Saturday, December 4, 2010

Top five Husky Apple Cup wins

By Kshell

In this blog post I'll break down in my opinion the top five wins for the Huskies in the Apple Cup. Unlike the Cougar list this was a bit more challenging as there were more victories to choose from. The Huskies lead the all-time series 65-31-6 and have enjoyed some great stretches of success. From 1974-2003 the Huskies were 23-7(76.6%) against the Cougars. So as you can see I had a tough time narrowing down the five best games because to qualify the game had to be close. That would eliminate over half the victories for the Huskies who when they have a dominant team roll the Cougars.

5. November 23rd, 1996: #12 Washington Huskies(8-2,6-1) at Washington State(5-5,3-4)

This is a game that doesn't get brought up nearly enough in my opinion. This game featured two NFL quarterbacks in Brock Huard who was a Freshman squaring off against Sophomore quarterback Ryan Leaf. The Huskies were enjoying their best season under head coach Jim Lambright which saw the team coming into this game on a five game winning streak led by Corey Dillon on offense and Jason Chorak on defense. The Huskies were a balanced team which featured the run and a good defense which had allowed 14 points or less in four consecutive games.

The Cougars were playing for their third bowl game in a five years. The Cougars had defeated the Huskies back to back years in Pullman and three out of four in Pullman dating back to 1988. The Huskies came out in the first half and dominated led by the rushing of Corey Dillon. The Huskies took a 10-0 lead at halftime.

Then in the second half the Huskies extended the lead 24-0 behind three Corey Dillon rushing touchdowns of one,one and five yards. Dillon would rush for 155 yards on 38 carries.It was looking like the Huskies were going to kill the Cougars but the Cougars stormed back to tie the game up at 24-24. Led by Ryan Leaf who ran for a touchdown then threw for another. The Huskies would miss a field goal as time expired to force overtime.

In overtime freshman Huard would hit Jerome Pathon on third and goal from the nine yard line for a touchdown. In a game of inches facing a fourth and goal Leaf's pass to Chad Carpenter was ruled out of bounds. Carpenter caught the pass but catch was ruled out of bounds. The Huskies survived with a 31-24 win in overtime. Huard would throw end up 12 of 24 passing for 144 yards and one crucial touchdown. Leaf would have to settle for a "moral" victory for the second straight year.

4. November 18th, 1995: Washington State Cougars(3-7,2-5) at #22 Washington Huskies(6-3-1,5-1-1)

This was my first Apple Cup I ever attended and it was quite the first game I went to. Heading into the game the big news was Cougar coach benching Chad Davis who won the Cougars a bowl game the year before and defeated the Huskies. Price was starting a freshman that nobody knew about but at the end of the game was the talk of the game....Ryan Leaf.

The Huskies had no answer for Leaf as he threw for 291 yards on the day. The Cougars were looking to pull off a huge upset in this rivalries history not seen since 1982 leading the Huskies at halftime 14-6. In the third quarter Rashaan Shehee would bust a touchdown 86 yards as he was running down the sideline my dad picked me up on his shoulders so I can see Shehee would for a touchdown. Shehee just a young sophomore at the time would rush for an Apple Cup record 212 yards and three touchdowns.

Even with Shehee's performance and Senior quarterback Damon Huard becoming the all-time passing leader in Husky history in the same game the Huskies found themselves trailing the Cougars 22-15 in the fourth quarter. The Huskies would finally erupt scoring two touchdowns to take a 30-22 lead over the Cougars. Leaf would lead the Cougars down the field scoring a touchdown and then a two point conversation to tie the game up with two minutes to go.

In his final career game at Husky stadium Huard drove the Huskies down the field to Washington State three yard line setting up John Wales to kick the game winning field goal. He would make the field goal giving the Huskies a thrilling 33-30 win. Then after the game it was announced that USC had lost to UCLA meaning the Huskies would be Co Pac-10 champions.

3. November 22nd, 2003: #8 Washington State(9-2,6-1) at Washington Huskies(5-6,3-4)

In the straight year where the Cougars were ranked in the top 10 heading into the game while the Huskies were having a disappointing season. Just like in 2002 this game left Cougar fans wondering if they are cursed. With the USC Trojans appearing they would play for the Rose Bowl(they would actually get snubbed) it appeared the Cougars with a win here could play in a Rose Bowl believe it or not two years in a row.

The Huskies had a streak to keep up in this game. I'm not talking about the five game winning streak against the Cougars either. Hard to believe now but at the time Huskies hadn't had a losing season since 1976. The Huskies who were led by Cody Pickett and Reggie Williams didn't want to be known as the guys who broke the streak.

As the game went on the Cougars controlled the game in fact led 16-7 heading into the fourth quarter. Then the Husky Stadium magic happened as the Cougars turned the ball over seven times in the game including five interceptions by Matt Kegel and Josh Swogger. The Huskies would cut the lead to 16-14, then after the Cougars would make a field goal to go up 19-14 the Huskies had one final possession.

