Moore: As glad as I am College GameDay is coming to WSU, it’s even better that UW’s loss delivered it
For 15 years, the Cougar flag, Ol’ Crimson, has been waving in the backdrop of the ESPN College GameDay set in every other college football town but Pullman. That will change on Saturday when Rece Davis, Desmond Howard, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit bring their traveling show to the Washington State campus to preview the Cougs’ game against the Ducks at Martin Stadium.
This is a big deal to all of us Cougs. We’ve taken pride in seeing Ol’ Crimson every Saturday morning on the country’s marquee college-football studio show. We wake up and look for the flag and there it is, waving for the 213th consecutive time last Saturday in Ann Arbor.
We’re so into College GameDay coming to Pullman that it reminds me of our last two visits to the Rose Bowl in 1998 and 2003 – every Coug is making every effort to be in Pullman to welcome the whole ESPN crew after 15 years of waiting for it to happen.
It’s just a TV show, but it represents relevance. We’ve been a random fixture on the set for so long and now we’re in ESPN’s living room. It’s going to be fun to throw our feet on the coffee table and hear the hosts tell the nation how great it is and what it means to be a Coug. There will be a sea of crimson and gray behind Davis, Howard, Corso and Herbstreit, even if it’s cold and dark at 6 a.m. when the show starts.
It will be an exciting week filled with speculation on who the guest picker should be – I’d cast my vote for Steve Gleason, who is battling ALS, but if ESPN can’t make that happen, I’d like to see WSU alum Tom Pounds on the stage. It was his idea to start the flag-waving on ESPN College GameDay, and stories have been written over the years about the complex nature of getting Ol’ Crimson from place to place, making sure it appears every week. His perseverance should be rewarded.
Short of that, I’ll raise my hand for Ryan Leaf to make the picks. He deserves mention for turning his life around, and let’s not forget something else – Leaf helped end the Cougs’ 63-year absence from the Rose Bowl.
Who should we thank for making this possible? Chris Petersen. The same coach that routinely clobbers us in the Apple Cup made a dubious decision that allowed Oregon to beat Washington 30-27 in overtime last Saturday in Eugene. I have no idea why he shut down his offense when they reached the Oregon 20-yard line with less than a minute to go. It was third-and-1, the Huskies still had two timeouts. Surely the way they were running the ball on Oregon, the Dawgs could have gotten closer to the goal posts for their freshman walk-on kicker.
But Petersen, apparently fearing a turnover, decided to have his kicker try a 37-yard field goal for the win at the end of regulation time. I wanted that kid to miss his kick in the worst way, and miss he did. But truth be known, I feel bad for him. He’s just a kid, and I’m sure it’s been hard for him since that happened. Hopefully he’ll get a chance to hit the game-winner against Colorado this week.
If I’m a Husky fan, I’m not blaming him, I’m blaming my coach for being way too conservative. The Dawgs could have turned a 37-yard attempt into one that was closer to an extra point and maybe even scored a touchdown on a running play that would not have left Oregon enough time to match.
But if Washington had won, ESPN College GameDay would not be coming to Pullman, so thanks, coach, for playing not to lose. Hey, I admit to enjoying Husky losses as much as Coug wins, and whatever that makes me, I don’t care, it’s the truth. The Huskies look at the Ducks as their biggest rival, but I still look at the Dawgs as ours. No one else is even close.
It warms my old-and-bitter heart to think that 2018 marks the 10-year anniversary of the finest season in Husky football history. In 2008 the Huskies ran the table, losing all 12 of their games, a crowning achievement that Dawg fans still reminisce about in much the same way that Mariner fans talk about their 1995 season.
Ten years ago this week, the Dawgs were preparing to get trampled by the Beavers 34-13 to fall to 0-6. At that point, coach Tyrone Willingham was having problems keeping his team focused. He understood how hard it was to complete a perfect season. He needed all hands on deck to reach the goal but noticed that some players were actually trying to win.
In what might have been his toughest coaching challenge ever, Willingham guided his team to six more defeats, even losing to the worst WSU team ever in the Apple Cup, giving us the greatest comeback to Husky barbs. Whatever the purple-and-goldsters want to say to us about how we’re their little brother or how they’ve dominated the last five Apple Cups, we always reach for our back pocket and pull out our handy comeback:
“Maybe so, but we’ve never gone 0-and-12.”
There truly is no response to that.
And now we’re being told that they’re rooting for us against Oregon this week. We don’t ever want the Dawgs rooting for us, but they always say they root for us anyway, and will cheer especially hard this week because they think if we beat the Ducks, their team will have the inside track to the Pac-12 North championship.
This is based on their assumption that the 2018 Apple Cup will be another walk in the park like the 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 Apple Cups. Keep in mind that was also the assumption for the 2012 Apple Cup. Washington was favored by 14 points but blew an 18-point fourth-quarter lead and lost in overtime. This just might be the season that the Dawgs are back in some lower-rent bowl, and based on what I’ve seen from them, that’s a better bet than a conference title and a Rose Bowl.
Under no circumstances would we root for the Dawgs, even if it helped our chances in the standings. It would feel dirty to me, but to them, we’re the lesser of two evils with the Ducks, and they also need our help to reach their secondary goal of winning the Pac-12 title now that their national-championship hopes were blown to smithereens by Oregon.
I don’t know how we’re going to handle the brightest of spotlights this week. I’m concerned about our defense against that high-powered Oregon offense, but the Oregon defense should be worried about our high-powered offense too. Oddsmakers are at a loss, too, making the game a pick ’em.
It’ll be fun to see how it all plays out. Here’s to hoping Corso puts on Butch’s head and the Cougs prove him right.
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