SEATTLE – The beleaguered University of Washington football team has much to motivate itself for Saturday’s Apple Cup game at Pullman against rival Washington State.
One, it will be the last game for head coach Keith Gilbertson and his staff.
Second, the Huskies want to send off what few seniors they have with a victory.
Third, as linebacker Evan Benjamin says, is simply what’s across the line of scrimmage.
“We respect them, but we want to win,” Benjamin said. “We hate ‘em.”
So goes the first cross-state salvo for the 2004 Apple Cup. And it may be the last. Both coaches, Gilbertson for Washington and Bill Doba for Washington State, discourage trash talk, even trash as mild as Benjamin’s.
That’s bad for sportswriters, who installed former UW receiver Andre DeSaussure into their All-Quote Hall of Fame in 1998 when he said he’d “rather die than live in Pullman,” and called the Palouse town “a bunch of drunks.”
The next day, then-coach Jim Lambright shipped DeSaussure down to the scout team and left the senior in Seattle for the game east of the mountains.
The coaches discourage such outbursts because in their minds, the game needs little buildup.
“It’s the most important day in the state of Washington,” Gilbertson said.
And, for the past six Apple Cups, it’s been a delirious day for the Huskies, who have won six straight against the Cougars. The past three have come with WSU the heavy favorite, having been ranked ninth, third and eighth in the nation.
This time around, the Cougars are an 11-point favorite, but Doba isn’t buying it. In fact, he said he’ll mention the losing streak as often as it will be safe to do so.
No one on WSU’s roster has had the experience of beating Washington.
“We’re going to emphasize that a lot,” Doba said. “You don’t want to make it sound as though we can’t beat them, though. I don’t think we have to emphasize it too much. I think our kids are aware of it.
“(Former Cougar defensive tackle) Jeremey Williams stopped by my office this morning and just said, ‘Hey, for all us guys who couldn’t win one, could you just please get this one for us?’” Doba said. “Our kids want to get one and I’m sure Washington feels the same way.”
Sick bay: Inside linebacker Joe Lobendahn will not play because of a fractured wrist suffered in Saturday’s loss to Cal. Senior Tim Galloway is listed as the starter this week. Kyle Trew, a redshirt freshman who prepped at Edmonds-Woodway High School, is listed as Galloway’s backup.
Also, tight end Joe Toledo is doubtful because of rib and back injuries. Should Toledo not be able to play, redshirt freshman Robert Lewis would start. Lewis has four catches this season, three Saturday against Cal.
Fullback Zach Tuiasosopo, who broke his leg against Notre Dame, hoped to be back for Apple Cup, but Gilbertson said Tuiasosopo is extremely doubtful.
Wideout Charles Frederick, who pulled a hamstring against Notre Dame and has since played sparingly since, will practice today and assess whether he can play Saturday.
Buddies commiserating: Gilbertson and Doba are good friends and usually have weekly phone conversations. Doba said they connected Monday.
“We kind of kidded each other on how bad we were,” Doba said.
Gilbertson had a different take.
“Actually, we discussed who could run faster,” said Gilbertson, who is scheduled to have hip-replacement surgery in February. “We both decided it would be the biggest waste of time.”
More laughs: Monday was Gilbertson’s last weekly news conference as Washington’s head coach. A running joke has been that, next to his precious moments with the media, the highlight of Gilbertson’s day is his time coaching his players.
On Monday, Gilbertson wondered aloud what his next job would be.
“With my luck, I’ll get a job as a paperboy and have to deliver you guys’ (barnyard excrement),” he said.
Broke the place up.
Short bursts: This is the first time since 1976 that both teams come into Apple Cup with losing records. In that game, the Huskies, 4-6 going into the game, beat a 3-7 Cougar club, 51-32. This season, Washington State is 4-5, while Washington is 1-9. … The series started in 1900, when the teams played to a 5-5 tie in Seattle. … The game will be regionally televised at 4 p.m. ABC is sending its A team out, with Keith Jackson and Dan Fouts in the booth and Todd Harris on the sidelines. … Doba said linebacker Will Derting plans to come back next season, despite being eligible for the NFL draft. “We’ve talked a lot,” Doba said. “I think Will has not had the year he would like to have had. I know his plans are to return.”