By Christian Caple The News Tribune
SEATTLE — It shouldn’t be all that surprising that in the wake of the Washington Huskies’ 69-27 pasting of Oregon State last week, several players said they were already thinking about Friday’s game against Washington State.
And last year’s game against Washington State.
There is much to think about. The 18-point, fourth-quarter lead the Huskies blew. Their 18 penalties. The 35-yard, potential game-winning field goal Travis Coons missed as time expired.
“It’s a bad taste in our mouth,” Coons said this week.
The interception Keith Price threw to Toni Pole on the first play of overtime. The field goal Andrew Furney made to win it for WSU. The sea of crimson that spanned the Martin Stadium turf. And, the lasting image: WSU 31, UW 28, another 7-5 regular season in the books for the Huskies.
No 24-hour rule could contain that kind of sting. Especially not after the Huskies lost their bowl game to Boise State in similar, excruciating fashion.
So offensive lineman Mike Criste sat in an interview room in Corvallis last week and admitted it, straight away.
“It’s right there,” he said. “I’m thinking about it right now.”
“Kicking their ass,” he continued. “Having a great week of preparation and going out there and doing everything to the T, and coming out with a win.”
He’s not alone.
“It ran with us through the whole offseason. We didn’t finish those last few games how we were supposed to,” said sophomore cornerback Marcus Peters. “The coaches reminded us every day. We actually put up some banners of the last few scores that we played. It was something to motivate us, something to help us get that extra edge and knowing how to finish.”
Of course, they weren’t alone in using last year’s Apple Cup as a springboard into offseason workouts. WSU did the same, though with an obviously different theme. The Cougars, despite tunnel-vision that mostly prevents them from acknowledging human existence beyond the very next practice repetition, have no problem espousing the virtues of last year’s rivalry win.
The significance can’t really be overstated. It not only prevented WSU from finishing with 10 losses in Mike Leach’s first season as coach, but it also snapped an eight-game losing streak and gave the Cougars something to feel good about after a season plagued by turmoil.
And now they’re 6-5, bowl eligible for the first time in a decade, making good on what Leach and players described as a highly productive spring and summer.
“I think it accelerated our offseason,” Leach said of the 2012 Apple Cup. “I think it started to reveal some of the potential our team had. That’s the thing that we’ve got to continue to do, is continue to unfold what our potential is.”
The Huskies just want to continue to erase the memory of last year’s fourth-quarter debacle, a period that included four pass-interference penalties against UW.
Peters, who was flagged for two of those, said he doesn’t plan to make any changes to his physical play this season.
“Not at all,” he said. “We’re going to play our brand of football, and that’s what it’s going to be.”
Four players leaving with eligibility
Jamaal Kearse, Andrew Hudson, DiAndre Campbell and Taz Stevenson, all players with one year of eligibility remaining, will be honored as seniors prior to Friday’s game and will leave the UW football program after this season.
A posting on CoachSark.com says that all four players have completed enough credits to earn their degrees, and have “decided they’re ready for the next opportunity in their lives.”
UW will honor the players, along with 13 other seniors, during a pregame ceremony.