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After magical weekend in Pullman, all things seem possible for No. 14 WSU

WSU is now ranked 14th and could have an outside chance at the College Football Playoff. (AP)

If you’re a Coug, Saturday was one of the best days ever, as good as the Saturday at Husky Stadium in 1997 when the Cougars beat the Dawgs to go to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 63 years.

WSU knocks off No. 12 Oregon 34-20 to cap big weekend in Pullman

ESPN’s College GameDay came to Pullman for the first time, and the Cougs showed up in force, setting an unofficial attendance record for the college football preview road show. If you were there, it had to be one of the best times ever to be a Coug – the country got to see our passion up close.

I loved the way they opened the show with Tom Pounds waving the Cougar flag, Ol’ Crimson, in the middle of thousands of Cougs. Pounds started the tradition of Ol’ Crimson appearing on every GameDay show for the past 15 years. It has been a weekly source of pride, waking up and seeing Ol’ Crimson in the background of the set in Ann Arbor, Columbus, Austin or wherever GameDay happened to be.

And even if you weren’t there, it was a spectacle to behold: wall-to-wall Cougs, all of whom share a special bond with our school. If you didn’t go to WSU, it’s hard to understand. You look at Pullman and Washington State and wonder: “A school in the middle of nowhere, how great can that possibly be?”

Well, it just is. We share something I can’t really explain. Most of us loved our four or five or six years there. I have many regrets about decisions I’ve made over the years, but I’ve never once wished I’d gone to school anywhere else. There are few things that make me feel better than to say “Go Cougs” to a fellow Coug and hearing “Go Cougs” back.

I’ll be honest, down deep, taking the Cougness out of it, I thought Oregon would win the game, but the Cougs actually did, hanging on for a 34-20 victory. Why did I think Oregon would win? I thought we’d get caught up in the GameDay hoopla and play poorly or at least not good enough to beat the Ducks. Some of this thinking had to do with recent history – Mike Leach’s teams were 1-6 coming off bye weeks, and we hadn’t exactly shined in big games, losing the last five Apple Cups and the last two bowl games.

It also had something to do with 40-plus years of watching Cougar football, seeing us blow it more often than coming through. And, yes, as our 27-0 halftime lead turned into a 27-7 lead and a 27-10 lead and a 27-17 lead and a 27-20 lead, I thought we might go into a full-on collapse and lose in overtime.

Thanks to Travell Harris, the Cougs escaped with the win as Washington State’s eighth-leading receiver came up with two of his biggest catches on the final drive – he wrestled the ball away from a Duck defensive back and turned a game-changing interception into a long-gainer, and then he made a catch on a fouth-and-6 play that allowed Gardner Minshew to find Dezmon Patmon on the game-clinching TD.

Fans stormed the field, giving viewers around the country and encore performance of what they’d seen earlier on GameDay in a memorable capper to the festivities.

And it didn’t stop there. On Sunday we learned that Washington State moved from No. 25 to No. 14 in the AP poll, and better yet, they moved ahead of the Huskies, who remained at No. 15 after defeating Colorado 27-13.

That got me to pipe-dreaming. What if the Cougs win their final six games, including victories in the Apple Cup and the Pac-12 championship game? They would be 12-1, and if they’re No. 14 now, there’s a chance they could move up to No. 4 and earn a chance to play Alabama in the national-championship semifinals.

I know the whole scenario might go pfffft as soon as Saturday when we play at Stanford, and oddsmakers think that will happen, favoring the Cardinal by 3 1/2 points. But if the Cougs get by that game, they’ll play three of their next four at Martin Stadium, where they’ve won 11 in a row.

If I’m a Husky fan, I’m thinking the Cougs won’t win the Apple Cup based on what I’ve seen the past five years. But as a Coug fan, I look at the Huskies this year and, let’s face it, they’re not as good as last year’s team. Auburn and Oregon showed that they’re beatable, and if the Ducks beat them, the Cougs certainly could too. At this point, I even think we’ll be slight favorites in the Apple Cup and rightfully so.

Minshew figures to be the difference. There’s something about that kid, and it’s not the stats that have turned him into the nation’s top passing quarterback. He’s got savvy and mobility, and I like his seemingly carefree attitude too.

When Oregon cut the Cougar lead to 27-20, every Coug fan everywhere was extremely nervous, but then we see Minshew on the sideline dancing to a rap song. He then came out and directed that game-clinching drive.

It sets up a terrific run to the finish with the possibility that the Cougs and Huskies will both be in the top 10 when they meet in Pullman the day after Thanksgiving.

We’ve gone from ESPN College GameDay to beating the Ducks to thinking all things are possible, including a win in the Apple Cup, a Hesiman Trophy for Minshew and a crimson-and-gray matchup with the Crimson Tide.

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