Moore: No. 14 WSU will try to fend off a Huskies team looking to play spoiler in Saturday’s Apple Cup

Nov 20, 2017, 4:27 PM

Despite a higher ranking, Mike Leach's Cougars are 10-point underdogs to Chris Petersen's Huskies. ...

Despite a higher ranking, Mike Leach's Cougars are 10-point underdogs to Chris Petersen's Huskies. (AP)


Even at the age of 60, I still get excited about the Apple Cup. I know it’s just a football game, but it’s more than that. It’s the week leading up to the game, filled with barbs back and forth between Husky and Cougar fans.

Players have been involved too, Washington wide receiver Andre Desaussure once saying of Washington State: “I wouldn’t have taken a recruiting trip there even if they strangled me. I’d die first. It’s a place where you can go and have a good time, as far as there being a lot of drunk people.”

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And Washington State offensive guard Dan Lynch recognized the importance of the Apple Cup to the Cougs, saying: “There are four important stages in your life. You’re born, you play the Huskies, you get married and you die.”

Even the coaches got into it with Jim Walden and Dennis Erickson understanding how big the game was to Washington State every year, yet legendary Husky coach Don James out-quoted them both when he said: “I’ve always felt that being a Cougar prepares you well for life. You learn not to expect too much.”

This will be my 44th Apple Cup pulling for the Cougs. I was a freshman at WSU in 1974 and felt fortunate that my college years coincided with Jack Thompson, “The Throwin’ Samoan,” finding his favorite target, Mike Levenseller.

In my mind, it seems like we’ve won quite a few Apple Cups over the last 43 years, but that’s not the case. We’re 12-31 since 1974, and only won 32 times since the rivalry began in 1900, a span covering 109 games.

The Apple Cup has always appeared to be more significant to us than the Huskies, who will probably tell you that we’re like their little brother, that their biggest rivalry is with the Ducks these days, that they even root for us when we’re playing someone else.

That bothers me. You don’t root for your rival. You want your rival to lose and lose badly. I took an almost perverse joy in watching Washington lose to Arizona State and Stanford this season. When I’m asked if I like Husky losses more than Cougar wins, I have to stop and think about that. It’s pretty darn close.

I’m sure they’d tell you that we’re a bunch of hicks, we went to school in the middle of nowhere, it’s easier to get into our school than theirs. We tell them they’re entitled and arrogant, and even if we’re wrong with our perception – which we aren’t – we’re going to dislike them anyway.

There is no way of explaining what it’s like to be a Coug if you’re not a Coug. The time I spent at WSU? Those were the best four years of my life. The memories are so strong that every time I go back, I get goosebumps driving down the hill to Pullman.

I think we have a stronger bond than the Huskies. I see it with the crimson license plates all over town. I hear it from fellow Cougs all the time. On Sunday while walking through the lobby of a Factoria theater, I heard “Go Cougs” twice from fellow Cougs. We went to WSU in different decades, but we all share that same special feeling of what it means to be a Coug.

When it comes to regrets in life, I have as many as the next person, but I’ve never wished I’d gone to school somewhere else. My only regret is wishing I’d spent five years in Pullman instead of four.

I’ve passed this Coug craziness on to my three kids. I literally sang the fight song when my daughter, Brooke, was born, and had tears when she was accepted at Washington State 18 years later. My twins are 13 now, and if you want proof that they bleed crimson, Stevie and Mikey even watch our downtrodden basketball team every chance they get.

This Saturday night, I think Cougs everywhere are going to be happy after the Apple Cup. We’re 10-point underdogs, but from what I’ve seen this season, our team is better than their team.

And I don’t know if there’s any historical football karma in the air, but if there is, 20 years ago we beat the Huskies as six-point underdogs to win the Pac-12 title and go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1931. This year we have a chance to go to the Pac-12 championship game with a win.

I also like the fact that the Dawgs are in our typical spoiler role this year – they have nothing on the line but a chance to wreck our chances at a Pac-12 title.

I’ve already pictured myself at 9 o’clock Saturday night, walking out of Husky Stadium elated, frantically making flight reservations to San Francisco for next Friday’s Pac-12 title game against USC, wondering if we can beat Sam Darnold and the Trojans again, then taking it one step farther in this marathon run-on sentence, checking other scores to see if we have an outside shot of being in the national championship playoff.

And if it doesn’t work out, if the Huskies win by double digits like they have in the last four Apple Cups, oh well, it’s not like I’ve never dealt with Coug losses to the Dawgs before.

Washington and Washington State are both 9-2, yet one team is better across the board this year, and that team’s the Cougs.

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Moore: No. 14 WSU will try to fend off a Huskies team looking to play spoiler in Saturday’s Apple Cup