It's much, much, much better to end the season with an Apple Cup win than it is to end it with an Apple Cup loss. This is especially true when a win avoids getting you skunked in Pac-10 play, and lets you finish out of the conference basement at 4-7. It was almost another depressing defeat. The Cougars squandered several scoring opportunities - three missed field goals and a sure touchdown dropped in the endzone.
Maybe what pulled the Cougs through was the uniforms. If you thought it was 1997, there was good reason. The Cougars played in silver pants and silver helmets with the "Cougars" script on the side - basically the identical uniforms worn by the 1997 team that recorded the last WSU win in Husky Stadium.
Saturday's Apple Cup in Husky Stadium was one exciting game full of the highs and lows that Cougar fans are all too familiar with this season. The Cougs led 13-7 at the half. The Huskies scored midway through the third quarter to pull ahead, and the Cougars answered with a 19 yard Jerome Harrison run to retake the lead. The UW would take the lead again early in the fourth quarter at 19-22, and then it seemed like the dark cloud that had hovered over WSU fourth quarters all season was again materializing over Montlake. Loren Langley struggled terribly on the day, missing three of five attempts, including badly missing a 28 yarder in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game. For most of the last period of play, the Cougar offense sputtered while the defense played just well enough to keep the Huskies from scoring and give the offense second chances.
It all finally paid off on the Cougars' final possession of the game. Taking the ball on the twenty after a Husky punt with 5:31 left in the game, the Cougar offense was able to move the ball upfield - assisted by some timely Husky penalties. Then senior Trandon Harvey stepped up big. Harvey took a pass from Alex Brink on the left sideline, dodged a tackler, then took the ball to the endzone for the go-ahead 39 yard touchdown. Graham Siderius, inserted for the struggling Langley, put the PAT through and it was 26-22 with 1:20 in the game.
Time for a defensive stand, and the Cougars answered the call. The WSU defense sacked, chased, and generally harassed UW quarterback Isaiah Stanback. On fourth and ten with the game on the line, Stanback rolled right under pressure and launched the ball upfield - where it fell incomplete. The Cougs took over on downs and it was time for the Victory formation. After taking a couple knees, the clock ran out on the UW and the Cougars happily stormed the field to celebrate a second consecutive Apple Cup win.
WSU dominated the game statistically. The Cougars held UW to 327 yards offense with only 99 yards rushing. On the flip side, WSU racked up 507 net yards. Brink had a strong game despite being sacked four times, ending the day completing 21 of 35 attempts for 283 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. With the help of another strong showing by the offensive line, Harrison had 207 net yards rushing on 36 carries and the touchdown. Harrison also added another forty yards on five catches. If Harrison does not receive Pac-10 Player of the Week honors for this one, there is no justice in the league.
Brink had some timely help from his receiving targets. After dropping the sure touchdown early, tight end Cody Boyd came up huge in the second half. Boyd led the Cougar receivers with five catches for 65 yards - most of the catches clutch receptions that extended Cougar drives. After getting shaken up early, Jason Hill accounted for five catches for 49 yards and Greg Prator chimed in with a 30 yard touchdown catch to open the scoring on the game. The real hero was Harvey. Including the game-winning touchdown, Harvey ended the day with three catches for 68 yards.
The Cougar defense was inspired by the presence of Will Derting. Only expected to play sparingly, Derting ended up staying in for the entire game. Derting keyed a strong performance by the linebacker corps. Up front, the Cougar defensive line played strong. WSU was able to put good pressure on the Huskies and both Eric Frampton and Adam Braidwood recorded sacks. Still, Stanback was extremely elusive - several times it appeared the Cougars had Stanback sacked only to see him escape for a positive Husky play.
With the improved play by the defensive front, the defensive secondary was able to play stronger but still struggled. As has been the pattern this year, too many times receivers found themselves wide open against the Cougar secondary. The Huskies would finish with 228 yards through the air and two passing touchdowns.
The Season of Doom is now mercifully over. After seemingly finding every way to lose a game tight, the Cougars finally pulled one out at Montlake. The Cougars can go into the off-season on an up note, and the seniors can go out with an outstanding victory.
CougZone Player of the Game - Trandon Harvey: Others may have had better numbers, but Harvey's catches were timely. His touchdown in the fourth quarter was a huge play that put the Cougars over the top for the win.