Wednesday, November 19

Two Horrible Teams, One Cup

This Saturday at 3:00 the University of Washington Huskies will face the Washington State University in Pullman, Washington to decide the winner of the Apple Cup. This rivalry goes back 108 years when the first game was played to a 5-5 tie in 1900. This will be the 101st game in the series and it features both teams in the absolute dungeon of football relevance. The Huskies are 0-10 and the Cougars are 1-10. Despite the putrid performances by both teams this season, a victory in this game will be viewed as memorable as if a Rose Bowl berth was on the line. I personally can't wait to watch this game. The fans of both teams should be in a frenzied state as they try to avoid being named the worst of the worst. Let's take a closer look at the history of the rivalry, the match-up on Saturday, and what winning the game will mean. And yes despite the title, this post is SFW.

The Apple Cup was named so in 1962 replacing the name of "Governor's Trophy" due to Washington's abundant apple crop. Washington leads the all-time series 64-30 but Washington State has won 3 of the last 4. There have been 6 ties, with the last one coming in 1942 when the two teams played to a soccer-like scoreless tie. Of course, we know that due to recent college overtime rules being different than say, NFL overtime rules there will not be a tie on Saturday. Got that Donavan?

To say these two teams have performed poorly this year might be a slight understatement. First let us look at Washington. The Huskies do have the fact that they are winless going against them and with their last game at Cal, they probably will be looking at a winless season if they lose to the Cougars. The season got off to a rough start for the men in purple and gold as they lost at Oregon 44-10. The second game they had, at home versus a ranked BYU team, proved much more interesting. The Huskies fell by one after QB Jake Locker (now out with injury) was penalized for "celebrating" what was thought to be the game-tying TD. But the refs took offense to Jake's ball tossing and docked UW 15 yards on the extra point. BYU blocked the attempt and one the game 28-27. Here is how it happened on the field:

One of my favorite quotes after the game came from Locker, who obviously had to be fuming after the call. He apologized for celebrating, merely saying he plays the game with emotion. Watch any good football team, even a bad football team and you can see how important a role emotion plays in how a team performs on the field. The extra point would have sent the game into overtime only and there is no guarentee that the Huskies would have won but the call was ridiculous nonetheless.

Beside that game, no UW loss has been by less than a TD with a 35-28 loss to Stanford at home being the closest conference contest. The Huskies' average margin of defeat this year has been 26. They have failed to reach double-digits 3 times and were shut-out in a 56-0 loss at Southern Cal. Redshirt freshman QB Ronnie Fouch has not had an easy time filling in for the injured Locker. In his last 3 games Fouch is 34-95(35.7%) for 344 yards and 7 INTs.

Washington certainly has a case for firing Ty Willingham, but this mess is not entirely his fault. Considering there has recently been a big turnover at the school, Willingham should be given more time, but the horrible play on the field this year trumps that. Ty is 11-35 at UW and just 6-26 in Pac Ten games. Just like at Notre Dame, Willingham's tenure will be cut short by impatient alumni and fans. From 1957-2000, UW football had 3 coaches and since 2000, they have gone through another 3. The Rick Neuheisel fiasco set the program way back and it is precisely why Washington is seeking a big name head coach to come in and mop up the mess. Hopefully, Willingham gets a legitimate shot at another program in the future.

So take into account all that has just been said about Washington, and then try to comprehend how Washington State must feel about being 8.5 point underdogs. The Cougars can boast the 1 win that guarentees them they will not have the donut in the win column even if they lose this game. Their lone victory came over Jerry Glanville and the FCS division Portland State Vikings, who are currently 3-7 on the season. Other than, that game, WSU has not come closer to an opponent than their 25 point loss to UCLA 28-3. Their average margin of defeat in their 10 losses is 43.3, they have been shut-out 3 times and given up over 60 points 3 times. Their forray with Southern Cal led to a 69-0 clobbering. It has just been a rough year for Paul Wulff and company. The Cougars' QB, Kevin Lopina has yet to throw a TD pass in 7 games this year. The game wil be in Martin Stadium this year, but Wazzou's last 3 home games were losses by a combined score of 191-42.

As far as memorable wins in the series go, for WSU the 1997 Apple Cup which the Cougars won 41-35 in come secured a trip to the Rose Bowl. That team was led by, you guessed it, Ryan Leaf. WSU also denied the Huskies a Rose Bowl trip 1982 as they got their first win in Pulman in 25 years against UW.

The Huskies have 4 national titles to their credit so any win in a championship year is probably sweet. In the title years of 90-91, the Huskies beat the Cougars, 55-10 and 56-21 respectively. But in recent times, the Huskies' big Apple cup wins have come in the role of spoiler has they denied them a Rose Bowl trip in 2003 and 1981. UW also has the longest winning streaks of the rivalry at 8 which they had twice from 1959-1966 and 1974-1981. A big comeback many UW fns remember was in 1975 when they trailed WSU 27-14 with 3 minutes left. The quarterback of that Washington team? Warren Moon.

The storied 108 year rivalry that exists between these two teams should not be dampened by the lousy teams they have put on the field this year, it should be heightened. Many beleive that rivalries can only exist if both teams are playing at a high level or that one of the teams doesn't dominate the other year after year, but none of that is what makes a good rivalry. What is needed is a true dislike of one fanbase of another and passionate games on the field by both sides. Winning this game does not save either team the embarassment of how awful their seasons have gone, but it would mean so much to the teams and the fanbases if they could look back and say yes we did suck bad that year, but at least we took home the Apple Cup. I for one can't wait to watch the game.

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