WHERE I COME FROM: Most memorable football moments

This is the fifth of a week-long series of posts sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 11.

Brian (cougfan): I chose a moment that I was present for. It was special to me because it was my last game as a student. I was fortunate enough to be in Pullman for the best run of Apple Cups WSU has ever had. During my time there, we only lost one, the 2006 game.

In 2008, the Huskies were historically bad. They were bad enough that it overshadowed how bad the Cougs were. WSU came in to the game only holding a win over Portland State -- though it cost them two starting quarterbacks. UW was on their way to perhaps going oh-fer on the year. The Apple Cup truly was the toilet bowl in 2008.

It didn't matter, though. Every Apple Cup generates a buzz between the two schools. The significance of sending our rival to the worst season in Pac-10 history piqued my interest. The game itself was exactly what I expected. Two terrible teams engaged in a 60-minute pillow fight, with WSU being on the wrong end of it for most of the game. UW's horrendous kicker, Ryan Perkins, took over, missing what amounted to chip shots and giving the Cougs a glimmer of hope. Jared Karstetter -- a true freshman -- introduced himself to the world (or the 30,000 people watching) by streaking down the sidelines to catch a Kevin Lopina pass to set up Nico Grasu -- the still shaky Grasu -- for a game-tying field goal (make sure you've got Windows Media Player installed for this one).

Overtime was still a battle of inept offenses. UW and WSU traded field goals in the first overtime. In the second, Ryan Perkins came through, missing another field goal (his third on the day). The Cougs ran three useless plays, and this happened:


Paul Wulff danced a jig, UW was stunned, and the Cougar faithful were on the field. My WSU career was capped off with another Apple Cup win, and more importantly an 0-12 season for UW.

The season and game itself may have been terrible, but it was memorable for so many reasons.

Craig (Dancing Football): That was truly a great moment, Brian. Two things about that game that everyone might find funny or interesting.

  1. I bookmarked the mobile CougCenter on my phone the week before the 2008 Apple Cup, and it has
    forever (or until I get a new phone) saved the tagline "The pillow fight of the year is upon us." Makes me laugh every single time.
  2. I am completely responsible for Mitz's long third quarter touchdown run (at the 0:43 mark). How, you ask? That's ridiculous, you say? Well just moments before the run, Cougar legend and white man afro enthusiast Robbie Cowgill was in front of me in the concession line and a quarter short for his soda. I came to the rescue with a quarter of my own to cover Robbie's bill. Seconds later Logwone was across the goal line to pull the Cougs within striking distance.

So, Brian, you're welcome for the greatest moment of your Cougar fandom. As for me, something has to be said for Apple Cups, because my favorite moment also came at the expense of a terrible Husky team.

In 2004, UW was riding a six-game Apple Cup streak, despite being the vastly inferior team in many of those contests. Even though they came in with a meager 1-9 record, Coug fans were still nervous that the run would continue to 7.

That didn't happen. Will Derting wreaked havoc, Jason Hill (need Windows Media Player for this video) and Jerome Harrison were their usual awesome selves, and the streak ended as Isaiah Stanback ran out of bounds with no time on the clock. I leaped from my front row seat in the student section and began running towards midfield. I looked behind me to see that none of my fellow students were following. Some were screaming "there is a flag." For some reason, I didn't care. I was on the field of play as the referee announced "Holding, on the offense. Penalty declined, the game is over."

I soon found myself on the Cougar logo, surrounded by football players and showing little regard for my personal safety. I was the only hat in a sea of gray helmets. How do I know this? I went home the next day for Thanksgiving break and caught the FSN replay with my parents. As the broadcast ended I saw in the center of the swarm of football guys a giant head covered by a mesh Cougar cap. I don't think Mom and Dad have ever been prouder.

Grady: This is a tough call, at least on the football side. I make no reservations about my all-time favorite Cougar sports moment.

Like Brian, 2008 was my final Cougar football game as a student. By this time in my career of WSU fandom, I had been stripped of all my wide-eyed hope. Our teams were bad. Our losses often came in horrific and predictable fashion. I'd seen losses of the heartbreaking variety, and losses that were such a lopsided affair that all I could do is simply sit and watch in disgust.

Every once in a while, though, a moment occurs that reminds us, as a fan, why we fell into this whole sports obsession in the first place. And when Jared Karstetter bolted down the sidelines, an otherwise predictably benign game came to life. The rest was history. I guarantee you no one that day - in purple or crimson - cared about the records of the teams once the game was underway. Husky fans were as insufferable as ever; Coug fans were just praying for something positive. I had no reservations about rushing the field; I knew it was one of the last chances I'd get to use youth as an excuse for doing something stupid. Who knew two horrible teams colliding could produce such euphoria? 

