Moore: Shocking losses for Huskies, Cougars a sign of things to come?
So much for speculation about an Apple Cup with two 11-0 teams. The way the Cougars and Huskies played over the weekend, there’s now a chance they could both be 6-5 when they meet in Seattle next month.
I’m exaggerating, but when you lose to Cal as a 16-point favorite like Washington State did, and lose to Arizona State as a 17-point favorite like Washington did, you can lose to anyone else on your schedule. With the Cougs, anyway, it’s funny how I’ve gone from thinking they could win the rest of their games before the Apple Cup to thinking they could lose two or three more.
They’re favored by 10 1/2, and I expect a bounce-back against Colorado at Martin Stadium on Saturday. But the next three games? At Arizona, facing quarterback Khalil Tate, who has rushed for 557 yards the last two weeks; hosting Stanford, who I think is the new favorite to win the Pac-12 North with Bryce Love leading the way; and at Utah, which lost to USC 28-27 because of a failed two-point conversion in the final minute and is always tough in Salt Lake City.
I don’t know what to make of the Huskies either. I certainly feel better about Washington State’s chances in the Apple Cup – if ASU can beat them, they’re more vulnerable than I thought.
I’m not sure which loss was more stunning or embarrassing, but I’d lean to the Cougs’ since they were manhandled 37-3 as Luke Falk threw five interceptions and fumbled after being sacked, resulting in a scoop and score for the Golden Bears. More than the loss itself, I was stunned that Falk stayed in the game as long as he did. In similar circumstances against Boise State last month, coach Mike Leach replaced him with Tyler Hilinski, and the backup rallied the Cougars from a 21-point deficit to a double-overtime victory.
Falk was clearly off all night, and a call to the bullpen seemed like the thing to do, but the starter and former Heisman Trophy candidate kept returning to the field in mystifying fashion. He was getting battered in the pocket, sacked nine times, and I thought he should have been yanked for health reasons if nothing else. Call it a night and live to fight another day against Colorado this week.
Scoring just three points against Cal was an improbable development, and the Dawgs went even lower under the limbo bar, getting shut out for 3 1/2 quarters at ASU before finally scoring but losing 13-7. If you can have a worse night than Falk, UW freshman kicker Van Soderberg did, missing field goals from 27 and 21 yards in the third quarter.
I felt bad for him. First off, he’s just a kid. Can you imagine what that flight home must have been like for him, all those questions circling through his head, wondering why he can make those kicks in his sleep in practice and somehow missed them when they really mattered?
He should have never been called upon for the second one. The Huskies faced a fourth-and-2 from the ASU 5-yard line. I thought they should have gone for it, trailing 13-0. If they hadn’t made it, they’d have the Sun Devils pinned deep in their own territory, facing one of the best defenses in the country, with the possibility of a three-and-out and another chance for a good punt return by Dante Pettis.
I can’t tell if these losses by the Huskies and the Cougars are aberrations or signs of things to come. I also don’t know if it means the Pac-12 is strong or weak. USC is now the highest-ranked team from the conference at No. 11, and the Trojans seem overrated to me after they barely beat Texas and Utah and lost to Washington State.
The Huskies have an easier schedule than the Cougars with four of their next five at home, including the Apple Cup on Nov. 25, after a bye this week. But their only road game will be a tough one – at No. 22 Stanford, which could determine the Pac-12 North championship when they meet in Palo Alto on Nov. 10.
In an added and unexpected twist, the weekend news cycle threw out another shocker when Washington State athletic director Bill Moos left his alma mater to become the new AD at Nebraska. Friction between Moos and WSU president Kirk Schulz appeared to be one reason for the move along with doubling his salary and getting a chance to preside over one of the most prestigious football programs in the country.
Whatever caused him to leave doesn’t matter as much as whether Leach will follow Moos to Nebraska or go somewhere else now that the man who hired him is gone. Will the next AD give Leach as much freedom as Moos did? And my guess is that Schulz didn’t give Moos as much freedom as former president Elson Floyd did.
Back on the field, it was fun to see the Dawg-Coug rivalry stoked again. When the Cougs lost Friday night, Dawg fans verbalized their amusement with snarky social-media comments. Karma came back to haunt them the next night.
I’m glad the Huskies have a bye this week. For Dawg fans, I would think it’s a great opportunity to figure out what went wrong and solve those issues before the next game against UCLA on Oct. 28.
For me it’s two full weeks of basking in the afterglow of the Husky defeat instead of one because I enjoy Husky losses almost as much as Coug wins. If that speaks to deficiencies in my DNA and overall sickness as a human being, I’ll own all of that and feel bad for a second and then hope the Dawgs lose to the Bruins too.
Maybe the Apple Cup lost some of its luster over the weekend, but in some respects, it added intrigue to the final six weeks of the season.