On paper, what does Washington have to play for?

Head coach Jimmy Lake already has been fired, and his staff — what’s left of it — will soon be broken up and scattered to the wind.

At 4-7, the Huskies — who committed four turnovers in a 20-17 defeat against Colorado on Saturday, their third consecutive defeat — will sit out bowl season for the first time since 2009.

Against any other opponent, the game Friday would be dismissed as an unnecessary afterthought — elevator music for a post-Thanksgiving tryptophan nap.

Washington State is not any other opponent.

The Apple Cup is not any other game.

“It’s the biggest thing, right here,” fourth-year sophomore cornerback Kyler Gordon said Saturday night. “We’re not trying to let that trophy go at all. So we’re going to keep it in Seattle, for sure. I want to finish strong. So the Apple Cup has to stay with us.”

It’s one thing to say it.

It’s another to show it.

Meanwhile, Washington State has all the motivation it could possibly need. At 6-5, the Cougars overcame Nick Rolovich’s midseason firing to qualify for a bowl game. And, with an Apple Cup victory and an Oregon State victory over Oregon next weekend, they’d clinch a tiebreaker to secure an unlikely Pac-12 North title as well.

They’re fighting for the division. They’re fighting for respect. They’re fighting for interim head coach Jake Dickert, who could earn the permanent position with two more victories.


Oh, and they’re fighting to snap a seven-game Apple Cup losing streak, too.

In short: Washington State has everything to fight for.

How much fight do the Huskies have? We’ll find out Friday.

“It’s a big emphasis,” UW redshirt freshman running back Cameron Davis said Saturday night. “We need to keep that trophy at UW, so we’ve got something to play for this week. It’s a big game. That game’s been circled on our schedule the whole year. So we’re going to come with energy and just play hard next week.”

Even if they do, it might not be enough. It’s possible, at this point, that WSU is simply the superior team — that UW’s turnover-prone offense will predictably self-destruct, that its ineffective running game will never get going, that its run defense will deteriorate, that inconsistent quarterback play will again prove fatal.

It’s also possible, while fans turn their focus to a coaching search, select players turn their focus prematurely to the transfer portal.

That’s all possible. But this is about pride. It’s about playing for sixth-year seniors Sean McGrew, Ryan Bowman, Kamari Pleasant, Race Porter and Luke Wattenberg, each of whom are 4-0 in Apple Cups. It’s about representing an endless list of Husky alums. It’s about maximizing four more quarters with this team, and this staff, and these colors, and the opportunity to end a sorry season with an exclamation point. It’s about understanding what this game, and that trophy, mean to the people of this state — to every person who will drown hangovers in black coffee to stand inside a stadium in the ruthless rain.


It’s not about talking a big game.

It’s about making words matter.

“Any time you play the Apple Cup, there’s going to be juice to it. That’s for sure,” UW interim head coach Bob Gregory said Saturday. “But I’ve been a part of a lot of them and there’s going to be some juice to it, there’s no doubt.”

Records aside, words aside, staff aside, standings aside, stakes aside, streaks aside …

How much does the Apple Cup mean to the Washington Huskies?

For better or worse, we’re about to find out.

TJ Hall decommits from UW

TJ Hall — a 6-foot-2, 175-pound cornerback in the 2022 class — announced his de-commitment from Washington on Sunday.

“First off I would like to thank Coach Harris, Coach Brown, Coach Lock and the entire UDUB staff for recruiting me and giving me an opportunity to play at the next level,” Hall tweeted. “Now after rethinking and having conversations with my family, I have decided that it is best for me that I decommit from the University of Washington to make the best decision for my future. Respect my decision”.

Hall is the fifth recruit to de-commit from UW in the 2022 class alone — joining defensive tackles Ben Roberts and Sir Mells, outside linebacker/tight end Anthony Jones and offensive lineman Mark Nabou.


Washington is left with just nine verbal commits in a class ranked seventh in the Pac-12 and 53rd in the nation by the 247Sports Composite.

Hall — from San Joaquin Memorial, the same high school in Fresno, Calif., that produced current UW wide receiver Jalen McMillan — previously was committed to Arizona as well. He also earned offers from Iowa, Colorado, Colorado State, Michigan, Oregon State and more.

The first of two national signing days for the 2022 class is Dec. 15.