There is little on the line in the 104th renewal of the Apple Cup other than bragging rights, but that shouldn’t detract from the drama that the game almost always produces.
GAME: Washington (6-5, 4-4 Pac-12) vs. Washington State (4-7, 2-6 Pac-12). WHEN: Saturday, CenturyLink Field, 4:30 p.m. MEETING: 104th (Washington leads 66-31-6). RANKINGS: UW unranked; Washington State unranked. LINE: UW by 9. TV/RADIO: Versus; KJR-950 AM, 102.9 FM
Washington is hoping to avoid a four-game losing streak, which has the potential to extend to five in a bowl game (Huskies would hate a 1-6 finish after starting the season 5-1). Washington State has been eliminated from the postseason picture, but the Cougars likely will be playing for head coach Paul Wulff’s job.
“I love the pageantry of college football and the excitement of playing in a rivalry game,” Husky head coach Steve Sarkisian said this week. “We will embrace it to the full tilt. For us, there is a lot of excitement about playing at CenturyLink Field, which is where we will play our home games next year. And there’s bragging rights involved. That’s what makes college football so special this time of year. We also have the ability to go from 5-7 (regular season 2009) to 6-6 (last year) to 7-5 this year. And that’s exciting for us.”
Each team will trot out different starting quarterbacks this week than last week.
“He’s a tremendous leader,” Sarkisian said of Price. “You know, we saw this early on — obviously one of the big ones was from the Nebraska game — but Keith is a competitive young man. He is tough physically. He is tough mentally. He can endure anything that gets thrown a quarterback’s way.”
Price is on the verge of creating some Husky history. After 26 touchdown passes this season, Price needs three to break Cody Pickett’s single-season school record set in 2002. Also, if Price maintains his current 154.7 passer efficiency rating, he would break Brock Huard’s school record of 153.8, set in 1997.
Washington State will start Marshall Lobbestael at quarterback in place of redshirt freshman Connor Halliday, who was injured against Utah. Lobbestael has thrown for 2,240 yards and 16 touchdowns this season.
“When you look at them (WSU), the best they have played is with Lobbestael at quarterback,” Sarkisian said. “We’ll face a different quarterback, but the scheme hasn’t changed. Lobbestael is throwing the ball with confidence.”
Despite WSU’s poor record — Wulff is 9-39 in three seasons in Pullman — Sarkisian said this year’s Cougars have improved considerably and might have produced a far better record had it not been for injuries.
“Like us,” Sarkisian said, “they’ve had a lot of injuries to contend with. That can really affect the continuity of your team. Washington State plays confident and hard, and believes in what it is doing. I think Paul (Wulff) has done a nice job of building that program. When you watch the film, it’s evident that Washington State has gotten better.”
As for his own team, Sarkisian said, “We have to continually strive to put our kids in a position to be successful. We just want to make sure we’re giving 0ur players the best chance to play fast and furious.”
RIVALRY: The Washington-Washington State rivalry dates to Nov. 30, 1900, when the schools played to a 5-5 tie at Athletic Park in Seattle. The teams have met 102 times since the initial game in the series, Washington winning 66. The Huskies enter the Apple Cup with a two-game winning streak. Washington has won nine of the past 13 Apple Cups.
LAST MEETING: On Dec. 4, 2010, Washington won 35-28, in a tightly contested game in Pullman. The winning score came on a 27-yard pass from Jake Locker to Jermaine Kearse with 44 seconds remaining. The main story, however, involved UW running back Chris Polk, who carried 29 times for a career-high 284 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Polk’s 284 yards marked the second-highest total in the history of the UW-WSU series, trailing only Hugh McElhenny’s 296 yards in 1950 in Spokane.
LAST WEEK: The Cougars, hoping to keep their bowl-eligibility hopes alive, lost 30-27 in overtime to Utah in Pullman. The Huskies lost to Oregon State in Corvallis 38-21.
TRENDS: Washington State has lost six of its past seven. The Huskies have dropped three in a row and four of their past five.
Paul Wulff: Wulff has been head coach of the Cougars since 2008 and has yet to produce a winning record, his teams going 2-11 (2008), 1-11 (2009), 2-10 (2010) and 4-7 (2011), for a record of 9-39. Prior to taking the WSU job, Wulff spent seven years as head coach at Eastern Washington. Wulff played on the offensive line for the Cougars from 1986 to 1989 under three head coaches: Jim Walden, Dennis Erickson and Mike Price (who just completed his fifth consecutive losing season at UTEP).
