,” Falk said. “I don’t think I played that well and I didn’t give my team a chance.”
“It’s disappointing,” WSU running back Jamal Morrow said. “You play the whole season and for it to come down to this game and lay a dud like we did, it sucks.”
Anyone would agree the Cougars had a good season this year. After all, defeating both teams that will face off in the conference championship game is no small feat. However, if the Cougars want to achieve something in any given season, they will need to find a way to clear the enduring obstacle that is the Huskies.