Jordan White-Frisbee (Kim Grinolds/Dawgman.com)
PULLMAN, Wash. - In a game featuring teams no one wanted to watch, Washington and Washington State made the 101st Apple Cup one for the ages, defying every reasonable convention. Nico Grasu's 37-yard field goal in the second overtime propelled the Cougars to a fitting 16-13 triumph at Martin Stadium Saturday.
It was the fourth AC win for the Cougars out of the last five, the first time that has happened in the history of the series.
With the Huskies (0-8, 0-11) leading 10-7 and Washington State (1-8, 2-9) seemingly in a hole they couldn't get themselves out of all game long, Kevin Lopina dialed up some magic in the form of a 48-yard bomb down the sidelines freshman receiver Jared Karstetter. Karstetter eluded UW cornerback Quinton Richardson and safety Tripper Johnson, who was late to help over the top. But WSU nearly botched the sure kick when Lopina had to clock the ball with just two seconds left. Grasu's ensuing 28-yard kick was true, forcing overtime.
Washington State linebacker Louis Bland had tackles for loss on both of Washington's drives in the overtime periods, forcing field goals. Ryan Perkins made his only field goal of the night, from 22-yards, but missed from 37 yards in the second overtime - leading to Grasu's winning kick. The Huskies were 2-5 in field goals, with Perkins missing two and Jared Ballman missing one.
"It really got fun in the fourth quarter," Washington State Head Coach Paul Wulff said. Wulff is the first first-year head coach at Washington State to win his inaugural Apple Cup since Jim Sweeney in 1968. "Our defense kept us in it. When we had to get tough we did. They believed, and they made plays in the end."
This particular Apple Cup, marked by some of the worst statistical play ever seen, was clouded in uncertainty. Try on this existential debate: Could Washington find their first win of the season? Could Washington State, second-to-last defensively in the country, do anything to stop Washington from getting their first win? Could Washington, ranked 110th nationally in total offense, do anything with the idea of playing the second-worst defense? Would anybody score? Could anybody stop the other from scoring?
All compelling questions, in a backhanded kind of way - but that's what was set in front of the who decided it was worth their day to come and watch some Pac-10 football. The Huskies thought they had gotten off to the kind of big-play start Willingham wanted to, via a 58-yard return by Quinton Richardson of the opening kickoff. But the play was nullified by a penalty on the Huskies' Johnie Kirton, and three plays later Fouch was picked off by WSU cornerback Romeo Pellum at the Cougars' 48-yard line.
Washington State was unable to turn the miscue into points, settling for a punt into the Huskies' end zone after a Donald Butler sack of WSU QB Kevin Lopina. It set a trend, as Washington was able to force WSU into punting situations with key third-down sacks.
It wasn't the only time the Huskies shot themselves in the foot on a big special teams play. Devin Aguilar returned a WSU punt all the way inside the Cougars' 10-yard line, but the play was brought back due to a block in the back on UW's Chancellor Young. The penalty cost the visitors roughly 60 yards in field position.
Washington used some tough running by Willie Griffin and Terrance Dailey, as well as some clutch third-down passing by Ronnie Fouch to give the Huskies a lead at half, their first in nearly a year. Overall the two freshmen backs combined for 201 of UW's 224 total rush yards, and Griffin's 112 was a season-high for the Huskies. Fouch finished the game 11-16 for 99 yards and one interception.
The only interest Washington State was able to generate offensively in the first half was a 28-yard run off a fake punt by Reid Forrest in the second quarter. Their subsequent drive was stalled by a Daniel Te'o-Nesheim sack of Lopina.
The junior quarterback from Pleasanton, Calif. was picked off by Mesphin Forrester on a pass intended for Jeshua Anderson, and returned the ball 19 yards to the Washington State 26. Their drive stalled, and the Huskies' Ryan Perkins made a 35-yard field goal to push Washington's advantage to 10.
Washington State was able to get on the board when freshman running back Logwone Mitz went 57 yards on a stretch run off the right side to bring the Huskies' lead to three. It was the longest run of the season for the Cougars by 15 yards.
But for the majority of the second half, it never appeared the Cougars would get over the hump. A Lopina pass to Dwight Tardy was stopped short by the Huskies' Donald Butler on fourth down at the Cougars' 43-yard line with 2:02 left in the game and WSU running out of time outs.
Washington's mission was clear: make one first down and seal a hard-fought Apple Cup win. Three Dailey runs netted seven yards, and the Huskies decided to punt on fourth down instead of trying a 53-yard field goal into a little breeze.
Ballman's punt ended up in the end zone, giving the Cougars one last chance to tie the game with 56 seconds left.