Reversal of fortune for Huskies?

  • By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
  • Saturday, November 28, 2009 12:01am
  • Sports

SEATTLE — D’Andre Goodwin won’t even let himself entertain the thought.

Leaving the University of Washington without a win over Washington State is not an option.

“I plan on beating them for the next two years,” the junior wide receiver said this week. “I’m not graduating from here without beating them.”

With four losses in the past five Apple Cups, including each of the previous two, the UW football program is hungry for a win in the annual rivalry. But nobody is more desperate than the Huskies’ current junior class.

Most of the seniors already have beaten WSU once in their careers — a 35-32 Huskies’ victory in 2006 that marks the school’s only Apple Cup win of the past five years. The freshmen and sophomores will have plenty of chances over the years.

But the juniors already have lost two in a row and are playing their final home game against WSU this afternoon.

“Going around and seeing the Wazzu stickers on cars, it makes you go: ‘Wow, we still haven’t gotten one yet,’” junior linebacker Mason Foster said.

The past two years have ranked among the most frustrating Apple Cups for the UW program — not because the Huskies have been battling for Pac-10 titles or bowl games, but because of the way the games ended.

In 2007, a blown coverage allowed WSU receiver Brandon Gibson to run unchecked down the middle of the field for a 35-yard touchdown pass with 31 seconds to play in a game that the Cougars won 42-35.

Last season, the Huskies missed two potential game-winning field goals before WSU’s Nico Grasu kicked the game-winner in double overtime to extend UW’s losing streak en route to an 0-12 season.

“It was heartbreaking,” UW’s Foster said of last season’s OT defeat. “A tough loss. I don’t even like to talk about it. We’re ready to come back and make sure it doesn’t happen this year.”

The Huskies had gone 20 years without losing back-to-back games in the Apple Cup rivalry, and yet UW now has two losing streaks in the past five years.

A loss today would give the Huskies their third consecutive Apple Cup loss for the first time in the 109 years of the rivalry.

“You don’t need any more” motivation than that, UW senior Daniel Te’o-Nesheim said this week. “That’s good enough, just beating the Cougs. That’s enough motivation for us.”

Te’o-Nesheim is part of a class of seniors who wouldn’t mind finishing off their careers by snapping the two-year Apple Cup slide.

“I mean, they’re the Cougars,” senior safety Jason Wells said. “They’re our enemy, for the most part.”

When asked what he thought of WSU earlier this week, Te’o-Nesheim said: “Not much. Not much I want to say. They’re struggling this year much like we did last year and hopefully we can take advantage of it.”

While the rivalry has spanned 109 years and 101 games, many of the Huskies had to play in an Apple Cup before truly understanding the cross-state disdain. Players like California natives Wells, Goodwin and Foster, and Hawaiian-born Te’o-Nesheim, have let the Cougars get under their skin over the years, and the multiple Apple Cup losses have only fueled the fire of hate.

“Definitely, you always do a little extra for the Cougars,” Te’o-Nesheim said. “It’s harder not to get distracted than other weeks.”

With nothing to play for but the proverbial pride, both teams will come out focused this week. The past eight games of the Apple Cup series have been decided by eight points or less, and players from both sides expect another down-to-the-wire finish.

“They’re going to come out and play hard,” Foster said. “We’re going to get their best shot, and they’re going to get our best shot. I can’t wait.”

One thing the Huskies don’t want to do again — especially the junior class that has yet to beat WSU — is walk off the field after another Apple Cup loss.

“I want to beat them a lot,” UW’s Goodwin said. “The last couple games came down to the wire, and now we’ve got them at our house this Saturday. So we’re looking forward to celebrating after a victory.”

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