Apple Cup: With Luke Falk or Peyton Bender, No. 20 WSU can win at Husky Stadium

Nov 26, 2015, 11:33 AM | Updated: Nov 27, 2015, 10:52 am

Redshirt freshman Peyton Bender may get his first career start for Washington State at quarterback....

Redshirt freshman Peyton Bender may get his first career start for Washington State at quarterback. (AP)



First off, I’m not sure what the rules of journalism are anymore, so I’ll just go ahead and promote the fact that we’ll be doing an Apple Cup Preview Show from the Microsoft Store at University Village Friday morning from 7 to 10:30.

When I say “we,” I’m also referring to Danny O’Neil and Jessamyn McIntyre. Dave Wyman will not be there, I guess because we don’t want any of his Stanford-ness in the neighborhood when we’re talking about Washington and Washington State.

During the 3 ½-hour show, we’ll talk to Mike Leach, Bob Robertson, Warren Moon and Cougar play-by-play man Matt Chazanow. It will be wall-to-wall coverage of the Apple Cup with just one NFL interruption when I make my award-losing smokin’ lock of the week selection from the Steelers-Seahawks game.

After that, it’s two more hours of Coug coverage with the Cougar Roadshow, featuring Jason Gesser, and the pre-game show leading up to the 12:30 p.m. kickoff at Husky Stadium.

If you’re reading this story, you’re probably like me, and it doesn’t matter how old you are, you feel like a little kid waiting for the game to start. I’m 58 and it’s all I can think about.

I’ve been watching Cougar football for more than 40 years now, and 2015 marks the 30-year anniversary of one of my favorite Apple Cups, the 1985 game, the one that we won when Chris Chandler’s two-point conversion pass sailed out of the back of the end zone on a 19-degree day at Husky Stadium.

It’s also the 40-year anniversary of one of my least-favorite Apple Cups, the 1975 game, the one where Warren Moon ricocheted a pass off a Cougar defensive back into the hands of Spider Gaines, who raced to the end zone to give Washington a 28-27 win.

Forty years from now, the 2015 game will have historians choosing from the following storylines, some of which will make me cringe:

– It marked the first Apple Cup win in the outstanding career of Washington quarterback Jake Browning.

– The Husky defense proved too much for backup Cougar QB Peyton Bender. In his first start, replacing the injured Luke Falk, Bender threw two interceptions and was strip-sacked by Travis Feeney, who turned the fumble into a touchdown and caused that damn siren to go off again. Historians might not use “damn” as an adjective, but I will if that happens.

– After a week when Falk’s status was in doubt because of a concussion suffered in the Colorado game, he miraculously showed up and started and threw for 450 yards against a supposedly stout Husky defense. Washington State won on a Dom Williams touchdown in the final minute as the Cougars improved to 9-3.

– In one of the more impressive and unexpected performances in Apple Cup history, Bender carved up the Husky secondary and hit Gabe Marks with the game-winner in double overtime.

– Compensating for an uneven afternoon by Bender, the Washington State defense bottled up Browning and Myles Gaskin and powered the Cougs to a hard-fought 14-6 win.

If you’re wondering why I have the Cougars winning in three of the possible storylines and the Huskies winning in only two, it’s because I’m a Coug and I don’t want those purple-slanted outcomes to happen.

I might be wrong. In fact, Vegas thinks the Huskies will win. As I’m writing this post on Thanksgiving morning, the Dawgs are favored by 6 ½ points. I’m guessing Vegas believes that Bender is going to start. If Falk starts, the line would be lower than that.

I’m not sure what Vegas sees in the Huskies at home. They were two-point favorites over Oregon and Utah and lost both games. I know, they were small favorites over Arizona, too, and blew out the Wildcats, but again, I’m a Coug, and I’m not going to build a case for Washington winning this game – go to Dawgman.com if you want to get their subjective, flawed take on this year’s Apple Cup. What you’ll get here is accurate analysis!

Let me see if I have this straight – the Huskies are 5-6 and are favored by nearly a touchdown over an 8-3 team. In what world does that make sense?

As I recall, the Huskies were seven-point favorites in the 1997 Apple Cup, and we won 41-35 and went to our first Rose Bowl in 63 years. A lot has changed since that day – Ryan Leaf went from being the best college quarterback I’d ever seen to, well, you know what happened to him.

Brock Huard went from throwing five interceptions that afternoon at Husky Stadium to co-hosting a morning sports-talk radio show on some station somewhere, I’m not sure where.

Expect the same outcome with the underdog prevailing on Friday. If Falk starts, we’ll win. If Bender starts, we’ll win. Doesn’t matter, though Bender will certainly have his shaky moments. I just think the Cougar defense is being underestimated, and that will be the difference.

Line: Washington by 6 ½.
Prediction: Cougars 27, Huskies 17
Season record against the spread: 6-4-1.

The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com and KitsapSun.com. You can reach Jim at jimoorethego2guy@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.

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Apple Cup: With Luke Falk or Peyton Bender, No. 20 WSU can win at Husky Stadium