Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Huskies win Apple Cup 38-21 for third straight year!

By Kshell

For the third straight season the Washington Huskies(7-5,5-4) defeated their cross state rivals the Washington State Cougars(4-8,2-6) in the 104th meeting of the Apple Cup. The Huskies who are headed towards another bowl game for the second straight season while the Cougars are missing a bowl game for the eighth straight season. The Huskies were led by three touchdown passes by Keith Price who returned from injury. Price also passed Cody Pickett to become the all-time single season touchdown leader in Huskies history. The Huskies also saw two true freshman made their apple cup debuts pretty special especially Kasen Williams who caught two of Price's three touchdown passes. The Huskies under Steve Sarkisian have yet to trail in a single Apple Cup in three years improve to 3-0 in the Sarkisian era in this game.

The Huskies won the coin toss and chose to receive to begin the game. After the Cougars stopped the Huskies on a third and one they took over possession on their own 21 yard like after a Keil Rasp 46 yard punt. That is when the Cougars went backwards first with a false start then with an intentional grounding. After a short pass that went for nothing the Cougars were facing a third and 26 which Marshall Lobbestael completed well short of the first down. Punting from their own 20 yard line the Huskies tried to block the punt. The Huskies backup linebacker Thomas Tutogi blocked the punt which went high into the air as Jesse Callier caught the punt on the two yard line and walked into the endzone to give the Huskies an early 7-0 lead over their rival the Cougars. That was the Huskies first blocked punt since the 2006 Apple Cup when Chris Stevens blocked the punt.

The Huskies offense would stall due to a costly penalty while the defense led by Alameda Ta'amu continued to stop the Cougars. After a poor punt the Huskies took over possession on their own 45 yard line. The Cougars immediately jumped offsides giving the Huskies a first and five at midfield. Lining up in a "wildcat" formation Callier took the direct handoff then ran 30 yards down to the Cougars 20 yard line. After Price threw an incompletion, Chris Polk who had a big game last year rushing for 284 yards would rush for just four yards this time. That would set up a pretty big third and six from the 16 yard line. That is when Price would hit Kasen Williams on the back shoulder as Williams caught the touchdown with both feet down .It was an incredible pass and catch for two guys who will be playing in two more apple cups together. That touchdown pass gave the Huskies a 14-0 lead over the Cougars heading into the second quarter.

The next two series saw two huge swings in momentum. First for the Cougars their offense finally got going but Ricky Galvin fumbled on the Huskies 23 yard line. Then with a chance to put the Cougars away the Huskies went on a nice eight play drive which started off with Price completing his first three passes for 45 yards down to the Cougars 31 then Polk ran for 11 more to the Cougars 20 yard line. That is when the Huskies offense stalled key by a huge third down drop by Austin Seferian-Jenkins which was especially painful after Erik Folk missed a 37 yard field goal as the Huskies still only remained up 14-0.

With the momentum now wearing Crimson the Cougars finally took advantage going on a 13 play, 80 yard drive which saw them convert three separate third downs. Facing a third and eight from their own 22 Lobbestael hit Marques Wilson for a gain of 12 yards. Later in the drive from the Huskies 31 facing a third and nine Lobbestael threw a designed screen to Galvin for a gain of 19 yards to offset the Huskies pass rush down to the 12 yard line. Facing a third and four from the six yard line to avoid the pressure Lobbestael ran it in for the touchdown but the Cougars were called for a holding taking the score off the board. Facing a third and 14 from the 16 Lobbestael fired one in there to Jarred Karstetter for the 16 yard touchdown to pull the game within 14-7.

The Cougars feeding off that momentum then three and outed the Huskies powerful offense getting the ball back. From their own 34 yard line the Cougars actually started to run the ball some. Carl Winston had back to back runs of four yards setting up a third and two which Galvin ran for three yards to their own 45 yard line. After a six yard pass by Lobbestael he then ran for six yards to the Huskies 43 yard line. Lobbestael then would have back to back completions for 27 yards to the Huskies 16 yard line. Lobbestael like he did the previous series would hit Wilson for a 16 yard touchdown to tie up the game at 14-14 with just a little over two minutes left in the half.

