Jimmy Lake had four depth charts on his desk — each one detailing a possible opponent.
On Sunday, of course, the 113th Apple Cup was canceled due to positive COVID-19 cases and subsequent contact tracing at Washington State — which left the 2-0 Huskies with no one to play. Pac-12 protocol stated, should another conference game be canceled by Thursday, the two remaining teams would be obligated to meet. But though multiple Pac-12 matchups — specifically, Utah-Arizona State and Colorado-USC — were in similar jeopardy, it was unclear whether both (or either) would actually be canceled.
Which is how the Huskies grabbed ahold of four opposing depth charts — which, according to a source, belonged to Utah, BYU, San Diego State and Colorado.
“That’s never happened before,” Lake told local media on Wednesday. “At one point there was four (depth charts) sitting there. We played the odds a little bit. We tried to get some intel where we could and thankfully we did practice against Utah (scout team) yesterday, and then of course we practiced against Utah today.
“So our guess was right. Had it not been, we would have just had to move on and tear up the game plan and get ready for that next opponent.”
For UW, the next opponent is the 0-1 Utah Utes — whose first two games were also canceled because of their own COVID-19 update. The Huskies and Utes will face-off at 4:30 p.m. Saturday on ABC (different than the originally scheduled 7:30 p.m. kickoff, due to other cancellations.) UW leads the all-time series 12-2, but surrendered two fourth-quarter touchdowns to drop a 33-28 decision inside Husky Stadium last season.
And, though this game was not announced until Tuesday, Lake said that won’t serve as a suitable excuse.
“Right now, we’re really in great shape,” he said. “We haven’t lost a day of preparation. Like I said, we gambled correctly this week and we put all of our attention and our game plan and our prep work at practice on the University of Utah.”
Unfortunately, their preparation won’t include Thanksgiving feasts with friends and family. Because the priority remains to stifle the spread of COVID-19, Lake has instructed his team not to expand their bubble in search of turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.
“I’ve shared a lot of horror stories from all around the country with teams finally saying, ‘Hey, you know what? Let’s just go back to normal and do what we’ve always done.’ And then all of a sudden they have an outbreak on their team,” Lake said. “I’ve hammered these guys over the head every single day about, we have to continue to do what we’ve been doing for the last three to four months now, which is not getting outside our bubble and being around people we haven’t been around — even if it’s somebody that’s close to us, friends, family, people that we love.
“We just have to stay the course here for the next month and a half, and I told the team that yesterday. ‘You have to stay the course. Stay the course and do exactly what we’ve been doing and we’ll make sure the virus doesn’t enter this building and disrupt our operation around here.’ It’s sad. We all have our Thanksgiving traditions and spend time with our friends and family, and this year we can’t do that.”
Instead, they can prepare for a Utah team that lost seven players to the NFL draft, then lost starting quarterback Cameron Rising to a shoulder injury in last weekend’s 33-17 home loss to USC. They can attempt to stymie a squad that surrendered 357 total yards and committed five turnovers against the Trojans. They can attempt to improve to 3-0 in this — the most fluid and frenzied college football season.
And they can hope, eventually, that the 113th Apple Cup will be played in 2020. On Wednesday, Lake acknowledged “that’s a huge game for this state, for this region, and especially for Husky Nation. We know it’s a tradition the day after Thanksgiving to have the family rivalries, Cougs versus the Dawgs. And for that not to happen on Friday I know is very sad and very disappointing for a lot of people, and we share in that disappointment.”
It would be disappointing, too, if the Huskies fall short of an appearance in the Pac-12 championship game on Dec. 18.
But if they do, Lake would lobby for the opportunity to play the Apple Cup that weekend — which is currently reserved for cross-division games.
“Of course everyone wants the Apple Cup to happen,” Lake said. “So yes, if we are not in the Pac-12 championship game, definitely I think that last game there should be the Apple Cup. I know our fans and their fans and this whole state, this whole region, would want that game to happen.”