Cougars coach Mike Leach summed it up well after WSU's 28-15 loss to UW in the 111th Apple Cup: "They came out on top and it is about as simple as that."
PULLMAN — This wasn’t as lopsided as the previous few Apple Cups, but the end result was the same.
The No. 7 Cougars came in with great optimism and left with another stinging Apple Cup defeat, losing 28-15 to No. 16 Washington at Martin Stadium on a snowy Friday night. It was WSU’s sixth consecutive loss in the series and third consecutive season they lost out on the Pac-12 North title with a loss to UW.
“Those were two good football teams, playing in adverse and bizarre conditions,” said WSU coach Mike Leach, talking of the continual snow, which covered the field by the second quarter. “It was a unique way to see a football game. The biggest thing is that they came out on top and that is the thing that is troubling to me. … They came out on top, and it is about as simple as that.”
That this game was much more competitive than the past few meetings, and in the balance until the fourth quarter, was no moral victory for a team that entered the game 10-1 and as a three-point favorite.
It was too much of the same old story for the Cougars in this rivalry game.
They could not find success against the Husky defense like they have had against other teams, and they could not stop the Huskies’ running game.
Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew had been pretty much impossible to stop this season, but the Huskies forced him into short passes, and the Cougars did not hit a deep route the entire game. Minshew completed 26 of 35 passes for 152 yards. His previous low was 319 yard.
Minshew’s longest pass play, 22 yards, came on a swing route to running back Max Borghi. The conditions, Leach said, did not make it easy to throw deep.
“It really did restrict what we called (on offense),” said Leach, whose team was outgained 487 yards to 237. “And we are not real big on the defensive front, and it mitigated our speed, as far as cutting and weaving, and I think that hurt us. When you are in conditions like that, it’s kind of a random game.”
It looked similar to the past few seasons, with the Huskies rushing just three players and occasionally four, but still occasionally getting to Minshew while keeping the WSU receivers from creating open space.
“As far as leading our unit, I thought he was good,” Leach said of Minshew, who threw two interceptions. “Then there is the constant adaptation to the conditions.”
Meanwhile, the Huskies again killed WSU on the ground. The Huskies had 258 rushing yards after running for 328 last season in a 41-17 win. Gaskin had 192 yards and four touchdowns last year. He was almost as good this season, rushing for 170 and three touchdowns, including an 80-yarder in the fourth quarter that was a killer for WSU.
The Huskies were never more dominant on the ground than on its final drive, running off the final 8:47 on 14 consecutive running plays.
The Cougars will set their sights on a bowl game, with the Fiesta Bowl or the Alamo Bowl as the most likely landing spots.
“The biggest thing is that we’ve had a great season, and we need to have a great bowl game,” Leach said when asked what he told his players. “And any disappointment from this game — this game is over. There is no time or place for any excuses. In the end, whether we like it or not, they blocked better than we did, and they tackled better than we did. Those are the two ultimate fundamentals of football.”