Plenty At Stake In Apple Cup

Nov. 27, 2009

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By Brian Tom

For the 102nd time, Washington and Washington State will battle for state supremacy in football. While both teams know they will stay home for the bowl season, there is still much at stake in this year's Apple Cup.

For the Cougars, the game marks the end of a trying season, while the Huskies have California waiting in the wings in another week. Saturday marks the last chance for the visitors from Pullman to go into the offseason feeling good about themselves.

Washington, meanwhile, looks to stop a two-game Apple Cup losing streak and build some momentum before battling Cal, who is coming off a Big Game victory over rival Stanford.

Last Saturday against Oregon State, the Cougars dressed only 13 defensive players who are on scholarship, and not surprisingly the end result did not turn out in their favor.

They limp into Husky Stadium with a 1-10 record and will put the fate of their team's season finale on the shoulders of either their third-string quarterback Kevin Lopina or a hobbled true-freshman Jeff Tuel, or both.

Don't expect any sympathy from the Huskies. Last year, the Dawgs limped into Pullman's Martin Stadium with a 0-10 record and their star quarterback Jake Locker on the sidelines. WSU escaped that day, riding the arm of Lopina, with a 16-13 overtime victory for their then first-year coach Paul Wulff.

The 2009 version of the Apple Cup will give Washington a chance to reward its own first-year coach with the trophy. And if the Huskies can do that, it will further cement that Steve Sarkisian and the Huskies are heading in the right direction and further distancing itself from a winless season. And a win by either side will give that team a much-needed shot in the arm as they are in the infancy stages of rebuilding their proud programs.

While both programs are playing for that chance to solidify their future foundation, the historic implications of the game cannot be forgotten. And while history is on the Huskies' side - Washington is 64-31-6 all-time against Washington State - both teams know you can throw all records out the window.

This year's matchup may not hold the same intrigue that some recent matchups held - like 2003 (unranked Washington beat No. 8 Washington State 27-19), or 2002 (Washington shocked No. 3 WSU in triple-overtime) - any time you throw these two rivals on the same field you can count on an something unexpected. Last season's 16-13 overtime game is a case in point.

But for most of us watching the Apple Cup, perhaps the most important aspect of the game is pride. Everyone in the stands with ties to Washington or Washington State knows someone rooting for the other side. They may share an office with that person, belong to the same gym, live on the same block, or for some, be married to a person from their rival school!

So, with a stake in continuing positive progress in the long journey of building up a program and office/neighborhood/family bragging rights on the line, let's all get ready for what should be another fun (and friendly) day of football in Husky Stadium between two old foes.

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