Washington State was a surprise team that year as it was coming off two losing seasons. Washington was the defending co-national champ. Neither team made it to the Apple Cup undefeated.
After leading Washington State to a 6-0 start in 1992, Drew Bledsoe remembers peeking occasionally across the state at the Washington Huskies, who were also perfect at the midpoint of the season.
At the time the Cougars were ranked 13th in The Associated Press rankings and led by Bledsoe, a record-setting quarterback who was taken No. 1 overall in the 1993 draft.
But they were still something of a surprise team that raced out to a fast start after compiling 4-7 and 3-8 records in the two previous seasons.
WSU @ Cal, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
UW @ Arizona St., 7:45 p.m., ESPN
And there was Washington.
The Huskies were the reigning national co-champions who were coming off a magical 12-0 season. They started the season ranked second in the polls and took over the No. 1 spot while riding a 20-game winning streak.
“I remember we came out and we were rolling pretty good,” Bledsoe said. “The Huskies were too. I think they were ranked ahead of us the whole year, but we were doing well.
“We knew the Apple Cup would be very significant for both teams if we could just keep on taking care of business.”
Photos | 1992 Apple Cup: The Snow Bowl
A quarter of a century later, here we are again.
Washington and Washington State are 6-0 midway to a monumental clash in the Apple Cup if — as Bledsoe said — both teams keep taking care of business.
“It feels great to have both teams be significantly relevant again,” he said. “There was a long dry spell there. There were a few years when neither team was relevant, so now it feels great to be meaningful in the football universe again.”
The similarities between the 1992 UW and WSU teams and today’s squads are strikingly eerie.
The Huskies are ranked fifth and off to another hot start following a 12-win campaign the previous season. Their coach, Chris Petersen, adheres to a no-frills, workmanlike philosophy much like legendary UW coach Don James.
The No. 8 Cougars are led by coach Mike Leach, who by comparison is colorful and eccentric — traits that were often attributed to Mike Price, who was the last coach to lift WSU to sustained success.
“The Cougars were a happy 6-0 and for the Dawgs coming off the ’91 season it was more of a tumultuous 6-0,” said radio host Jeff Aaron, who was a sideline reporter and postgame host for WSU radio football broadcasts in 1992. “They were the mighty juggernaut that appeared to be falling and then we found that to be true.
“It was a fancy-free Cougar team and a team carrying a lot of burden in the Huskies. Their 6-0 starts had different feels. For the Cougs it was exciting and fun. And for the Dawgs it was like an ominous cloud was coming.”
There’s no denying the obvious parallels between Bledsoe and Luke Falk, who ranks third nationally among FBS quarterbacks with 2,000 passing yards.
“The teams are kind of similar in that the Cougs offensively have been hanging some points on people and Luke Falk has been lighting the world on fire,” Bledsoe said. “Last year’s defense was pretty solid and this year they look to be one of the better defenses in the country.
“In ’92, we had been decent offensively, but the thing that was a big change that year was our defense was really playing great football. … We had a ton of great players on that defense and they were really stepping up and playing great football for us. That was the thing that really allowed us to put W’s on the board.”
Following its 6-0 start, Washington State lost three of the next four games, including road defeats at USC (31-21) and Stanford (40-3) — both ranked teams.
The Huskies began 8-0 before falling 16-3 at No. 12 Arizona.
Washington was 9-1 and favored over 7-3 Washington State heading into what turned out to be one of the most dramatic games in Apple Cup history.
Dubbed the “Blizzard Bowl” or “Snow Bowl,” Bledsoe compiled 476 yards of total offense to lead the Cougars to a 42-23 upset win.
Both teams finished 9-3 as WSU claimed a victory in the Copper Bowl and UW lost 38-31 to Michigan in the Rose Bowl in what would be James’ final game.
He abruptly resigned weeks before the 1993 season following NCAA and conference sanctions against the Huskies.
Twenty-five years later, UW and WSU are on another epic collision course.
“What I would tell them is just stay focused on the next game,” Bledsoe said. “That’s what we tried to do. We just didn’t play very well.
“The only thing the Cougs have got to worry about is beating Cal. As long as they stay focused on the game at hand, then they’ve got a chance for each game to become more and more meaningful.”
|Two teams, one top season|
|Washington and Washington State are 6-0, which is the best combined start for both teams since 1992. Here’s a look at that season.|
|1992 Huskies||1992 Cougars|
|W, @ ASU 31-7||W, Montana 25-13|
|W, Wisconsin 27-10||W, @ Arizona 23-20|
|W, No. 12 Nebraska 29-14||W, @ Fresno State 39-37|
|W, No. 20 USC 17-10||W, Temple 51-10|
|W, No. 24 California 35-16||W, @ Oregon State 35-10|
|W, @ Oregon 24-3||W, UCLA 30-17|
|W, Pacific 31-7||L, @ No. 15 USC 31-21|
|W, No. 15 Stanford 41-7||L, Oregon 34-17|
|L, @ No. 12 Arizona 16-3||W, Arizona State 20-18|
|W, Oregon State 45-16||L, @ No. 15 Stanford 40-3|
|L, @ WSU 42-23||W, No. 5 UW 42-23|
|L, No. 7 Michigan 38-31||W, Utah 31-28|