Saturday, November 26, 2011

2011 Apple Cup preview!

By Kshell

That time of the year again where the two states biggest universities clash as the Washington State Cougars(4-7,2-6) travel to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies(6-5,4-4) in a battle for states bragging rights the apple cup. Both teams are limping into this contest as the Huskies have lost three games in a row and four of their last five games. While the Cougars have lost seven out of their past eight games and will not be going to a bowl game for the eighth straight season. The Huskies lead the all-time series 66-31-6 and have won the last two meetings. This game will be emotional for the Cougars seniors as this will be their final game they ever get to play in. Due to injury they will be starting Marshall Lobbestael at quarterback who is a senior. For the Huskies they feature plenty of seniors who are departing the program such as Alameda Ta'amu, Jermaine Kearse, Devin Aguilar, Erik Folk and Cort Dennison. The Huskies will also see Keith Price start his first career apple cup game. The last quarterback to start his first career apple cup game and earn the victory was Carl Bonnell back in 2006(last time the Cougars didn't have a losing record). This should appears to feature plenty of offense as both offenses are pretty explosive in the passing game.

The Cougars are heading into this game led by their senior backup quarterback Marshall Lobbestael. For the year Lobbestael has completed 59.9% of his passes for 2,240 yards(7.5 YPA) with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Lobbestael this year has a 4-4 record in eight starts this season. For all the complaining about him the Cougars have yet to win a game that he hasn't start this season. His favorite receiver is Marquis Wilson who is having a monster season with 75 receptions for 1,280 yards(17.1 YPC) with 10 touchdowns. Their second leading receiver Isiah Barton who will miss this game has 49 receptions for 638 yards with five touchdowns. The Cougars also have Jared Karstetter who has 51 receptions for 618 yards with five touchdowns. The Cougars running game is pretty weak but they do use three different guys. The first guy is Ricky Galvin who has ran for 586 yards(5.5 YPC) with five rushing touchdowns. Next in line is Carl Winston who has ran for 422 yards(3.6 YPC) with four touchdowns. The third back they use is Logwone Mitz who has rushed for 135 yards(3.8 YPC) with a touchdown. Lobbestael will try to revenge the last time he faced the Huskies which ended with the Huskies winning 30-0 in Steve Sarkisian's first year. For the game Lobbestael was 9-22 for 71 yards passing as he was ineffective all game long. He is now a senior in year four of Paul Wulff's system so he'll have a much better day than he did on that day.

The Huskies offense is led by Chris Polk who is most likely playing in his final apple cup. Polk has torched the Cougars in his career. As a redshirt freshman Polk carried the ball 25 times for 130 yards(5.2 YPC) with a touchdown while adding two receptions for 16 yards. That is a really good game which the Huskies would take this Saturday. The thing is the next year Polk dominated the Cougars over in Pullman carrying the ball 29 times for the second highest total in Huskies history with 284 yards(9.8 YPC) with two touchdowns. He also had two receptions for 18 yards as Polk in his career has ran for 414 yards with three touchdowns while having 34 yards receiving in just two games. Polk is enjoying his best season as a Husky as he has ran for 1,241 yards(5.1 YPC) with 10 rushing touchdowns. He has also caught 27 passes for 288 yards with three receiving touchdowns. Polk is licking his chops against the Cougars this Saturday especially with the return of Keith Price so he won't have to face eight man boxes.

The Huskies sophomore quarterback Keith Price returns from injury to start his first career apple cup game. Also important to note that Price is two touchdown passes away from tying Cody Pickett's single season record and three touchdown passes away from breaking it. For the year Price has completed 66.9% of his passes for 2,334(7.9 YPA) with 26 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. The Huskies have several different guys who make plays in the passing game. Starting with Devin Aguilar who has 34 receptions for 508 yards(14.9 YPC) with four touchdowns. Then you have Jermaine Kearse who leads the team in receptions with 37 for 439 yards(11.9 YPC) with six touchdown grabs. Kearse like Polk has had big apple cup moments. Last year he caught the game winning touchdown pass from Jake Locker. As a sophomore  Kearse had four receptions for 94 yards with a touchdown. Then last year had six grabs for 178 yards with two touchdowns including a 66 yarder he busted on a slant then scored the game winner on a fade route. The Huskies will have two other guys playing in their first apple cup's in Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams. Seferian-Jenkins is having a fine freshman season with 32 receptions for 417 yards which ranks third on the team in both then is tied for team lead with six touchdown receptions. For Williams he has 28 receptions for 334 yards with four touchdowns. Williams has been coming on as of late in the last four games Williams has 16 receptions for 237 yards with two touchdowns. The future is bright for those two as they hope to shine in their first career apple cup.

This is an interesting apple cup due to the fact that this could be Washington State Cougars head football coach Paul Wulff's last game as Cougars coach. In four seasons with the Cougars Wulff is currently 9-39(4-31 in conference). For most programs who value winning he would be fired but this is the Cougars who value moral victories. Rumors circling around that Wulff can save his job with a win or even a close defeat to the Huskies. His counterpart Steve Sarkisian is 2-0 in the Apple Cup looking to join Don James and Rick Neuheisel as coaches who began their career 3-0 against the Cougars. In fact dating back to his USC days Sarkisian has won seven games in a row against the Cougars. For Sarkisian he is leading his Huskies to a bowl game in back to back years while Wulff still hasn't won 10 games in four seasons.

In conclusion, this rivalry has been one sided throughout history. Both programs are vastly different the fact that a 9-39 coach is even considered to be brought back is an embarassment. These teams both feature strong offenses and weak defenses. If you're a casual fan and like to see scoring this is the game as you'll see plenty of playmakers like Polk for the Huskies and Wilson for the Cougars have huge mismatches against the other teams defense. This game will also be played at Century Link Field where the Seahawks play which should add a new wrinkle to this rivalry. This should be a fun game as the Huskies hope to build some momentum heading into their bowl game. For the Cougars they are fighting to save their coaches job.

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