BY Art Thiel 10:26PM 11/26/2011

Thiel: Williams, Huskies leap forward; Wulff fired

Even the lamentable defense played well in a 38-21 triumph over Washington State, giving the Huskies three consecutive Apple Cup wins; meanwhile, WSU’s Wulff apparently is fired.

Washington State's defense saw a fair amount of the back of Huskies running back Chris Polk as he rushed for 100 yards Saturday in the Apple Cup. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

As single moments go, the 104th Apple Cup will be forever remembered as the great leap up for Kasen Williams.

“He got up SO high,” said quarterback Keith Price, marveling at his wide receiver teammate. “I saw that and I said, ‘Ohmigoodness!’”

As single games, and single seasons go, this Apple Cup may well be remembered as the time when the Huskies made the great leap forward.

Offense. Special teams. Defense. Yes, even the defense.

The much-criticized afterthought in the Washington program delivered seven sacks (after having four combined in the previous five games) upon the beleaguered head of Washington State quarterback Marshall Lobbestael. The Cougars were held to 21 points and 382 yards of total offense, which, from the UW perspective of the season, qualifies as a near-shutout.

The defense did so well that it turned the final quarter of the Apple Cup, notorious for fourth-period scoring madness, into a 38-21 anti-climax that sent many of the crimson-clad in the crowd of 64,559 at CenturyLink Field to an early exit.

The complete team effort Saturday night was a breakthrough for a UW outfit that lost four of its previous five games and most of the momentum from a fast start against lesser opponents. The Cougars (4-8) qualified as a lesser opponent, but the way the Huskies had been playing lately, they dared not assume anything.

“Some day, when I’m old and retired, I’m going to write a book about this process,” said a grinning head coach, Steve Sarkisian, speaking mainly of the wild swings in his tenure that now has a 7-5 record — the Huskies’ first winning regular season in 10 years — to follow a 6-6 season. His tenure began three years ago at 5-7.

The mood was decidedly darker in the opposite locker room. According to a story in the Seattle Times quoting unnamed sources, head coach Paul Wulff will be fired as soon as Sunday or Monday. The Apple Cup defeat made Wulff’s four-year record 9-40, worst in program history. Bill Moos, the athletic director for 18 months who did not hire Wulff, is expected to give th word shortly.

Asked about his future after the game, Wulff said, “I just want to say this is a young football team. We’ve done a hell of a job recruiting kids, and the football program has a bright future. That’s my job and I’ve been doing that. Not a lot of teams can go through three quarterbacks in a season (and possibly be) bowl eligible going into the last game.”

Meanwhile, Sarkisian has dreams of book authorship, while admiring the view of the program after ending a skid that had Huskies fans in a fret.

“The future is very bright,” Sarkisian said. “We’re headed in the right direction. I’m pretty excited.”

The chief exclamation point for the excitement in the Apple Cup was Williams, the highly touted recruit from Sammamish’s Skyline High who delivered on his promise with five catches (all in the first half) for 74 yards and two touchdowns.

Late in the first half, the 6-2, 212-pound Williams turned upfield after catching a pass in the flat and found himself isolated on WSU cornerback Nolan Washington, a 5-11 sophomore from Kennedy High.

A collision appeared imminent until Williams went “skyline” and cleanly leaped over the crouching defender and landed on his feet to make an 18-yard gain for a first down at the Cougars’ 21-yard line. On the next play,  Price found Williams for a much easier touchdown pass and a 21-14 lead entering halftime.

“I was up there,” said Williams, grinning. “I was one-on-one with him. I did it once before (as a high school senior) but the dude was already diving.

“You can’t think about the consequences when you’re going up. But while I was there, I did think about the consequences going down. It worked out.”

No kidding.

“What a play — Jiminy Christmas!” said Sarkisian. “He was seven feet in the air.  That play is going to be seen whenever the Apple Cup is talked about.

“It was a big momentum builder.”

Beyond the play, part of Sarkisian’s excitement was imagining Williams joining redshirt sophomore Price and freshman tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins for a couple more seasons full of nights like Saturday. Price, only semi-mobile after a series of leg injuries that benched him most of last week in a loss at Oregon State, still completed 21 of 29 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns. That gave him 29 for the season and the single-season Washington record.

