Two teams that couldn't stand up to anyone else in the Pac-10 this year went toe-to-toe for four quarters and two overtimes at Martin Stadium until the foot of Cougars kicker Nico Grasu gave WSU an improbable 16-13 win.
PULLMAN — Finally, for the beleaguered football teams of Washington and Washington State, there was some drama.
And depending what sideline you were on, some comedy and tragedy, as well.
Two teams that couldn’t stand up to anyone else in the Pac-10 this year went toe-to-toe for four quarters and two overtimes at Martin Stadium until the foot of Cougars kicker Nico Grasu gave WSU an improbable 16-13 win.
While the Cougars and their fans celebrated wildly at midfield, the Huskies were left pondering the unfathomable — a 13-game losing streak dating to last season and a possible winless season. Washington is 0-11 overall and 0-8 in Pac-10 games.
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“This one hurts real hard,” said Huskies running back Willie Griffin. “No disrespect to them, but we went up against a team that everybody is saying is the worst in the nation, and you can’t pull out a win. I mean, you’ve got to look at yourself and ask yourself, ‘What are we?’ “
The Cougars (2-10 overall, 1-8 in Pac-10) can at least call themselves Apple Cup champions for the fourth time in five years, the best stretch in school history.
“We’ve kind of been down and out all year and feel like we’ve been working for nothing, losing every game,” said WSU running back Dwight Tardy. “It finally paid off for us, and it just feels really good.”
Washington State seemed just about out of hope when it got the ball at its 20-yard line with 56 seconds left. But a 48-yard pass from Kevin Lopina to Jared Karstetter set up a 28-yard field goal by Grasu with no time left to force overtime.
Grasu hit two more in overtime, the last one from 37 yards after UW’s Ryan Perkins missed from the same distance to start the second OT, one of three Huskies field-goal shanks on the day.
The Cougars began their final drive in regulation without timeouts after the Huskies were stopped on their final possession, deciding to punt on a fourth-and-three from the WSU 36. Washington coach Tyrone Willingham said he thought about going for it before deciding against it.
“They had not had that much success all day driving the football,” Willingham said. “We had been in control most of the day. You figure you give yourself the best chance to win by making them go as far as possible to make a play. But we gave up a big one and didn’t allow ourselves to do it.”
Some on the Washington sideline thought the Huskies should have gone for it, potentially ending the game right there. Instead, they netted just 16 yards when the punt went into the end zone.
“We were going to run a stretch to the right and it’s a 3-yard stretch in open field,” said UW running back Terrance Dailey. “I really thought I could get it. Coach wanted to be safe and punt it. I don’t know, we might have been able to get that.”
The Lopina-to-Karstetter connection came on a play that began with 31 seconds to go — the same time in the game when the Cougars scored the winning touchdown in last year’s Apple Cup on a pass from Alex Brink to Brandon Gibson.
Lopina told Karstetter he was going to pump-fake and hope the defender, UW cornerback Quinton Richardson, would bite. Richardson did, and when safety Tripper Johnson didn’t get over quickly, Karstetter broke open.
“I was really surprised,” Karstetter said of Richardson taking the fake. “I thought it would be more of a jump ball. He just kind of hesitated long enough that I went up that seam between them.”
Said Willingham: “We just didn’t track the ball. We let them get behind us, and that’s a situation that you can’t let happen.”
Grasu came on with two seconds left to tie the game.
Some of the Huskies admitted going into overtime almost seemed like a loss.
“I felt that we had this game,” said cornerback Mesphin Forrester. “It was kind of frustrating knowing that they were going into overtime.”
In fact, Washington had been in control much of the day. The Huskies finally got their running game going and used it — as well as a Forrester interception — to score 10 points in the second quarter.
Washington State cut the lead to 10-7 with a 57-yard run by Logwone Mitz with 2:56 left in the third quarter.
But WSU failed to move on its next two drives. The Cougars were stopped on a fourth down at their 43 with 2:02 left.
Washington ran it conservatively on three plays, picked up 7 yards, then punted.
“It’s extremely frustrating when you feel like you’ve got a game won and you just need one more play and you don’t get it done,” said Willingham.
Both teams kicked field goals in the first overtime, WSU and then Washington.
Perkins then missed to start the second overtime after UW picked up just 5 yards in three plays. WSU ran three plays before Grasu kicked the winner.
And when it went through, a Cougars team that had lost every game against a Football Bowl Subdivision team this year by 25 or more points could at least declare itself the best in the state.
“You never want to finish last in anything,” Karstetter said. “We needed a win so bad, so it’s great to win this one.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Cougars’ winning run|
|Washington State has won 4 of 5 Apple Cups for the first time in the 101-game series, with the past five games decided by an average of four points:|
|2008||WSU||16-13, 2 OTs|
|Overtime Apple Cups|
|Saturday was the third overtime game in the 101-game series and marked the first time WSU had won in OT:|
|2008||Wash. State||16-13, 2 OTs|
|2002||Washington||29-26, 3 OTs|