The Cougars tried to squib kick it as Tutogi caught the ball and ran it 14 yards to their own 39 yard line. Polk would rush for two yards then Price would hit Jermaine Kearse for a gain of nine yards to the 50 yard line. After a short run by Price he would hit Devin Aguilar for a gain of eight yards to the Cougars 41 yard line. Facing a third and one the Huskies gave it to Polk for a gain of two yards. On the next play Price would hit Williams on a crossing route in which Williams leaped the defender to gain an extra six yards. Williams on the play would go for 18 yards to the Cougars 21 yard line. Price on the ensuing play would scramble out of pressure to his left to find Williams who turned his defender around for the touchdown. With that touchdown pass Price had tied Cody Pickett's single season touchdown record with 28. For Williams that was his first of many multiple touchdown games of his career. More importantly the Huskies took a 21-14 lead heading into halftime against the Cougars while stealing back momentum.

The Cougars began the second half with the ball on their own 14 yard line. The Cougars would go on a nine play drive stalling on the Huskies 43 yard line. Facing a third and one from the Huskies 43 Lobbestael threw an incomplete pass. Cougars head coach Paul Wulff decided to punt the ball to the Huskies pinning them on their own three yard line. The Huskies would move the ball so they could punt and pin the Cougars after Ta'amu recorded his second sack of the game. Taking back over on their own 40 yard line Price went to work. Price in the shotgun would play action pass to a wide open Seferian-Jenkins for a gain of 20 yards to the Cougars 40 yard line. On the next play Price would hit Kearse over the middle for another gain of 18 yards to the Cougars 22 yard line both on play action passes. Polk then went in motion wide left as Price hit him on the fade pass for the 22 yard touchdown pass. For Price that was the record setter as he just passed Pickett for most touchdown passes in a single season for Huskies history. For Polk that was his fourth receiving touchdown of the season all on fade passes. More importantly the Huskies had a 28-14 lead at that point.

The Cougars would immediately respond to the score as Galvin ran back the kick 37 yards to their own 38 yard line. After a run that went for no gain Lobbestael would complete a pass for nine yards then the Huskies committed a 15 yard penalty giving the Cougars the ball on the Huskies 38 yard line. The Cougars put the ball in their best playmakers hands as Lobbestael threw a bubble screen to the right to Wilson as Wilson broke a tackle and scampered for a 38 yard touchdown to pull the Cougars within seven points. Not to be overshadowed by Williams but Wilson also caught his second touchdown pass of the game. The Huskies offense would go three and out as Nick Montana briefly made an appearance. The Huskies defense would then three and out the Cougars. The Huskies offense go on a seven play drive accounting for 40 yards as the drive ended with Folk making a 46 yard field goal to give the Huskies a 31-21 lead with 13 minutes left in the game.

After both teams traded punts with 10 minutes to go in the game is when the Huskies finally pulled away. Facing a second and 10 from their own 47 the Cougars called a double pass which Lobbestael threw the ball to the receiver on a bubble screen who threw the ball back to Lobbestael. The Huskies didn't bite at all as Lobbestael threw the ball to Wilson who was covered well by Desmond Trufant, Trufant then batted the ball to safety Sean Parker who intercepted the pass. Parker ran 23 yards to the Huskies 31 yard line where the offense took over. Price was scrambling found an open Seferian-Jenkins who rumbled 31 yards to the Cougars 38 yard line. That is when Chris Polk would take over the ball game who up until that point was quiet. Polk would rush for nine yards then facing a third and one would rush for two more yards. The Huskies committed a costly penalty making it second and 20 from the Cougars 37 yard line. Polk took the sweep 34 yards down to the Cougars three yard line and was horse collared for a two yard penalty. Two plays later Polk would rush for the touchdown giving him 11 for the season as the Huskies took a commanding 38-21 lead.

The Huskies won this game 38-21 over the Cougars as they head to their second straight bowl game. For the Cougars they were led by senior Lobbestael who was 29-42(69.0%) for 344 yards(8.2 YPA) passing with three touchdowns and one interception. His main receivers were Wilson who had seven receptions for 108 yards with two touchdowns. Karstetter had nine receptions for 82 yards with a touchdown.

