Huard: The biggest matchup to watch for between UW and WSU in Apple Cup

Nov 22, 2022, 2:43 PM | Updated: Nov 26, 2022, 12:46 pm

Apple Cup UW Huskies WSU Cougars...

Defensive lineman Jeremiah Martin and Bralen Trice of the Washington Huskies celebrate their sack of quarterback Bo Nix of the Oregon Ducks on November 12, 2022. (Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

(Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

It’s bragging rights week in the state of Washington as the UW Huskies and WSU Cougars are set to face off this Saturday in the 114th Apple Cup rivalry game.

Huard: Does this ‘epic’ Apple Cup mean more to UW Huskies or WSU?

This year’s installment sees the 9-2 Huskies travel to Pullman for a clash with the 7-4 Cougars, who won last year’s game 40-13 in Seattle.

Both teams are very different this time around as UW has a new head coach in Kalen DeBoer who has more than doubled the Huskies’ four-win total from 2021 this season and has quarterback Michael Penix Jr. leading the nation in passing yards.

For the Cougs, Jake Dickert is no longer an interim head coach, but is the head man altogether, and he has a new quarterback this year in Cameron Ward, who has played well in his first year in Pullman.

So when the two bitter rivals face off in the 2022 Apple Cup starting at 7:30 p.m. at Martin Stadium (which can be heard live on Seattle Sports 710 AM with pregame coverage beginning at 5:30), what is the biggest matchup to keep a close eye on? Former UW Huskies quarterback Brock Huard broke it down during Tuesday’s Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports 710 AM.

“I think it’s going to end up being WSU’s tackles against Martin and Trice,” Huard said.

Martin and Trice are Jeremiah Martin and Bralen Trice, and they are UW’s top defensive ends and pass rushers this year, leading the team in sacks and playing a big part in the Huskies’ 2022 success.

Shortly before talking about the Apple Cup, Huard and guest host Mike Lefko discussed why the San Francisco 49ers are the most dangerous team in the NFC West after their blowout win over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football. Huard pointed to the 49ers’ defensive line being able to take over games and impact opposing quarterbacks. He thinks Trice and Martin can play a big part in the Apple Cup on Saturday.

Defensive line play has been a factor in recent Apple Cups, Huard said, including in 2018 when he actually picked the Cougars to beat his alma mater. That year, WSU was 10-1 with Gardner Minshew shining at quarterback. But that year saw the Cougs do something under then-head coach Mike Leach that plagued them in the Apple Cup during his tenure in Pullman.

“That year you watched the front three (of the Huskies’ defense) defeat the five (WSU offensive) linemen, and Mike Leach continue in those years to be so hard-headed and not change (his approach against the Huskies) whether it was Luke Falk, Gardner Minshew or anybody else (at quarterback),” Huard said. “It was Vita Vea, it was Greg Gaines, it was those guys that dominated that matchup – alongside (then-UW defensive coordinator) Jimmy Lake’s scheme – for all those years.”

That wasn’t the case last year, though, when the Cougars dominated the Huskies in Seattle for their first Apple Cup win since 2012. UW’s once-proud defense had no answer for the WSU offense and the Huskies’ D-line did next to nothing to impact the game.

“And last year, (WSU) could protect (then-starting quarterback) Jayden de Laura. Last year de Laura went nuts and he through it all over the yard. And that will have to be the plan (this year),” Huard said. “But last year you had two NFL offensive tackles and this year you don’t.”

The Cougs are indeed missing starting tackles Liam Ryan and Abraham Lucas, both of whom are now in the NFL, with Lucas shining for the Seahawks as a third-round pick.

The Huskies, meanwhile, have NFL-caliber edge rushers in Martin and Trice, who have combined for 13.5 sacks this year.

“I think Martin and Trice have turned themselves into NFL guys off the edge – seven sacks (for Trice) and 6.5 sacks (for Martin) – but so much more (important) is their pressure,” Huard said. “And if they can impact those tackles and they squeeze Cam Ward and they suck the oxygen out of that pocket continually, it’s going to be a difficult day for the Cougs to score as many points as I think they’re going to have to score to keep up the Huskies on Saturday.”

Listen to the second hour of Tuesday’s Brock and Salk at this link or in the player below.

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Huard: The biggest matchup to watch for between UW and WSU in Apple Cup