UPDATE: UW wins 28-15
I covered my first Apple Cup for KOMO TV in 2000. It was in Pullman and if the Huskies won they would punch their ticket to the Rose Bowl. In the freezing cold the Huskies led by Marques Tuiasosopo beat the Cougs at Martin Stadium 51-3.
I remember interviewing offensive lineman Matt Rogers in the end zone, yes the same Matt Rodgers that went on to fame on American Idol, and all he did was sniff a live rose and kept yelling "Roses, Roses, Roses." It was a pretty cool day for the Huskies. One other thing I remember about that Apple Cup is how festive it was with all the WSU students there. It's still a great atmosphere and I prefer the Pullman environment for this rivalry game, but it doesn't seem to have the same electricity when it's played the day after Thanksgiving because so many students are gone for Thanksgiving weekend. Maybe this one will have that juice it's been lacking because so much will be on the line and the students will come back to school early.
Every Apple Cup is certainly unique but some stand out more than others. The 2008 Apple Cup in Pullman between the 0-10 Huskies and 1-10 Cougars should be a good indication of where both programs have gone over the past decade. I am sure Cougars and Huskies fans alike would like to see their teams maintain the success they have been having because we all know we have experienced the lowest of the low together when you recall 2008, that was a miserable year for college football in Washington.
This game should be a doozy. Just getting there will be an adventure. Snow in the passes and crazy weather just in time for so many fans to make the trek across the state for a 5:30 game that could have a nice mix of rain and snow and freezing temperatures come game time should make for some interesting stories and some stressed out drivers.
Here are some of the things I will be watching Friday over at Martin Stadium.
The Running backs
I like watching Myles Gaskin work his magic on the football field. The Huskies all time leading rusher is shifty and he has an ease that he plays with that often permeates through the rest of the offense. We saw how the Huskies struggle without him, the Huskies lost to Cal 12-10 on a day the offense would rather soon forget. Gaskin and his shoulder benefited from the late bye week. He returned last week and ran for 135 yards against Oregon State and seems determined to win his last Apple Cup Saturday. Asked about this year's game against WSU and the fact it's for the PAC 12 North Title, "There's no other way, that's how you want to do it..in home rivalry and just have fun with it."
James Williams has been a fun back to watch this season for the Cougars. Williams is just as good taking a hand off and cranking out some yards as he is catching a pass in the flat and turning it into a big gain. Williams has 10 rushing TD's this season and 487 yards on the ground and through the air he has 69 catches for 530 yards and four receptions for touchdowns. Williams is a player the Husky defense will need to account for on every play or he will be a menace all day long.
WSU Offense/Husky Secondary
This is the one everyone has been talking about for week. It's plain and simple, Washington State's air raid offense and PAC 12 passing leader Gardner Minshew going head to head with the best secondary he will face this season. Jimmy Lake's UW defense has stopped Mike Leach's attack before but this year is different with Minshew leading the way offensively for the Cougs.
Minshew is evasive, can duck out of trouble and he can extend plays giving receivers valuable time to get open. The Cougars have allowed only nine sacks all season, that's seventh best among FBS schools. It will be hard for the Huskies to take down Minshew but the key will be to disrupt him and not allow the Cougar quarterback all sorts of time to sit back and pick apart the UW defense.
UW Quarterback Jake Browning has never lost an Apple Cup game. He is looking to go 4-0 for his career against the Cougars and knows what it's like to play in Pullman and win in Pullman. This hasn't been Brownings best season, he's adjusted to a new offensive coordinator and he has gone through a season without his steady bailout target Dante Pettis. But Browning is tough and likely doesn't mind being the quarterback no one is talking about coming into this game. Browning knows if he wants to finish his career as a Husky at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the Huskies need to win the Apple Cup. No quarterback in UW Football history has ever won the Apple Cup 4 straight times.
The guy everyone "is" talking about is on the other side taking snaps for the Cougars. Graduate transfer Gardner Minshew is on the Palouse for one year and his entire season in Pullman has been one Long Weekend at Bernie's minus the boat. He leads the PAC 12 in passing. He's mentioned in the Heisman conversation. He has led the Cougs to a 10-1 record and most of all Washington State is ranked eighth in the College Football playoff. Minshew is playing with a reckless abandon that suits the Cougars and Mike Leach. He doesn't seem to care if he is playing Marist College or Washington, he plans on doing what he always does; throwing passes and winning.
Boy this is going to be fun to watch.
Like a lot of you I will be heading over to Pullman on Friday morning and documenting our trip over on Twitter. Feel free to share your travel pics with me @MikeKOMOSports or on Instagram @hawkeyenw and we will see you in Pullman.
I will be live for all our sportscast from Pullman, I can't wait to see how this one turns out.
Apple Cup 111 is set to be an epic game.