Jake Locker, Chris Polk lead Washington to victory at Husky Stadium.
Just in case the Washington Huskies had forgotten what last year’s Apple Cup felt like, coach Steve Sarkisian decided to remind them this week. Again and again and again.
At the end of every meeting, Sarkisian and the UW coaches cued up a replay of the end of last year’s game, WSU’s Nico Grasu kicking a field goal to give the Cougars a win in overtime.
“It was horrible,” said UW linebacker Mason Foster. “That was one of the toughest losses I ever had in my life, if not the toughest. So that just reminded us that, ‘Man, don’t let it come down to the last few seconds. Don’t let them stick around. Let’s just try to throttle them from the beginning.’ “
Washington did just that, dominating the Cougars in every fashion imaginable in taking a 30-0 victory in front of 68,697 at Husky Stadium.
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It was UW’s first shutout against WSU since a 14-0 win in 1964 in Spokane. And it was UW’s first shutout of any kind since a 27-0 blanking of USC in 1997, a span of 147 games.
“Once we started seeing the goose egg in the third quarter, we said, ‘OK, let’s carry this thing through,’ ” said UW defensive tackle Cameron Elisara.
The Huskies got their shutout with relative ease. In 12 offensive possessions, the Cougars never got inside the Huskies’ 33-yard line.
Washington had a season-high five sacks, knocking WSU starter Kevin Lopina out of the game twice with shoulder and oblique injuries, and also backup Marshall Lobbestael with a concussion. That forced walk-on Dan Wagner to finish out the first half before Lobbestael was able to return to play the second half.
And when it was over, the Huskies had reclaimed the Apple Cup after WSU had won it the past two years and four of the past five.
“Obviously those last two years against these guys haven’t been great,” said UW safety Nate Williams. “So it really feels good to finally have that trophy back here where I feel it really belongs.”
Washington State has never won three Apple Cups in a row, something the Huskies also knew well.
“We didn’t want them to get that on us,” said Elisara.
The Huskies are 4-7 overall, 3-5 in Pac-10 play, finishing up with a game this Saturday at Husky Stadium against California. WSU ended its season 1-11 overall and 0-9 in Pac-10 play, having never had a lead in regulation all season under second-year coach Paul Wulff, its only win coming against SMU in overtime.
But while it was the big “0” on the scoreboard that seemed most noticeable afterward, Wulff pointed to UW quarterback Jake Locker as the key.
“The difference in the game was number 10 on their team,” Wulff said. “Jake Locker, he runs it, throws it, runs it, throws it. He’s almost a one-man show out there.”
Indeed, Locker had one of his most efficient games of the season, running as much as he has all season (94 yards on 10 carries) while throwing just enough (16 of 28, 196 yards and one touchdown).
His 50-yard TD pass to Jermaine Kearse helped put the Huskies up 13-0 at the end of a first half in which the WSU defense played surprisingly tough, given the Cougars’ status as 24 ½-point underdogs.
“I think we were a little antsy, maybe a little tight,” Sarkisian said of a sometimes-sluggish first half. “Once we settled down, we played well.”
The Huskies took the ball 75 yards on 12 plays for a touchdown on their first possession of the second half, Locker running three times for 37 yards, the drive culminated by a 1-yard run by Chris Polk to go ahead 20-0.
From there, it became an old-style Huskies game, UW rushing for 222 yards in the second half (265 for the game) and holding WSU to just 47 yards in the second half.
Polk ran for 130 yards, giving him 1,019 for the season. He is the first UW freshman to run for 1,000 yards.
“We made a huge emphasis on making this a physical football game, playing for 60 minutes relentlessly, and not worrying about what the score is,” Sarkisian said.
And in the process, putting last year — when a loss in the Apple Cup essentially ensured the only winless season in school history — to bed for good.
“That really got under everybody’s skin,” said UW defensive end Darrion Jones of being forced to watch the ending of the 2008 game all week. “Last night in the meeting, Coach Sark played it again and everyone was like, ‘Will you please stop playing it?’ Nobody wanted to see that again. That really sparked a fire under us to play hard today.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|UW 1,000-yard rushers|
Chris Polk is the first freshman in school history to top the 1,000-yard mark and only the second Husky to do it since 1997.
|Note: Totals include bowl games. Polk has one game remaining this season|