The Huskies were facing a fourth and two when Pickett hit Frederick with a one yard pass which Frederick using his speed blew by two Cougar defenders for a big gain. Then a little over a minute left Pickett on the Cougars 21 yard line went back to pass and fired a ball that split two Cougar defenders to freshman Corey Williams in the right corner of the end zone. The Huskies took a 20-19 lead but the Cougars would have one last chance to win the game. The Huskies would blitz Swogger as he avoided the sack he threw the ball up for grabs which was snatched by Marquis Cooper who ran it back for a 38 yard touchdown to clinch the win at 27-19.

This was the last time Husky Stadium would ever be electric again. The team and fans rushed the field after beating the Cougars showing just how far the Huskies program had fallen at the time. For the three straight year the Cougars would enter the rivalry as the favorite and would leave the game wondering how?! Why us?! This game was the classic defination of the term "Coug it".

2.November 23rd, 2002: Washington Huskies(6-5,3-4) at #3 Washington State(9-1,6-0)

As I detailed in an earlier blog post this game was the biggest heartbreaker for the Cougars. The Cougars held a 17-7 lead late in the fourth quarter before the Huskies came back to tie the game. The Huskies would take a 29-26 lead in the third quarter.

Kegel on the first play was attempting to throw a wide receiver screen only the Huskies Kai Ellis who had two sacks already blew the play up by crashing through the line, tapping the Kegel pass then catching the pass but ultimately dropping the pass. Had Ellis simply caught the ball Gordon Riese life would have been made a lot easier. Now if a pass is a backwards pass that is considered a live ball which the Huskies had recovered. If the pass is a forward pass that is an incomplete pass and the Cougars would have second down. Then after two minutes of discussion Riese finally made the call.

"The ruling on the field is that it was a backwards pass, Washington has recovered that pass the game is over!"- announced by head referee Riese which saw the Cougar fans embarass themselves. First of all the Huskies players stormed the field because in the Neuheisel days the Huskies had zero class as well. The fans then soon followed celebrating on the Cougars 50 yard line and players were taunting Cougar fans. What followed next was a disgrace to the Pac-10 as Cougar fans started throwing beer bottles onto the field at the Huskies players and fans. The Cougars were stunned that the year they were ranked third in the nation they would yet again lose the Apple Cup for the fifth straight year. No player on that Cougars roster will ever get to say he beat the Huskies.

The Huskies were led by the passing duo once again. Picket would complete 35 of 57 passes for 368 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He would also have added a rushing touchdown. His main weapon once again destroyed Trufant, Williams caught 12 passes for 169 yards giving him 23 receptions in two career games against Trufant. Gesser was enjoying a fine game before his injury completing 14 of 24 for 226 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The unsung hero's for the Huskies were John Anderson who after missing three field goals won Pac-10 special teams player of the week after drilling five in a row. Another one was true freshman Nate Robinson who would have a huge interception that gave the Huskies a chance to tie the score up.

1. November 22nd, 1975: Washington State Cougars(3-7,0-6) at Washington Huskies(5-5,4-2)

This is the biggest miracle finish to any Apple Cup in history. When I read about this game which has been well documented I'm still amazed how Washington State lost this game. You would have to try your hardest to blow this game and even then eight times out of ten you would still win.

Don James was coaching his first ever Apple Cup and struggling to win over the fans going 5-5 in his first year leading up to this game. While Washington State head coach Jim Sweeney was on the hot seat suffering through a winless Pac-8 season to date. The Cougars though jumped out to a 27-14 lead in this game. The rain was coming down hard in this game and Warren Moon and the offense was booed all game long as Moon was just 3 for 21 passing for 73 yards.

The Cougars were up 27-14 with under three minutes to go had the ball on the Huskies 14 yard line and managed to lose in regulation. Facing a fourth and one from the Huskies 14 yard line Sweeney decided to give in to his players who wanted to run up the score on the Huskies. Instead of kicking the field goal and ending the game right then and there he decided to go for it. Not only would Sweeney go for it but he would pass the ball in this miserable weather. What would happen next was pure disaster for Sweeney and the Cougars.

The pass was interecepted by Huskies safety Al Burleson(Yes he's related to former Seahawks receiver Nate) who sprinted down the sideline 93 yards to cut the lead to 27-21. Burleson at least made the game interesting. The Huskies then three and outed the Cougars getting the ball back. In another miracle the struggling Moon would fire a pass to Spider Gaines but under-throw him to two Cougars. The two Cougar defenders then hit each other as the ball reflected into Gaines hands for the touchdown. In front of only 25,000 remaining Husky fans they couldn't believe what they saw.

The Cougars head coach Jim Sweeney would never coach a game at Washington State ever again. While the winning coach Don James who wasn't popular his first two years might have even been fired if he had lost this game. James needed a miracle to defeat the Cougars on this day but overall he went 13-5 against the Cougars including winning his first seven Apple Cups. As always the lesson is don't get greedy had Sweeney just kicked the field goal or simply run the ball the Cougars win this game.

So that wraps up my top five Husky Apple Cup wins. I wish there was more media coverage on that 1975 game which still is pretty remarkable win. After reading this list you can now fully understand the term "Couged it". The Huskies have had some great Apple Cup wins but none that were as exciting as these five wins.

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