Junior Chris Polk is unlikely to join them. But as he heads for the NFL draft, he will have put up another another 100-yard game, his career 20th, on the Cougs that included a touchdown.

“The future,” Sarkisian said, “is very bright for those three.”

Junior Chris Polk is unlikely to join them. But as he heads for the NFL draft, he will have put up another another 100-yard game, his career 20th, on the Cougs that included a touchdown.

The near future for Washington includes a second consecutive bowl appearance. Which one won’t be known for a week,  but it makes little difference for the Huskies. The senior class has come from 0-12 to a place of respect, and Washington football finally has some light after a decade in the shadows.


YourThoughts

  • Tom

    Maybe Art should eat his words over his apple cup prediction.  I guess the Husky’s got the defense figured out by game time.  He did get the final winning score right, just the wrong team.

  • Tom

    Maybe Art should eat his words over his apple cup prediction.  I guess the Husky’s got the defense figured out by game time.  He did get the final winning score right, just the wrong team.

  • Cruddly

    I don’t know who needed this game more — the Huskies — to stop the bleeding and set the course right, or the Cougars — to save the coach’s job, and just to win a damn game.  I guess the Huskies, since they were headed in the wrong direction and falling fast.  This win propels them into the post season with a little momentum.  Let’s just hope they don’t end up playing Nebraska in some god awful bowl on ESPN 19 where the stands are half empty and the temperature hover around 35.

  • Cruddly

    I don’t know who needed this game more — the Huskies — to stop the bleeding and set the course right, or the Cougars — to save the coach’s job, and just to win a damn game.  I guess the Huskies, since they were headed in the wrong direction and falling fast.  This win propels them into the post season with a little momentum.  Let’s just hope they don’t end up playing Nebraska in some god awful bowl on ESPN 19 where the stands are half empty and the temperature hover around 35.

  • 1coolguy

    If Holt ever earns his paycheck and gets the defense to perform, the Dawgs will be unbeatable!

    Go Dawgs!

  • 1coolguy

    If Holt ever earns his paycheck and gets the defense to perform, the Dawgs will be unbeatable!

    Go Dawgs!

  • headoutofsand

    Aw, why does Art or any of the rest of us need to “eat our words” over a missed prediction?  Even the supposed know-it-alls who set the lines in Las Vegas don’t have that great a winning percentage, overall.  And that gets to the heart of why none of us should get all cuckoo when our “favored” team ends up losing.  It’s one thing to step out on the ledge when the Huskies of 1985 lose to 37-point underdog Oregon State.  But, when 6-point favorite Washington lost to the Beavers a couple games ago, I truly wasn’t left with my mouth agape, as experience has taught some of us a 6-point spread isn’t all that far from a toss-up.  Dennis Erickson is out of a job today in large part because his favored Sun Devils lost to WSU.    
     
    As a related side-issue to this, if you bet on football games for any length of time, you’ll lose.  The agony of sitting through all the ups and downs of a 3-plus-hour game before knowing if you won or lost is hard enough on a person’s health, and that’s even if you win.  When you lose, well, it’s the depths of hell.  Those of us who left the betting life are much better off — we’ve discovered the games themselves are entertainment enough.  

  • headoutofsand

    Aw, why does Art or any of the rest of us need to “eat our words” over a missed prediction?  Even the supposed know-it-alls who set the lines in Las Vegas don’t have that great a winning percentage, overall.  And that gets to the heart of why none of us should get all cuckoo when our “favored” team ends up losing.  It’s one thing to step out on the ledge when the Huskies of 1985 lose to 37-point underdog Oregon State.  But, when 6-point favorite Washington lost to the Beavers a couple games ago, I truly wasn’t left with my mouth agape, as experience has taught some of us a 6-point spread isn’t all that far from a toss-up.  Dennis Erickson is out of a job today in large part because his favored Sun Devils lost to WSU.    
     
    As a related side-issue to this, if you bet on football games for any length of time, you’ll lose.  The agony of sitting through all the ups and downs of a 3-plus-hour game before knowing if you won or lost is hard enough on a person’s health, and that’s even if you win.  When you lose, well, it’s the depths of hell.  Those of us who left the betting life are much better off — we’ve discovered the games themselves are entertainment enough.