Halliday the key to Cougars’ upset hopes in Apple Cup

Nov 28, 2013, 12:53 PM | Updated: 1:21 pm

By Jim Moore

Before I break down this year’s Apple Cup with the best handicapping advice you’ll find anywhere, mind if I take a quick look back at the history of the rivalry?

This year’s game is my 40th Apple Cup as a Cougar fan. I grew up a Husky fan in the Sonny Sixkiller era and went to Husky Stadium all the time with my mom.

Quarterback Connor Halliday will make his Apple Cup debut Friday at Husky Stadium as the Cougars attempt to repeat 2012’s upset of UW. (AP)

That all changed when I went to Washington State in 1974. Here are some of the more memorable games among the 39, most of which I’ve seen in person, some in a blurry, booze-filled haze.

1975: We were marching toward a certain win when we decided to throw a pass over the middle that Al Burleson turned into a long pick six to bring the Dawgs within 27-21 with three minutes to go.

After we went three and out, Warren Moon threw a pass that was deflected by a Coug and the ball ricocheted into the hands of Spider Gaines, who turned it into a touchdown and a 28-27 Washington win.

I watched the game from the second row of the seats in the horseshoe end of the stadium. It was raining, and I was drenched. I bought a Cougar pennant on the way out of the stadium.

After so many rough defeats, this one might have been the toughest of all. I went straight home to bed and didn’t wake up ‘til the next morning.

In so doing, I missed my girlfriend’s sister’s wedding that night. The girlfriend called and asked why I didn’t make it. When I told her it was because I was so despondent over a Cougar loss, the girlfriend dumped me and became the ex-girlfriend just like that.

1981: All we had to do was beat the Huskies to go to the Rose Bowl. They had a shot at the Rose Bowl too, but they needed help from USC or UCLA in their game, I forget which.

I was working at the Anchorage Daily News at the time and flew down from Alaska for the game. I drank too much the night before the game and threw up in some bushes outside the Pumphouse in Bellevue.

My buddies and I didn’t have tickets to the game, but we got into Husky Stadium by posing as vendors and signing in with real vendors who were there to sell popcorn and pop.

I remember Paul Skansi scoring a back-breaking TD just before the half, and I still think of him and Joe Jarzynka every time I drive through Gig Harbor.

The Dawgs won 23-10 and wouldn’t you know it, they got the break they needed in the L.A. game to go to the Rose Bowl, adding to our disappointment.

1982: The Cougs were big underdogs in the first Apple Cup played in Pullman since 1954. For a 28-year stretch, when the Cougs hosted the game, they played it at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane.

The ’82 game was the Chuck Nelson game. He hadn’t missed a field goal all year until he went wide right at a key moment in the ’82 game. I played golf with some Cougs in the Tri-Cities several years ago, and they’d call it a “Chuck Nelson” every time they hit it right.

We won 24-20, knocking the Huskies out of the Rose Bowl. Students tore down the goal posts and threw them in the Palouse River.

I was there as a reporter for the Bellevue Journal-American. I ran on the field and celebrated before doing my post-game interviews.

1992: The Snow Bowl, Bledsoe to Bobo, Husky fans in the west end zone getting smacked in the face with snow and sleet and one Cougar touchdown after another. We won 42-23 in one of the best games in the rivalry from a Coug perspective.

I had planned to watch the game at my neighbor Brian McGinnis’ house. I had tickets to sell, so I went to Sea-Tac to see if I could sell them to fans who were going to the game on Air Coug charter flights.

But someone told me that a seat opened up on one of the flights, and the next thing you know, I’m on the plane and heading to Pullman.

Before the game and during the game, I was drinking 151 rum and it caught up to me when I got to the Moscow-Pullman airport for the flight back.

I didn’t make it on my flight. I curled up in a ball in a bathroom stall at the airport and didn’t wake up until I looked up to see a Pullman police officer looking down at me.

I thought I was headed to jail, but the officer said there was a room available at the Quality Inn, would I like to have it?

He loaded me up in the back of his car and took me there. Long story even longer, the weather was so bad on Sunday that I had to take a bus ride to Lewiston the next night for a flight home.

Understandably, my wife was not pleased. I then had to get on a flight Monday morning to head to Sacramento to cover a Sonics’ game Monday night. My head was still throbbing at Arco Arena.

1997: We finally came through, ending our 60-some year of not going to the Rose Bowl by beating the Huskies 41-35 at Husky Stadium.

It would be classless of me to mention that Brock Huard threw five interceptions that day, but Brock Huard did throw five interceptions that day. Ryan Leaf had the much better afternoon, but don’t ask me to compare those two guys now.

I’ll never forget going on the field and seeing one of my friends, Dave Patterson, crying tears of joy. I’ll also never forget the class shown by Husky Stadium announcer Lou Gellerman, who said: “From all of us at the University of Washington to all of you at Washington State, good luck at the Rose Bowl.” Just a classy, classy gesture right there.

2012: We were 2-9 and hopelessly headed toward a 2-10 season. I went with my daughter to the ASU game in Tempe the week before, and we got flattened by the Sun Devils. I saw no reason to think we’d have a shot against the Huskies, who were 14-point favorites.

But you know what happened. Trailing 28-10, the Cougs rallied to tie the game 28-28 and won 31-28 in overtime after Toni Pole recorded the most memorable interception and run-back in Apple Cup history – though Burleson has an argument because he made it all the way to the end zone in 1975.

As for this year’s game, the Huskies are 14-point favorites again. After we beat Utah 49-37 last week, I walked out of Martin Stadium feeling like we’d have a good chance at upsetting the Dawgs again.

But after watching the Huskies crush the Beavers 69-27, I’m not so sure. I’m concerned about running back Bishop Sankey. I don’t think we can stop him; no one has.

And the Husky receivers? They’ll be a handful. I’m also worried that tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is going to save his breakout game of the season for us.

It looks like quarterback Keith Price will start for the Huskies, and I hope he’ll be fully healthy Friday night but partly healthy Friday afternoon. If he’s partly healthy, I like our chances.

The only way I see us winning is in a shootout with WSU quarterback Connor Halliday throwing for 500 yards with 5 TD passes to five different receivers.

It’s possible. He threw for 488 yards and 4 TDs against Utah last week. Halliday said he’s looking forward to playing in his first Apple Cup and “losing his virginity.”

Cool, Connor, me too. Make it a debut for the ages.

Game prediction: Cougars 51, Huskies 48 (OT)

Season record against the spread: 6-5.

The Go 2 Guy also writes for his website jimmoorethego2guy.com and kitsapsun.com. You can reach Jim at jimmoorethego2guy@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.

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