Apple Cup preview: QBs Anthony Gordon, Jacob Eason grab the attention
By TIM BOOTH
AP Sports Writer
SEATTLE (AP) – While he’s tried to avoid getting wrapped up in the outside conversation, Jacob Eason knows it’s there.
Washington’s quarterback has chosen not to engage as much as he can even if the questions don’t stop coming about his future.
“The Twitter, the Instagram, the radio, all that stuff. I know it’s out there. I don’t pay attention to it,” Eason said. “I’ve got people asking me questions all the time. What do you think about this? I still don’t want to respond to all those questions because there’s so many of them.”
Yet the speculation about whether Eason will be returning to Washington for his senior season will be in the spotlight Friday when the Huskies (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12) host Washington State (6-5, 3-5) in the Apple Cup, the 112th meeting between the schools.
He won’t be the only quarterback on the field deserving of attention.
While other QBs have dominated the Pac-12 headlines, it’s Washington State’s Anthony Gordon who has rewritten the conference record book this season. Gordon leads the country in passing yards, passing attempts and touchdowns. He’s completed 126 more passes than any other QB in the country. He set the Pac-12 single-season record for TD passes in last week’s wild 54-53 win over Oregon State as his six TD tosses gave him 45 for the season. He needs just 80 yards passing to post the 16th 5,000-yard passing season in FBS history.
Gordon’s legacy won’t necessarily be the same as that of predecessors such as Luke Falk or Gardner Minshew, but he did extend Washington State’s run of consecutive bowls to five.
“I came in with (Gordon) and to see him progress as a quarterback has been amazing,” Washington State linebacker Jahad Woods said. “However many years ago, I never would have thought he’d be doing what he is doing.”
Gordon will be playing in his only Apple Cup. The senior waited patiently over the years for his chance to get on the field and he now has an opportunity to end Washington State’s six-game losing streak to its rival. When Gage Gubrud transferred from FCS powerhouse Eastern Washington to join the Cougars before this season, it seemed likely he would take over for Minshew.
But Gordon was the clear winner of the QB competition in fall camp and he has backed up coach Mike Leach’s decision. With a big game against Washington and in the Cougars’ bowl game, Gordon could come close to threatening B.J. Symons’ record of 5,833 yards passing in 2003.
“The individual rewards aren’t all that important to me, to be honest, but reflecting on it a little bit, it kind of goes to show if you keep your head down and work hard, anything’s possible,” Gordon said after the Oregon State win. “My situation looked kind of dark at the beginning, but I kept my head down, kept working, and it just goes to show what you can do if you work hard.”
For his part, Eason has given no indications about his future. He’s been projected as an NFL quarterback since he first arrived at Georgia and won the starting job as a freshman before transferring to Washington after his sophomore season.
“I haven’t thought about anything right now … just taking it one day at a time,” Eason said.
If Eason had had a more dominant season, his decision might have been more straightforward. His first year playing in Washington’s system has been rocky. Some moments have been great, like his performance against BYU in September. Some moments have been forgettable, like the costly pick-six he threw against Utah in a five-point loss to the Utes. At times, Eason has looked the part of an NFL-ready QB. At other times, it has seemed clear another year of college would be beneficial.
“I’m just really proud of just the way this team has responded. Obviously, we’ve had some adversity and guys come out every day and work hard and believe in what the coaches are coaching and we believe in each other, and we always got our back,” Eason said. “Some games we don’t play our best, but we’re going to go right back to practice on Sunday and fix that and bounce back next week. I’m more proud of this team than anything I’ve done. The guys that bought in all season long and continued to play hard.”
More on the Apple Cup
• Moore: Lake stoked UW-WSU rivalry, but his defense isn’t as good this year
• Apple Cup Decision Day: Will Paul Gallant choose to be a UW or WSU fan?
• Moore: Apple Cup history isn’t usually on WSU’s side, but it could be Friday