I said the Cougars had a better team than the Huskies, and as I walked out of Husky Stadium midway through the third quarter Saturday night, I wondered how I could have been that wrong. Lord knows I’ve been wrong before, but if this were a field-goal attempt, it wouldn’t have been wide left or wide right, I would have whiffed and missed the ball completely.
Washington State was overmatched in every possible way. The Cougars couldn’t even take advantage of it when two of the Huskies’ playmakers, Dante Pettis and Lavon Coleman, left the game in the first half because of injuries. The Cougs have now lost the last five Apple Cups by an average of more than 25 points.
When you say stupid stuff like I did, you have to accept the return fire because let’s face it, a guy who says stupid stuff deserves it. I’ll take it, I just still don’t get what happened.
I suppose a Husky fan would tell me: “Come on, man, what did you expect? We always drill you guys in the Apple Cup. Plus Luke Falk has been terrible on the road this year, and this was another road game, wasn’t it? How could you not see those things playing out all over again?”
I pictured a much different scenario, one in which the Cougars were going to win their first Apple Cup since 2012, and it would be just like 1997 with Coug fans storming the field to celebrate – back then it was the Pac-10 title; this time around it would be for the Pac-12 North title and a berth in the conference championship game Friday night against USC.
Wishful thinking quickly turned into idiotic thinking as the Huskies took control by motoring down the field with their first possession and taking a 7-0 lead. What followed were four turnovers by Falk in an inexplicable performance by a senior quarterback who broke all kinds of Pac-12 records in his career.
I thought coach Mike Leach would replace Falk with Tyler Hilinski to start the second half, but he didn’t, explaining that it wasn’t just Falk but everyone on his team that was playing poorly. I feel bad for Falk to have his mostly exceptional career end like this. He has gone from being a Heisman Trophy candidate to a potential second-round choice in the NFL draft to a late-round choice, according to Brock Huard on 710 ESPN Seattle.
To be honest, as much as I’ve enjoyed watching him, I wouldn’t draft him if I were an NFL general manager. As good as he’s been at the collegiate level, I just don’t see him being successful in the NFL with a passable arm and no mobility.
I’m still amazed he threw for 369 yards Saturday night, but it’s probably because I didn’t see most of them. He gathered a significant chunk of that total after the Huskies built a 34-0 lead, and when it’s 34-0 and the team you’re pulling for has the 0, and you’re cold and miserable on a rainy November night, you make the decision to leave because anywhere you’re headed is better than where you are – on a wet aluminum bench in a seat that you paid $120 for.
At that point it seemed impossible that things would get worse, but they did – we paid $40 to park in someone’s Montlake neighborhood driveway, and the guy told us we’d be boxed in and unable to leave until after the game. At the time, I thought, no problem, I’d be staying ’til the end to celebrate the Cougar victory.
Instead, we sat in our car for nearly an hour, waiting for happy Husky fans to return to their cars and move out of our way so we could slink out of there and find a stiff drink to help us cope with yet another Apple Cup defeat. The only upside to that was getting to listen to Bob Rondeau’s last broadcast as the Husky play-by-play man – for me, he’s the best in town, though I won’t miss his trademark call of “Touchdown Washington” because I’ve heard it far too often against the Cougs in particular.
I don’t understand how a 9-2 team can play that poorly, especially with an extra week to prepare. I was most surprised by the Huskies’ so-so offense having its way with the Cougs’ Speed D, rushing for more than 300 yards.
And yet, it’s hard to call a 9-3 season disappointing, but what the heck, I will anyway. In fact – and this might be doubling down on saying stupid stuff – I would have rather seen us go 8-4 if one of the wins was in the Apple Cup than 9-3 the way it played out.
It looks as if we’ll be headed to the Foster Farms Bowl, and that will be a great consolation prize if we get a chance to face Michigan in a rematch of the 1998 Rose Bowl. On top of that, a Jim Harbaugh-Leach press conference could provide plenty of entertainment.
It’s just that for the second year in a row the Cougars missed out on an opportunity for a bigger prize, settling for a good season instead of a great one and capping it in stunningly unspectacular fashion.