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O’Neil: UW’s Jake Browning doesn’t have anything left to prove in Apple Cup

This Friday, Jake Browning can become the first quarterback to win four Apple Cups. (AP)

This was supposed to be a story about Jake Browning’s Washington legacy.

Apple Cup Story Time: WSU fan Jim Moore, UW fan Danny O’Neil

More specifically, it was supposed to be a story about how a victory over Washington State on Friday – or a lack thereof – would affect that legacy.

Then a funny thing happened as I sat down and started writing. I realized what a bunch of unadulterated hooey I was typing out.

The outcome of this game isn’t going to change his legacy at all. It’s going to punctuate it, and while I hope that it will be an exclamation point as he makes Apple Cup history, a loss isn’t going to change the way I see him. At all.

I’m grateful for everything Browning and the rest of this senior class has done because while they didn’t have to perform CPR to restore the pulse of a program that flatlined 10 years ago, they did resuscitate the Huskies’ championship reputation. They won one conference title two years ago and are two wins away from claiming a second. They’ve earned a berth in the college football playoff. They’ve appeared in the Fiesta Bowl, and the Rose Bowl remains a distinct possibility heading into the Apple Cup.

All Browning has done since stepping foot on campus is start a year before anyone should have reasonably expected him to contribute, be named the conference’s top offensive player as a sophomore and win 37 games that he has started, which is more than anyone in the history of this conference, which happens to have a pretty prestigious honor roll of passers.

The X-factor in this year’s Apple Cup? WSU QB Gardner Minshew

If Browning’s senior season hasn’t quite lived up expectations, well, Browning’s success here at Washington is a big reason that those expectations were so lofty to begin with.

Here’s the part of the story where I’m contractually required to mention the criticism he has faced and the divided opinions about him among Husky fans, some of whom believe the program will take its great step forward when Browning is gone and Jacob Eason is eligible next season.

Sorry, but I’ll think about next year when it is actually next year and for now I want to say thank you to the guy who’s going to hold every single school passing record worth holding regardless of what happens against the Cougars.

Browning doesn’t have anything left to prove. Not to me nor to any other Husky fan, and if you’re waiting to see if the Huskies win on Friday to decide how you’ll feel about his tenure as quarterback I want to remind that it wasn’t all that long ago that this team went 1-10 (2004), 2-9 (2005) and the blight that was a winless 2012 2008.

You can debate whether Jake has been great. There’s no doubt, however, that he has been really, really good and in his four years the Huskies have returned to prominence they have not had since 2000.

On Friday he has a chance to do something that no other quarterback has accomplished in the history of this series between two schools that are rightfully known for the quarterbacks they’ve produced.

He can become the first quarterback to win four Apple Cups. No one has done that. In fact, he’s one of only four players with three wins in the modern history of this series that began in 1900 with Warren Moon, Cody Pickett and Alex Brink being the other three.

What Browning has done in these four seasons speaks for itself, and instead of wondering how a fourth victory over the Cougars will change the way we remember Browning, I’m looking to Friday’s game and hoping he can add one more memory to everything that he’s accomplished.

Go Dawgs!

More Apple Cup coverage on 710Sports.com

• Huard: Expect different Apple Cup between No. 7 WSU, No. 16 UW
• Moore: This is WSU’s year to knock off Huskies, end Apple Cup skid
Heaps’ Apple Cup preview: WSU’s Air Raid vs Huskies’ secondary
Apple Cup Story Time: Ex-UW QB Brock Huard with Tom Wassell
The X-factor in this year’s Apple Cup? WSU QB Gardner Minshew
Only Apple Cup stands in way of No. 7 WSU winning Pac-12 North title
UW QB Jake Browning has chance to cap stellar career in Apple Cup