When Washington State University is bad, it can be horrid.
One of the worst teams in WSU history did something Saturday afternoon that not even the historically bad 2008 Huskies could do. That is, the Cougars got shut out, and blown out, in an Apple Cup rivalry game.
For the 11th time in 12 games this season, and the first time in the last nine Apple Cup battles, Washington State came out on the wrong end of a blowout. The Cougars served as a get-well card to a struggling UW team that snapped a four-game losing streak by way of a 30-0 win Saturday afternoon.
It marked the first Apple Cup shutout since 1968, and the first time the Cougars have been shut out in the annual rivalry since 1964.
“You always want to kill Wazzu. That was our goal going in, and we accomplished that,” senior linebacker Donald Butler said after the Huskies took possession of the Apple Cup for the first time since 2006. “For the next year, I'll be able to say: ‘We shut you guys out.'”
While it marked the Huskies' most lopsided win since the 2007 opener, and the school's first shutout win in 12 years, Saturday's game was not exactly a return to glory for the UW program. The Huskies (4-7) simply played the part of the longtime nemesis that kicks a beaten man while he's down.
Washington State (1-11) had just 163 yards of total offense, went through three different quarterbacks, and never got closer than the UW 33-yard line. In the end, the Cougars lost their ninth game in a row — all of them coming by double digits. Since beating SMU in double overtime on Sept. 19, WSU has been outscored 358-81.
While the past five Apple Cups were decided by a total of 20 points, Saturday's result marked the most lopsided installment of the rivalry since the Huskies' 51-3 win in 2000.
“It was a special one to be a part of,” said Steve Sarkisian, UW's first-year coach. “Hopefully, they can all be something like this.”
While UW finished with a bang — the Huskies' punter didn't take the field for the final 36 minutes — the 102nd Apple Cup got off to a pretty slow start. Through 13 minutes of play, the two teams were unable to get on the scoreboard. Dropped passes, false starts and various other miscues by both teams were the story of the first quarter, which ended with a scoreless tie and the Huskies were in danger of earning the distinction of being the first team not to score a first-quarter point on WSU since ... well, last year's Apple Cup.
But a Mason Foster interception with just under three minutes left in the first quarter put the Huskies in position for a 24-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead with 1:38 remaining.
That seemed to snap UW out of its funk, as the Huskies' next offensive possession resulted in a three-play, 85-yard touchdown drive that included three first downs and a 50-yard TD pass from Jake Locker to Jermaine Kearse. UW added another field goal a few minutes later for a comfortable 13-0 lead against a Cougars offense that could manage just 73 yards in the first half.
The outmanned Cougars had no fight after that, going three and out on four of their five second-half possessions while giving up points on three of the Huskies' first four possessions after halftime. By the time Jake Locker ran through and around just about every WSU defender for a 15-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, the Huskies had opened up a 30-0 lead, and the only drama was whether the Apple Cup would see its first shutout in 41 years.
When the Cougars' final drive stalled deep in their own territory with just under a minute to go, the stage was set for UW to take back the Apple Cup.
When Gov. Chris Gregoire handed the trophy to coach Steve Sarkisian, the celebration began.
“It really feels good to finally have that trophy back here, where I think it really belongs,” said junior safety Nate Williams, who had never beaten the Cougars.
For many Huskies, the victory helped offset last season's overtime loss to WSU. That game saw UW lead for most of the game before losing on a double-overtime field goal.
“We were obviously out there playing with a little chip on our shoulder,” Williams said, “and we were ready to go.”
As a motivational tactic, the coaching staff showed a video Nico Grasu's game-winning field goal in overtime of the 2008 Apple Cup to the Huskies after every practice last week.
“To see it every day — day after day — that really sparked a fire in us,” senior defensive end Darrion Jones said. “Nobody wanted to see that (highlight) again.”
This time around, the Cougars would get no chance to win the game in overtime. In fact, WSU didn't have much of a chance at all.
In a series that has featured fantastic finishes for most of this decade, only one team made it to the finish line Saturday afternoon.
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