For the winners the Huskies were led by Keith Price who was 21-29(72.4%) for 291 yards(10.0 YPA) with three touchdowns and no interceptions. As usual Price spread the ball around as his leading receiver was freshman Kasen Williams who had five receptions for 74 yards with two touchdowns. Another true freshman played well in Austin Seferian-Jenkins who had four receptions for 62 yards. Senior Jermaine Kearse had five receptions for 62 yards. Kevin Smith had two for 39 yards while Polk had two for 36 yards with a touchdown. Speaking of Polk he carried the ball 22 times for 100 yards(4.5 YPC) and a rushing touchdown. Jesse Callier who scored that touchdown on the blocked punt also had four carries for 44 yards(11.0 YPC) while catching a pass. The Huskies defense recorded a season high seven sacks led by Ta'amu and Josh Shirley. The Huskies held the Cougars to just 38 yards rushing on 29 attempts.

All in all, this was a tale of two programs going in opposite direction. For the second straight apple cup Cougar fans don't know if this was Wulff's last game as Cougars head coach. For the Huskies for the second straight apple cup they are playing in another game after this. Chris Polk in three career apple cups never lost to the Cougars while rushing for over 100 yards with a touchdown in each game. The Huskies also showed with Price, Williams and Seferian-Jenkins all who have eligibility for the next two seasons after this year that the Huskies should continue to dominate this rivalry for a while. This was a good win for the Huskies as they needed some momentum heading into their bowl game(most likely the Alamo Bowl) like they did last year. For Sarkisian beating your rivals is a good way to maintain friends at Montlake. For these seniors who as freshman lost to the Cougars to go 0-12 these past three years must have felt great.


- The Huskies sure are a much different team with a healthy Keith Price vs when he isn't healthy or not even playing. The Cougars came into this game with the focus of stopping Chris Polk and while they didn't totally stop him they definately contained him. Which meant this game was up to Price to hit passes which he did. Price was 21-29 for 291 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Price was on fire throughout the game and once Sarkisian let him air it out in the second half the Huskies offense wasn't going to be stopped. Price like he typically does spread the ball around the field completing passes to seven different receivers during this game. Playing in his first career Apple Cup Price appears headed to be another Cougar killer much like Jake Locker, Cody Pickett, Brock Huard and Marques Tuiasosopo was.

For the year Price who heading into the season was the big question mark had a fantastic season. Price completed 67.4%(school record is 65%) of his passes this season for 2,625(8.1 YPA) yards on the season. He threw for 29 touchdowns(new school record) to only 11 interceptions on the year. He has a QB rating of 107.5 for the season and this year had a QB rating over 100 in six of his 11 starts. He only had a QB rating under 80 just twice this season. Price who has had an incredible season proved the future at Montlake is bright as he is just a sophomore.

- For senior Co-Captain Jermaine Kearse this has been a tough season for him. He was Jake Locker's favorite receiver and with Sarkisian bringing in Kasen Williams and Kevin Smith that ate into Kearse's numbers. Factor in the Huskies having a tight end, Polk catches passes plus Aguilar and James Johnson returning to health that made for a trying season for Kearse. Kearse numbers wise had his worst season since he was a freshman. He did bounce back against the Cougars who has always destroyed with five catches for 62 yards including an 18 yard reception in which he stiff armed the defender. For the year Kearse finished with 42 receptions for 501 yards with six receiving touchdowns and he also rushed for a touchdown as well.

-  Speaking of Kasen Williams a star has emerged this past month for the Huskies. The heralded five star recruit from Skyline high school struggled out of the gate for the Huskies. In his first six career games Williams had just 12 receptions for 97 yards with two touchdowns. Not really taking the college football scene by storm like everyone had hoped well Williams has since turned it around. Including his latest effort of five receptions for 74 yards and two touchdowns Williams has been the Huskies most consistent receiver of late. In the Huskies past five games Williams has 21 receptions for 311 yards with four touchdowns. For the season Williams finished with 33 receptions for 408 yards and tied the team high with six touchdown receptions. Not to mention he handled punt returns all season long averaging seven yards per return and more importantly didn't have a single fumble all year long. Williams with two seniors graduating looks to be the guy next season. He could turn into another Williams who used to torment the Cougars in the Apple Cup. Williams is a star on the rise that is for sure and look for him to have a breakout season next year.

