The Big Plays: In epic Apple Cup, No. 4 UW Huskies beat WSU 24-21

Nov 25, 2023, 5:01 PM | Updated: Nov 27, 2023, 11:50 am

Apple Cup UW Huskies Michael Penix Jr. Rome Odunze...

UW Huskies WR Rome Odunze and QB Michael Penix Jr. celebrate a TD in the 2023 Apple Cup. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The 115th Apple Cup between the UW Huskies and WSU Cougars absolutely delivered. The Cougs gave the fourth-ranked Dawgs their best shot, with the game going down to the very last second, but ultimately Washington remains unbeaten.

Apple Cup: Caple’s Takeaways |Β Recap | Box score

UW kicker Grady Gross was good from 42 yards as time expired, delivering not just a 24-21 Huskies victory but one of the most important wins in program history.

Washington State never led, but it also never trailed by more than one score, tying the game three separate times, including with less than six minutes remaining.

The win could not be more important for the Huskies and more devastating for the Cougars. Washington improves to 12-0, keeping its national championship hopes alive going into next Friday’s Pac-12 Championship battle with No. 6 Oregon. Washington State, meanwhile, likely ends its season at 5-7, coming a win short of bowl eligibility.

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Here’s a breakdown of the biggest plays from Saturday’s Apple Cup at Husky Stadium in Seattle.


β€’ The game began with three punts – two three-and-outs by the Cougars and one six-play series by the Huskies – until Washington’s offense finally put together a scoring drive. A 22-yard pass from Michael Penix Jr. to Rome Odunze served as the biggest gain in a nine-play, 51-yard drive that ended on a 1-yard plunge by Dillon Johnson into the end zone on third-and-goal, putting UW up 7-0.

β€’ The Cougs had an answer, displaying that they can be explosive while on offense, too. On third-and-9, Cam Ward hit Josh Kelly for 17 yards. On the very next play, Kyle Williams made a circus catch for a 37-yard reception. And right after that, it was Kelly again with a tricky catch of his own for a 21-yard TD that tied the game at 7.


β€’ A potential turning point came midway into quarter No. 2. With the Cougs facing third-and-17, a Ward pass went right to the Huskies’ Thaddeus Dixon for an interception. That gave Washington a short field as it took over at the WSU 49.

β€’ Three plays later, the Huskies’ offense did what it has done time and time again this season. Odunze found himself wide open, and Penix didn’t miss him for the 40-yard score. With the PAT by Gross (who missed a 43-yard field goal on the previous drive), UW took the lead 14-7.

β€’ The Huskies had a golden opportunity to take full control going into halftime, but they instead left the door open for the Cougars. WSU walked through it, first forcing UW into a punt with just over a minute until the break, then putting its air attack on display to tie things back up 14-14. Ward completed a 28-yard pass to Lincoln Victor to get the Cougs into Washington territory, then shook off a Bralen Trice sack to find Williams in the front corner of the end zone for a touchdown catch with an incredibly high degree of difficulty.


β€’ While WSU took momentum into the half, it didn’t get the ball to start the third quarter. The Cougs’ defense took care of that quickly, though. Jaden Hicks wrestled the ball away from UW receiver Ja’Lynn Polk on just the second play of the second half for an interception, giving Wazzu the ball at its own 32.

β€’ The Huskies responded with some big plays of their own on defense. Washington sacked Ward on back-to-back plays, forcing WSU to punt on fourth-and-29 as the Cougs couldn’t capitalize on their takeaway like the Dawgs did in the second quarter.

β€’ The 115th Apple Cup had been remarkably even going into the final stretch of the third quarter. Both teams had 14 points, an interception, four punts and a missed field goal. But this is where it looked like things might separate. Following WSU kicker Dean Janikowski’s missed 50-yard field goal attempt, Penix hit trusty tight end Jack Westover for 19 yards to get the Huskies on the verge of the red zone, and on the next play Penix found Odunze in a matchup he liked for a 21-yard pass, their second TD connection of the day. That was the final play of the third quarter as Washington moved ahead 21-14.


β€’ The Huskies had another big defensive play in them, with a Ward pass hitting off the intended receiver and a UW defender before finally landing in the hands of Washington’s Makell Esteen. This gave the Dawgs a huge opportunity to create some separation, but they didn’t capitalize and had to punt for the fifth time.

β€’ Once again, the Huskies left the door open, and the Cougars went through it. WSU sustained a 13-play, 65-yard drive that included both a conversion on fourth down and a made field goal that was taken off the board as UW was flagged for leaping. That gave WSU a fresh set of downs, and Ward hit Lincoln Victor for an 8-yard touchdown pass, once again tying the game, this time at 21-all with just 5:58 to go.

β€’ The two rivals traded punts one last time, setting up an epic finish in a truly monumental game in the storied Apple Cup history of the UW Huskies and WSU Cougars. Washington took over at its own 10 with 1:59 remaining, needing one score to keep its national championship hopes alive. The Huskies faced fourth down and it appeared would punt, but after a timeout decided to go for it, with an absolutely bonkers misdirection handoff to Odunze resulting in 21 yards.

A huge roughing the passer call was made on WSU, something that will likely be disputed for years to come by Coug fans, giving Washington a first down at the 27. The Huskies reached as close as WSU’s 16, but the Cougars’ Brennan Jackson sacked Penix for a loss of nine, leaving UW to let the clock run down, then call timeout to attempt a final field goal. Gross came through from 42 yards as time expired, giving Washington a 24-21 victory and setting off pandemonium on Montlake.

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The Big Plays: In epic Apple Cup, No. 4 UW Huskies beat WSU 24-21