Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Biggest Apple Cup upset ever; flashback to 1982
This week when the Washington Huskies(5-6,4-4) travel to Pullman to take on the Washington State Cougars(2-9,1-7) you will hear the phrase "throw out the records when these two teams play". The Cougars have just two wins so on paper the Huskies should win and go bowling for the first time since 2002. Not so fast an even bigger mismatch occurred 28 years ago which is the very definition of upset. This game I'm going to talk about is the biggest upset in the Apple Cup history and also defines the rivalry.
In the 1982 game in Pullman the Huskies were ranked in the top five in the country. While the Cougars had just two wins all season while losing eight in a row to the Washington Huskies. The Huskies were coming off wins against #10 UCLA then stunned college football by defeating undefeated #3 Arizona State in Tempe 17-13. After the win the Huskies celebrated in the locker room passing out roses because they had just passed the difficult part of their schedule. This was a Husky team whose only loss on the year was to a guy named John Elway and were ranked first in the entire nation five weeks in a row. Don James was 7-0 against the Cougars nobody figured this would be a game let alone a Cougars win. This game was also being played in Pullman for the first time since 1950. What happened next still shocks anyone who witnessed that day.
November 20th, 1982: #5 Washington Huskies(9-1,6-1) at Washington State Cougars(2-7-1,1-4-1)
Schadenfreude: A German word that means is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others
The Washington Huskies entered this game as an overwhelming favorite over their rivals. The Huskies were a top five team in the nation while their rivals had just two wins one of which was against Oregon State who only had one victory. The Cougars were having a miserable season after 1981 which saw them play in their first bowl game in 50 years. This game however had one difference from previous Apple Cups. Previously when the Cougars were the home team they would play the game in Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane from 1952-1980 in which the Huskies dominated winning 12 out of 15 contests. This was the first year in 32 years that the students would get to witness the Apple Cup on campus. Earlier in the year head coach Jim Walden once said "Nothing in my job, not the Rose Bowls, not the Holiday Bowls, nothing is more important than beating the University of Washington."
Once the game started the 5th ranked Washington Huskies were taking care of business coming out to a 17-7 lead at halftime. The Huskies were a half away from their third consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl and another match up with the Michigan Wolverines was the speculation. This was at the time Don James best team he ever had and they were showing why in the first half. The game would change in the second half when quarterback Tim Cowen would hit previous seasons Apple Cup hero Paul Skansi would who fumble on their own 28 yard line. The Cougars would capitalize and score a touchdown to cut the lead to 17-14. The Pullman crowd was going crazy as they could taste the upset.
The Cougars then pinned the Huskies inside their own five yard line before forcing a three and out. After running the ball down the vaunted Huskies defense throat to the seven yard line when running back Tim Harris scored a seven yard touchdown untouched. The Cougars had taken the lead 21-17 as the Huskies were feeling their Rose Bowl slipping away. The Huskies would later settle for a field goal from All-American kicker Chuck Nelson who hadn't missed all season long to cut the lead to 21-20.
The Cougars had the ball clinging to a 21-20 lead with six minutes to go in the ball game. Quarterback Clete Casper who was hurt in last years ball game then threw a costly interception which appeared to cost the Cougars a chance at the upset. After seven plays the Huskies would settle for a field goal on the Cougars 15 yard line. It was a 32 yard for Nelson who hadn't missed all season long. His kick sailed past the goal post by a foot and the Martin Stadium crowd freaked out in shock and disbelief as the Cougars hung onto the lead.
The Huskies would get another shot in the game after the defense had stopped the Cougars. Cowen dropped back to pass only to fumble the ball. The Cougars would run down the clock and kick a field goal to extend the lead 24-20. After a last second hail marry was incomplete the Martin Stadium crowd had rushed the field tearing down the goal posts.
The Cougars had just knocked the Washington Huskies out of the Rose Bowl which sent shock waves throughout the Pac-10 and nation. The UCLA Bruins would be going to the Rose Bowl instead of the Huskies. Even though the Huskies would have a better record and going to a bowl game that didn't matter to the Cougars. You see the Cougars were feeling a bit of Schadenfreude knowing that they ruined the Huskies season. Pieces of that goal posts are still in various Pullman bars to this day.
This game defines the rivalry in so many ways. This game proves that a successful season to the Cougars is pretty simple just beat the Huskies. That is why you hear Cougar fans happy about 2008 despite going 2-11 because they beat the Huskies. That is why 2004-08 winning four of five Apple Cups means more than 2001-03 when they won 10 games three years in a row but never won an Apple Cup. This 1982 game also shows that no matter how superior one team is over another in a rivalry game you have to throw out the records.
Although the Huskies would enjoy a 21-20 win over Boomer Esiason and #16 Maryland while finishing the season 10-2 while ranked 7th in the nation none of that mattered. Don James after his career had finished said this 1982 loss hurt him more than any loss in his career. The Huskies had a chance to go to the Rose Bowl for the third consecutive year and possibly finish 11-1. The 1982 Washington Huskies had a chance to be remembered forever as one of the greatest Husky teams of all-time. Instead that team is forgotten all because of one day in Pullman.
As for the Cougars they would have history repeat itself. In 1983 the 8-2 Huskies needed to beat the Cougars to go to the Rose Bowl and again the Cougars would knock them out. That game may have been even more shocking since it was in Seattle and wasn't a fluke as the Cougars won 17-6. Possibly that was karma to the Huskies for knocking the Cougars out of the Rose Bowl in 1981. All I know is the 1982 Apple Cup defines this rivalry. When the Huskies win the game it's a non story, when the Cougars win the game it becomes legendary. Here is hoping this Saturday years from now will go down as a non story. Just remember to ignore the fact that Washington State is 2-9 because in this game you have to throw out the records.