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Apple Cup blowout for Huskies? UW doesn’t expect that

Despite WSU’s dismal record, Washington sees hard-fought battle with archrival Cougs

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By Scott M. Johnson
Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Although they’re still trying to figure out how to contend for bowls and stay in the conference race, the two football programs that compete in the annual Apple Cup have certainly perfected late-game excitement in recent years.
Last year’s game went into double overtime before Washington State kicker Nico Grasu made a 37-yard field goal to beat the University of Washington 16-13.
In 2007, Cougars wide receiver Brandon Gibson caught a 35-yard touchdown pass over the middle with 31 seconds remaining to beat the Huskies 42-35.
The year before that, UW got a big sack from Jordan Reffett with 59 seconds left to thwart the Cougars’ comeback attempts in a 35-32 Huskies’ victory.
Each of the past eight installments of this series have been decided by eight points or less, and four of those have been within a field goal. Since 2002, the aggregate score in this series has been WSU 182, Washington 179.
While the Huskies (3-7) have been installed as 24-point favorites in the 102nd installment of the Apple Cup on Saturday, history shows that a fantastic finish is more likely than a blowout.
“No matter what the records are, no matter who goes where, it’s going to be a tough game,” Huskies wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “Both the teams pride themselves on winning this game.”
As close games go, this year’s Huskies have a much greater advantage in terms of experience. While WSU’s lone win came in an overtime thriller, the Huskies have been in last-minute nail-biters five times this season.
“I hope to think that we’re learning from those experiences of being in tight games in the fourth quarter,” said UW coach Steve Sarkisian, who is making his Apple Cup debut on Saturday. “… Not only in this game, it’s something we can hopefully learn from, but hopefully in the future of the program it’ll be something we can learn from.”
The Huskies are 2-3 this season in games decided by seven or fewer points.
The Cougars (1-10) haven’t had nearly as many opportunities in close games. An overtime win over SMU marked WSU’s only victory and the lone game in which the Cougars have been within 13 points of an opponent when the fourth quarter ended.
WSU has allowed each of its past four opponents to score at least 40 points, and the Cougars haven’t led a game in regulation since going ahead 7-0 in the early stages of a blowout loss to Arizona 374 days ago.
“We’ve had a long year, but our players are playing really hard and we’ve overcome a lot of injuries in a lot of ways,” WSU coach Paul Wulff said. “We’re playing a lot of guys right now that haven’t played a lot of football. But they’re playing really hard.”
While most teams would have every reason to expect a blowout win over the Cougars, Sarkisian is warning his players not to take WSU lightly this week.
“I just tell them that (the Cougars) are probably looking at us and saying the same thing,” Sarkisian said.
Of the 17 intra-state rivalries to be played during this holiday weekend, only the Apple Cup and Saturday’s Wake Forest-Duke game will involve a pair of teams with losing records.
So another close game could be in the cards at Husky Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“All rivalries are pretty close,” Huskies wide receiver D’Andre Goodwin said this week. “That’s when records don’t matter. Both teams come out and just put it all out there.”
Sarkisian, a former BYU player and USC assistant, has been in enough rivalries to know what to expect this weekend. The Huskies and Cougars are likely to go down to the wire again.
“I always expect rivalries to be that way,” he said. “That’s the nature of them. That’s why they’re so fun.”
Story tags » Cougars FootballHuskies Football

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