WSU's senior class set the goal of winning a Pac-12 championship. They know that to do that, they have to first beat the odds and take down the Huskies.
Jeff Tuel was the last Washington State quarterback to win an Apple Cup when he led the Cougars to a 31-28 overtime win over UW in 2012.
Neither team was very good that year. The Apple Cup functioned as WSU’s bowl game since the Cougars finished 3-9 in Mike Leach’s first season and missed out on the postseason.
UW closed out the regular season 7-5, played in the Las Vegas Bowl against Chris Petersen’s Boise State team, and lost 28-26.
The Huskies hired Petersen away from Boise State a year later, and they haven’t lost an Apple Cup since.
Since Petersen’s hire in December 2013, both FBS teams in the state of Washington have undergone a renaissance. The Huskies have won a Pac-12 championship, and gotten to the College Football Playoff.
WSU has dug itself out from the Pac-12 basement, and for the second year in a row, the Cougars go into the final week of the regular season in contention for the Pac-12 North title.
Led by quarterback Luke Falk, this senior class has posted a 26-11 record in the last three years and beaten every Pac-12 team except one – UW.
But four years in a row now, the Cougars have failed to show up against the Huskies in their regular season finale, and that rankles with them.
“Any time you lose the Apple Cup, it hurts,” Falk said.
Yet, over the last four years, this game, it seems, is the Cougars’ kryptonite. The Huskies have dominated WSU in the Apple Cup since 2013, winning by an average of 13 points annually. WSU hasn’t won an Apple Cup at Husky Stadium since 2007, and you have to look back another decade to 1997 to find the last time WSU beat a ranked UW team – the Cougs upset No. 16 UW 42-35 in Seattle that year.
Perhaps that’s why the Huskies are favored to beat WSU by 10 points in the 110th Apple Cup this Saturday even though they’re ranked No. 15 to WSU’s No. 14.
The Cougars know what they’re up against, and this senior class badly wants to come away with the W.
They might not admit it now, choosing instead to stick to the well-worn and graciously innocuous “it’s just another game” cliché, but they’ve been gunning for this one since the offseason.
“These guys, we all want to hoist that Apple Cup back up,” senior linebacker Dylan Hanser said in an interview over the summer. “I can see it in everybody’s eyes. That’s one of the main things we want to do – on top of winning a championship.”
Four months and eleven games later, everything has come together for this group of 20 seniors who’ll go into WSU’s record books as the class that resurrected Cougar football.
“It means a little bit just because it’s the Apple Cup and it’s a rivalry, but it’s just another game, another chance to go out there with this group of guys and show that we belong up here and changed this program around,” said senior offensive guard Cody O’Connell.
Their main goal this year was to win a Pac-12 championship, and the Cougars know that the road to the title game passes through Husky Stadium this weekend.
“It’d be a great team accomplishment and one of our team goals,” Falk said, “We need to win this one to get to the one we really want.”
The younger players know what’s at stake too. Nineteen freshmen have played for WSU this year, and they’re motivated to go out and help the senior class cement its legacy.
“We’ve talked about how, as the underclassmen, we want to send them off on a great farewell, with them getting their first win against the Huskies,” said redshirt freshman receiver Renard Bell, who is third among WSU’s receivers, with 504 receiving yards. “We want to send them off with smiles on their faces.”
The Cougars have generally embraced their underdog role, and this weekend’s game is no exception. Even though their record is identical to the Huskies’ – 9-2 overall, 6-2 Pac-12 – and they’re technically the higher ranked team, it doesn’t feel that way.
“We have to go out there and perform to the highest level, and hopefully we get the win,” said defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale. “I have to go out there and leave everything on the field.”