14-point underdogs, playing without two of their best players, the Cougars rallied from a 28-10 fourth quarter deficit to shock the Huskies 31-28 in the Apple Cup Friday.
PULLMAN — Washington State shed a third-quarter meltdown, then scored 21 consecutive points — the last three on a 27-yard game-winning field goal from Andrew Furney in overtime — to beat the heavily favored University of Washington 31-28 Friday at Martin Stadium.
Huskies kicker Travis Coons missed a 35-yard field goal as regulation expired, squandering a chance to give the UW (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) its fourth straight Apple Cup win. The stunner snapped an eight-game WSU losing streak and marked the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in the rivalry’s history.
The decisive moment came on the first play of overtime when WSU linebacker Logan Mayes busted up the middle to pressure Keith Price. The junior quarterback, falling backward, lobbed the ball as Mayes pulled him to the ground. The ball landed in the outstretched hands of Toni Pole.
The nose tackle returned the interception to the WSU five-yard line before being dragged down from behind by UW’s Cody Bruns. Furney’s game-winner came three plays later.
Mayes said the team dedicated the win to Travis Long. The senior defensive end didn’t start for the first time in the 48th game of his career. Long suffered a knee injury late in WSU’s loss to Arizona State last week and was on the sidelines using crutches.
“We handed (Long) the trophy at the end of the game,” Mayes said. “We said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna win this game and we’re going to hand Travis Long this trophy – he’s a guy that deserved this more than anybody on the team.”
Mike Leach made no mention of basset hound faces, empty corpses or zombie conventions after the Cougars’ biggest win of the season.
“Teams will have problems and then they’ll quit and wave the white flag,” he said. “Our guys never really did. We had some tough moments and had a lot of people get knocked out this year and fought through it.
“I was proud of their resilience.”
Leading 10-7 after a stout defensive first half, WSU stalled on its first drive of the third quarter, fumbled their next possession, followed with an interception, then fumbled again. The Huskies responded each time with a trio of touchdowns to take a 28-10 lead.
The collection of egregious mistakes gave the Cougars (3-9, 1-8 Pac-12) the opportunity to pull off one of the more stunning comebacks in Apple Cup memory, reminiscent of 30 years ago, when UW kicker Chuck Nelson missed a 33-yard field goal in WSU’s 24-20 upset win at Martin Stadium.
Coons’ miss might not have been as dramatic, but it would be tough arguing the mishap was any less satisfying for a WSU team that has struggled to overcome adversity.
Meanwhile, Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian lamented his club’s numerous mistakes. The loss was his first in four tries in the cross-state rivalry.
“This was a really disappointing loss and I don’t think it was for a lack of trying,” he said. “I felt like Washington State, to their credit, made some really good plays late in the game. Their quarterback made plays to avoid some sacks, and the penalties were a big factor.”
UW was flagged 18 times for 129 yards. A false start penalty, called on Price for bobbing his head to draw an offsides penalty, came on the play preceding Coon’s field goal and tacked on five yards.
WSU can credit its comeback in part to Jeff Tuel’s resiliency. Despite tossing two costly picks, the senior quarterback completed 33 of 53 passes for 350 yards. The circus highlight of the game — and perhaps Tuel’s career — came with the Cougars trailing 28-17 midway through the fourth quarter.
The pocket collapsed quickly (as it has all season), but the Fresno, Calif. native escaped three defenders before rolling to his right and finding Isiah Myers streaking across the middle for a 29-yard gain. On the game-tying drive late in the same quarter, he threaded a pass to roommate Gino Simone on a crucial third-and-six to extend the possession.
Fellow senior Carl Winston capped three drives Tuel orchestrated with three touchdowns. The running back rushed 12 times for 30 yards.
“It means a lot to me,” Winston said of the first Apple Cup victory of his playing career. “I wanted to be remembered by something. It’s my senior year. Why not? Beating the Huskies and accomplishing the goals I wanted was amazing.”
While Winston sounded grateful, Furney best summed up the win after the Cougars executed numerous momentum-changing plays in the fourth quarter.
“We were supposed to win this game,” he said. “It just came together and the way it came together — it was meant to be.”