It’s not about the past.
But the memory hasn’t faded on Montlake, either.
It’s not just that Washington State snapped a seven-game Apple Cup losing streak Nov. 26, 2021, inside Husky Stadium with a resounding 40-13 win, its largest margin of victory in 113 meetings; or that former five-star quarterback and Husky legacy Sam Huard surrendered four interceptions in his first career start; or that the Cougs outgained their in-state rivals by more than 250 yards, 454 to 200, in a therapeutic throttling; or that crimson-clad fans cascaded over the barricades, hosting an impromptu party inside Husky Stadium; or that UW wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk crouched alone in the west end zone, absorbing the insult; or that WSU wideout Travell Harris held a Coug flag behind his back like a cape, running delirious laps in his enemy’s yard; or that quarterback Jayden de Laura stabbed an oversized flag into the Huskies’ field, inciting a pulsating mosh pit straight out of Pullman.
A year later, the scar hasn’t scabbed over.
It festers still.
“I wasn’t out there when they stormed the field. I didn’t know that had even happened,” sophomore wide receiver Rome Odunze said. “I saw that on social media and all that. That just added to the disrespect I felt from it and gave me that fuel going into the next season, not wanting to ever have that happen again and have that feeling in my heart.”
Added junior linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio: “It was kind of like disbelief. We were being pulled inside while all that was happening (with the field storming), so we didn’t really get to see that until after we left and we were like, ‘Wow, they really did that.’ We’ve got to make up what happened last year to a lot of Husky faithful.”
And yet, revenge can’t be everything — not when No. 12 Washington (9-2) can reach 10 wins Saturday, when a conference championship and Rose Bowl berth are still at stake, when the head coach and quarterback have never played in an Apple Cup, when that memory feels like the merciful end to a bygone era.
Not when Washington State (7-4), too, is a different team — led by Incarnate Word transfer quarterback Cameron Ward, bruising running back Nakia Watson and a comprehensively improved defense.
It’s a motivating factor.
But one of many.
“(The field storming) was the closing slide in our offensive meeting on Sunday,” first-year UW offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb said with a smile. “I definitely think there’s some motivation with that. The guys definitely think they were disrespected in some kind of way.
“For us, it always comes down to execution, regardless of who we’re playing. I know that’s boring, but it’s true. I think that motivation piece can help with preparation, if the guys are excited to get to work. The game means a lot to them. I think there’s probably more (motivation) for the guys that were on that field and saw that and felt that. They’re excited to get back out there. We’ve talked a lot too about, ‘This is a different family; this is a different offense.’ But we’re excited to go out there and avenge that.”
Added co-defensive coordinator William Inge: “You always want to find different ways to make sure your players can be motivated. But I think overall, with everything you have at stake, if you have to find some motivation for this game, you’re in the wrong place. There’s a lot at stake — to have a chance to go 1-0 for the week, to have a chance to win 10 games, being able to earn a conference championship. There isn’t motivation that’s needed.
“Now, you put (Apple Cup revenge) on top of all of those things? Now you have a pretty big cherry on top.”
Michael Penix Jr. has no need for cherries. The redshirt junior didn’t need extra motivation against rival Oregon, when he completed 74.3% of his passes and threw for 408 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-34 upset win. He hasn’t needed it on any step of a 9-2 start, throwing for 3,869 yards (the most in the nation) with 28 total touchdowns and six interceptions along the way.
“We just want to go in there and make sure we handle business and do what we have to do to come out with a win,” the lefty passer said Tuesday. “Coach (Kalen) DeBoer always talks about class. We want to play with class. We want to walk around with class. Everybody understands, yeah, we want to come in there and whoop y’all. But at the same time, we’re going to do it with class and integrity. We’re going to make sure we come out on top and we’re going to go get the cup and bring it back home.”
Speaking of DeBoer, UW’s first-year coach — who signed a two-year contract extension Monday — watched the 2021 Apple Cup alongside his family in Fresno, California.
Three days later, he was hired to coach the Huskies.
“It’s definitely a motivating factor,” DeBoer said of WSU storming Husky Stadium. “I think it has to be more than that, because that will wear off. It has to be about what we stand for and how important it is to be our best and the things we’ve discussed since day one when we got here. But it certainly is a part of this game, and the guys haven’t forgotten that.”
So, no: It’s not about the past. Not entirely.
But Jalen McMillan, for one, plans on cherry picking at the Apple Cup.
“The fans rushed the field. They slammed the flag on our logo. So this is so personal,” UW’s sophomore wide receiver said Tuesday. “We’re going to come into their crib … and we’re going to win. So I can’t wait.”