Another disappointing Apple Cup for WSU grad

I grew up in Puyallup, so I, of course, was a Huskies fan. I listened to football games on the radio, when there were only a handful of channels so sports didn’t dominate TV. When coach Jim Owens recruited quarterback Sonny Sixkiller and one of my sister’s friend’s brother, Jim Matter, who played defensive end, that’s when I was all about the UW.

I was thrilled when I got to sit up in the press box for my first UW game when I was in the eighth grade in 1971. A relative on the Seattle police force got me the pass. He was the one who delivered film from the game to the TV station. I’ll never forget Sixkiller throwing bombs to receivers Tommy Scott and Jim Kreig. I remember UW won like 28-20. The only thing I recall about Washington State University was their QB Ty Paine. That experience is what got me interested in being a sports journalist.

I was a fan during Warren Moon’s tenure, as he led them to the Rose Bowl in 1977.

I had always wanted to go the UW, but when I graduated from community college in 1978 at a time when I wanted to get far away from my parents I decided on WSU. Jack Thompson was our quarterback, and I remember some fun and not-so-fun games, but I honestly don’t recall either Apple Cup those years – other than we lost.

I do recall a couple years later when the winner of the Apple Cup would go to the Rose Bowl and we, I’m now talking as a Coug, lost. But we got revenge not only winning the following year, but also knocking them out of the Rose Bowl the year after that 24-20 when they were ranked No. 5.

A few years later we had the amazing Rueben Mayes at running back and beat the Dawgs in Seattle. We had another fun win a few years later when the UW “Dawg’d” it grabbing a 21-9 lead in the first quarter before losing 32-31.

I started to find a little room in my heart again for the UW in the early 1990s when fellow Viking Billy Joe Hobert was QB for UW.

But when Drew Bledsoe had that great game in 1992, with Mark Brunell then slinging for the Huskies. that was one of my favorite wins ever – the Snow Bowl. UW had tied Miami for the national title the previous year. And they were ranked No. 5 while we were ranked No. 25. But we won easily 42-21, knocking them out of the Rose Bowl. UW really “Dawg’d” it leading 7-6 before the Cougs rolled off 29 unanswered points.

It also didn’t feel as bad losing to UW when the Huard brothers Damon and Brock were at the helm as they also went to Puyallup High School.

The most-important Apple Cup win in my lifetime was in 1997, when QB Ryan Leaf led the Cougs to their first Rose Bowl berth in 67 years – that’s even older than me right now. He threw for 358 yards in a 41-35 thriller.

Of course UW got back at us a few years later, beating us when we were ranked No. 3 by a score of 29-26 in triple overtime.

Even though under Mike Price and Mike Leach WSU had some excellent teams they still have not done well in the 2000s against the Huskies, who always seem to have their number on defense, able to shut down their high-flying offenses that other teams have a hard time stopping. Losses from 2015-18 were especially hard because we had ranked teams but were blown out.

Considering how poorly we’ve done against UW the past two decades I was shocked about how easily we beat them last year 40-13, especially with it being in Seattle.

But with the addition of Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr., the Huskies are a different team this year. He certainly deserved to be in the discussion for the Heisman Trophy, leading the nation in passing much of the year. I was actually shocked they lost two games, especially the one to Arizona State.

I had hope because of WSU’s strong defense. But I frankly have not been that impressed with highly touted WSU QB Cameron Ward, who can throw darts 5- to 10-yards, but seldom throws downfield. But considering our coaching turmoil the past year I’m more than happy with seven wins and a bowl game.

Ward missed some wide-open receivers early in the game and made a bonehead move not diving into the end zone for a 2-point conversion that would have tied it in the third quarter. He also held on to the ball too long on many occasions, but did make some amazing escapes.

We should have run the ball more to keep the defense off the field because they didn’t even show up for the game. A fumble recovery and interception in the end zone were their only two highlights.

UW’s offensive line controlled the game. Penix had all the time in the world to throw. It seemed like they could score at will.

Special teams also blew it, but their fake punt in the first half certainly was fun. The game was frustrating for WSU fans, but we’re used to it.