- The Cougars offensive line features four senior starters. That is scary for the Cougars as the Huskies defensive line just absolutely dominated them. The Huskies recorded a season high 11.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. The Huskies were led by senior co-captain Alameda Ta'amu who was a force all game long much like last year in the Holiday Bowl. Everytime Lobbestael went back to pass he was dropped even if he completed the pass. The Huskies played true freshman Danny Shelton most of the game alongside Ta'amu which really helped Josh Shirley who is also a freshman get in on Lobbestael practically every single play. The Huskies defensive line put the Cougars in several third and long situations where they could bring the blitz. The Cougars offense couldn't overcome the Huskies defensive line which proved to be too dominant for the Cougars.

- For Chris Polk he didn't have a great game like last year but he still had a solid game. Polk ran for 4.5 YPC as he rushed for 100 yards with a touchdown. He also had 36 yards receiving with a receiving touchdown on the game too. Polk has been dynamic all season long in the passing game. The Cougars were set to shutdown Polk and while facing eight man boxes all game long he still found a way to rush for 100 yards. Heading into the fourth quarter he had just 11 carries for 48 yards, in the fourth quarter he had 11 carries for 52 yards with the back breaking touchdown. In his career in the apple cup now Polk has ran for 514 yards(6.8 YPC) with four rushing touchdowns. He has also caught six passes for 70 yards with a touchdown. He has dominated the Cougars and since he is a redshirt junior I'm sure most Cougars are hoping that is the last time they ever have to see him again.

For the season Polk ran for 1,341 yards(5.1 YPC) with 11 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 29 passes for 324 yards with four touchdowns. All three are career highs for Polk as he proved he is a complete running back who can pound you but beat you through the passing game. There is a good chance Polk leaves after this year as he has no reason to come back other than breaking Napoleon Kaufman's career rushing record(he needs 200 in the bowl game to beat him). Polk has been  a terrific Husky and will be on the short list of Husky great running backs.

- Will this be the last time we see Paul Wulff? Wulff is currently having meetings on whether he'll come back or not. Wulff in four seasons with the Cougars is 9-40 as head coach, 6-40 against D-1 teams and 4-32 in conference. He inherited a mess and the team is improving. Still to go 4-8 in your fourth season and that doubling your previous career high shows you need to be let go.

As for Sarkisian he is back over .500 once again as he is 19-18 as head coach for the Huskies. He took over a program that went 0-12 and has led the Huskies to a bowl game in two of his three seasons. The Huskies lost Jake Locker to the top 10 of the NFL draft yet the offense including the quarterback play improved. Nobody has ever questioned Sarkisian's offense but going forward his defense needs to play more like they did in the Apple Cup. Sarkisian has never trailed in three career wins over the Cougars while Wulff has never had a lead against the Huskies in regulation in four career apple cup games.

In conclusion, the Huskies have done something the Cougars have never done which is win three straight apple cup games. The Huskies improved their series lead to 67-31-6 over the Cougars which has been as one sided as a rivalry can possibly be. The Huskies had plenty of guys step up who won't be on next years roster while also having several younger guys contribute as well. Now the goal for the Huskies is to win back to back bowl games for the first time since winning the Rose Bowl back to back years in the 1990 and 1991 seasons. The Huskies haven't won eight games in a season since 2001 so there is still plenty of goals to be abtained in this next bowl game. For the Cougars they completed the worst four year stretch in conference history as Wulff saw his team lose 40 games(average of 10 a season). The Cougars seniors like seniors prior to them will never know what a bowl game feels like. For the Huskies seniors this win has to feel great to be a part of 0-12 then to see the program rebuild the way it has is pretty special. The Huskies sitll have plenty of goals left on their season but at least they are back to beating the Cougars on a regular basis.

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