UW STATS / NOTES: RB Chris Polk has rushed for 100 yards in eight of 11 games this year and now has 19 career 100-yard games, a school record. Last week at OSU, he surpassed the school record for career rushing attempts and now holds the mark at 747. Polk rushed for 130 and 284 yards in the previous two Apple Cups and has a chance Saturday to join Hugh McElhenny as the only UW runners to produce three 100-yard rushing games in the cross-state rivalry . . . QB Keith Price is tied for 10th in the nation with 26 touchdown passes . . . Senior linebacker Cort Dennison leads the Pac-12 in tackles . . . UW has used six true freshmen this season, including S James Sample , TB Bishop Sankey, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, DT Danny Shelton, OLB John Timu and WR Kasen Williams . . . UW will start freshman stud Danny Shelton at defensive end. “He’s earned it with the way he’s played,” said head coach Steve Sarkisian . . . UW will play without OG Colin Tanigawa, out with a torn ACL, replaced by senior Al Wood . . . Sarkisian will look at possibly moving Erik Kohler from starting at RT to LG and starting Micah Hatchie at RT against the Cougars . . . Saturday’s appearance at CenturyLink Field will be the second for Washington. The Huskies opened the 2005 season at the facility against Air Force, in what was considered a neutral-site game.
WSU STATS / NOTES: The Apple Cup will mark Washington State’s second appearance at CenturyLink Field this season. On Oct. 22, the Cougars hosted Oregon State and suffered a 44-21 defeat . . . Since the start of the 2002 season, the Cougars have played nine games at the home of the Seahawks, going 5-4. Washington State will be the visiting team Saturday. The last time the Cougars played in the same stadium as both the home and road team was 1999, when they were technically the visiting team at Martin Stadium when Idaho played its home games in Pullman . . . Through 11 games, sophomore receiver Marquess Wilson has 1,280 yards on 75 catches while averaging 116.4 yards per game. He is sixth nationally in receiving yards per game (first in the Pac-12), and tied for 17th in catches. His 75 receptions surpassed WSU’s previous single-season leader Nakoa McElrath (2001) by three. In just 23 games, Wilson has 130 receptions for 2,286 yards and 16 touchdowns. His receptions rank ninth, pushing his position coach Mike Levenseller (121) out of the top 10. His yardage total is fifth-best and his 16 career touchdown receptions are tied for eighth . . . The Cougars have scored on drives of 70-plus yards 26 times and scored touchdowns on drives in five-or-fewer plays 13 times.
ART THIEL’S TAKE: Early seasonal optimism has vanished for the teams, replaced by a dull panic over finishing the regular season with a loss to the contemptible rival. The teams are backsliding like Rick Perry’s ability to remember a list. The desperation is most acute for the Cougs, who are probably looking at a coaching change with a loss — and maybe despite a win. Wulff’s decision Saturday to kick a tying field goal at the end of regulation against Utah (where the Utes won) instead of going for the winning TD was the last straw for some Cougars backers. But the season was probably lost in the first game, when QB Tuel broke his collarbone.
Like the Cougs, the Huskies have a lot of missing parts, but they anticipate having back Price. It will help — unless he gets hurt again. The Huskies have been mistake-prone on the field and the sideline. Hard to imagine the UW defense figuring out things in the final game after one of the worst statistical seasons in school history, The Cougs have some game-breaking players to pull off the upset. Washington State 38, Washington 37.
STEVE RUDMAN’S TAKE: Based on the way both teams have played this season, I think you can expect, as Art mentioned, a festival of points, which will at least make for grand entertainment, if not technically pleasing football. The Huskies will certainly benefit by having Price back at quarterback, but the key for Washington will be Polk, who has chewed up the Cougars for two consecutive years. He could have his best running day of the season against Washington State.
I also expect a huge day out of Washington State receiver Marquess Wilson, who comes in with 75 receptions and an ability to make big plays. Since Washington is the king of the conference in allowing big plays, Wilson will get his share. He might collect 200 receiving yards on this Washington defense.
I don’t think season-long trends by both schools matter much in a rivalry game like this. Washington is playing to avoid the embarrassment of finishing 1-5 after starting 5-1. Washington State is playing to ensure Paul Wulff’s job. Washington 35, Washington State 31.
COMING UP: Washington State’s season ends with the Apple Cup. Washington must wait until after the Pac-12 championship game is played to find out which bowl game invitation it will receive.
University of Washington 2011 Schedule/Results
|Date||Opponent||UW Rnk||Opp Rnk||W/L||Score||Rec.|
|9/3/11||vs. Eastern Washington||—||—||W||30-27||1-0|
|11/12/11||at Southern Cal||—||18||L||40-17||6-4|
|11/19/11||at Oregon State||—||—||L||38-21||6-5|
|11/26/11||vs. Washington St.||—||—||—||—||—|
Washington State 2011 Schedule/Results
|Date||Opponent||UW Rnk||Opp Rnk||W/L||Score||Rec.|
|9/3/11||vs. Idaho State||—||—||W||64-21||1-0|
|9/17/11||at San Diego St.||—||—||L||42-24||2-1|
|10/22/11||vs. Oregon St.||–||—||L||44-21||3-4|