Moore: Which WSU Apple Cup victory should win Rolovich’s tournament?

Mar 30, 2020, 10:42 AM | Updated: 10:43 am
WSU coach Nick Rolovich...
Nick Rolovich used Twitter to determine WSU's best game. (Pete Caster/Lewiston Tribune via AP)
(Pete Caster/Lewiston Tribune via AP)

New WSU coach Nick Rolovich completed his version of March Madness Sunday by crowning the champion of “The Best Cougar Football Games Ever.”

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Rolovich started with a Sweet Sixteen a month or so ago and kept narrowing it down with Twitter polls producing the winners. In the championship matchup, the 1997 Apple Cup is handily beating the 1992 Apple Cup, and I’d call that a fitting finish to Rolovich’s fun little contest.

The Cougars beat the Huskies 41-35 at Husky Stadium to go to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 67 years. The significance of that was enough to overcome the legendary ‘92 Apple Cup in which the heavy-underdog Cougs shocked the Dawgs in the Snow Bowl at Martin Stadium.

I’ve probably written about my experiences at those two games before, but in the spirit of everyone replaying games during the coronavirus crisis, I thought I’d pass along those memories again.

1997 Apple Cup: WSU 41, UW 35

I just remember waking up the morning of the game and going for a run, thinking about the possibility of finally going to the Rose Bowl and hoping we would come through this time.

In 1981, WSU was in the same position going into the Apple Cup. I had flown down for that game from Anchorage even though I didn’t have a ticket. My buddies didn’t either. The game was sold out, and I’m sure there were scalpers outside the stadium, but we got in by posing as vendors. The lady checking us in somehow let us in, thinking we were telling the truth and on our way to selling peanuts and popcorn. The Huskies won that day, and I can still remember Paul Skansi making a nice catch in the end zone. To this day, whenever I hear Skansi’s name, I don’t think of Gig Harbor, where he’s from, or what he did for the Seahawks. I think of the ‘81 Apple Cup and how he ruined our day.

For the ‘97 Apple Cup, I had two free tickets thanks to the University of Washington sports information department. They have a small allotment for media types for each game, and I was fortunate enough to get a pair of tickets. Mine were low in the west end zone; the other media tickets were much better.

Sports information director Jim Daves later told me that he gave me crummy tickets on purpose. Daves didn’t appreciate the critical columns I wrote about the Huskies.

I know I shouldn’t complain about free tickets wherever they are, but what he heck, this is all off the top of my head. I was still able to see the Best Cougar Football Game Ever, and the location of the seats made it easier to get to the field to celebrate with fellow Cougs after we won.

While we were gallivanting all over the field, I remember what Husky Stadium public-address announcer Lou Gellerman said over the loud speakers: “From all of us at the University of Washington to all of you at Washington State, good luck in the Rose Bowl.” What a class act.

So was Brock Huard. Every time I reminisce about my favorite Cougar game ever, I think of Ryan Leaf and Chris Jackson, but I also think of Brock. He threw five interceptions in the game, and the only reason I’m bringing that up is this: Daves told him in the locker room that he didn’t have to answer reporters’ questions afterward. Daves wanted to just get a short statement from him and give that to the media.

But Brock felt it was necessary to face the music and answer questions, which he did and was very cool of him to do.

1992 Apple Cup: WSU 42, UW 23

This might have been the runner-up game in Rolovich’s poll, but it would have lapped the ‘97 Apple Cup from a personal-story standpoint.

I planned to watch the game on TV at my neighbor’s house because he was having a party. I had two tickets that I wanted to sell and back then they had these Air Coug flights to Pullman on Horizon. I was just going to the airport to sell my tickets to a Coug who needed them and then was planning to go to my neighbor’s house.

But one Bloody Mary led to another, and then someone said a seat suddenly became available on the sold-out plane, and I thought: Man, I love my neighbor, but I’d rather go to the game.

So I flew to Pullman, went to the game and watched Drew Bledsoe and Phillip Bobo have their way with the Dawgs through snow drifts on the field. Once the game ended, details became a bit fuzzy, and by the time I got to the Moscow-Pullman Airport, I found myself in a bathroom stall on my knees and missing my flight home.

An hour or so later while lying on the floor, I looked up and saw a Pullman police officer. I thought he was going to take me in, but in an amazing twist of fate, he told me a room had opened up at the Quality Inn if I wanted it. He was so nice that he even gave me a ride to the hotel.

The next day the weather was still so bad that flights couldn’t get in and out of the Moscow-Pullman Airport, so I had to take a bus down to Lewiston to take a flight home Sunday night. Once I finally got home, I was greeted by a wife that was not happy with her husband.

As I stood in the kitchen, I can still hear her saying: “I’m so sick of you and your bleeping Cougars.”

I slept in the extra bedroom and had to get up early to fly to Sacramento because the Sonics were playing the Kings on a Monday night, and I was covering the team for the Post-Intelligencer. I felt awful on press row and couldn’t wait for the game to end so I could get back to my hotel room and go to sleep.

Fast-forward to 23 years later. WSU has now gone seven consecutive years without winning an Apple Cup, but we have a new coach who understands the importance of the rivalry game. Hopefully the losing streak ends this year, and in future polls, Rolovich will have another bracket featuring the 2020 Apple Cup as a candidate for Best Cougar Football Games Ever.

If he does and if it is, I will not be celebrating the same way I did in ’92.

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Moore: Which WSU Apple Cup victory should win Rolovich’s tournament?