Even pillow fights can be fun.

Honorable mention, of course, to the aforementioned '04 Apple Cup, and three moments I had to enjoy on television only: the '97 Apple Cup, the bubble screen to Harvey (Windows Media Player needed), and Brink-to-Gibson (WMP needed here, too). Also: A hat tip to the 2006 Oregon game - a matchup that involved me skipping the final day of a pharmacy conference, racing down to Pullman and rushing the field in work clothes. It was the last day Cougar football was relevant on a national stage, which is so incredibly disappointing.

Brian: I can't believe I forgot about Brink to Gibson. I was at Husky Stadium for the game and still remember the feeling. The way that ended -- with Mattingly waving the Cougar flag and the team letting loose -- was fantastic to be a part of. I still remember the silence in the Cougar section as the ball was in the air and thinking "please catch it, please." The primal roar that came from our end was deafening.

Winning at Husky Stadium is always a great feeling.

Jeff: I remember thinking the exact same thing while the ball was in the air. We are so conditioned as Cougs. Should have known there's no way Gibson, of all people, would drop that. Thoroughly underrated in that play? Brink threw that ball under serious pressure. I had the same love/hate relationship with that guy as most of you, but man could he come up with a big-time play.

Craig: Agreed, Brian. I was at the Harvey bubble screen game. They had the WSU students at the East of the field on the track. When Harvey scored our little section went nuts and turned into a mosh pit. When the final horn sounded, we rushed the field and danced on their "W." If that isn't tied with my all-time favorite moment, it is probably 1a.

Jeff: Speaking of dancing on big purple Ws ... well, I'll get to that in a second.

As we've established this week, I've got a special place in my heart for the 1997 team. Of course, all these other moments are special to me as well -- I was actually there for all the ones that have been mentioned, save for the 2006 Oregon game -- but as the elder statesman of our quartet, I feel the need to keep that 1997 flame alive. Plus, it just makes me feel good to relive these memories again. (More on that next week. That's what we in the biz call a teaser.)

There are three moments from that year that stick out in my mind. The first one, I referenced earlier this week: Leon Bender stuffing UCLA's running back at the goal line to set the stage. It's not like that was some highly emotional moment (like these others), but upon reflection, it was enormous.

Also, it led to this gem:

When the Bruins’ Skip Hicks sat out the deciding fourth down play citing exhaustion, Bender called him "soft" and added: "That’s how they do it at UCLA with their All-Americans."

No. 2 on my list is otherwise known as "The Catch and The Block." I watched this on TV like the rest of the Cougs:


When you combine that with what happened the week before against UCLA, we all sort of had the feeling that something special was brewing.

Fast forward to November and the Apple Cup. I had to work a little magic to get into the game, since I didn't have a sports pass -- I had been attending as a reporter all year, but without writing responsibilities that week (because of Thanksgiving Break) I wanted to sit with my friends and just be a fan. After camping out at Beasley all night in frigid temps to save a spot for someone who did have a sports pass -- who would then trade me for a ticket in the Husky section, God bless 'em -- I was floating on air all week leading up to the game.

I remember being confident, but a little subdued leading up to the game. I didn't remember why until I watched a replay of the game last year: Washington was ranked 17th to our 11th. That was a dang good Washington team that had only lost two Pac-10 games heading into that Apple Cup.

It felt like destiny, but man ... we hadn't beaten UW in my previous two years. I was nervous.

Until this play. (Windows Media Player needed.)

271192_medium

via media.scout.com

 

Ryan Leaf. Chris Jackson. What's left of Tony Parrish's ego on the turf. (Pretty sure it's still there.) It was only the second quarter, and it only broke a 7-7 tie ... but this was just another example of this team making a play (a la "The Block"), just willing itself past an opponent. I think "wanting it more than your opponent" is sort of a canard most of the time, but this WSU team clearly -- CLEARLY -- wanted that Rose Bowl. And was going to do anything to get it.

The funny thing about that touchdown is that I barely saw it. Sitting the WSU student section underneath the scoreboard, the play was moving away from me. I saw the throw and saw the catch. I saw Parrish coming over, and assumed it was just a nice play, so I started celebrating accordingly with my friends.

But then I heard the roar. (Yes, there were enough Cougs in attendance to cause a roar!) As we all realized he had somehow beaten two defenders to get into the end zone -- only later did we find out he actually ran over the safety -- my friends and I engaged in the largest group hug/mosh session that I think has ever existed. (I've been told you can spot me and my friends somewhere in the shot of the students in the above video, although I've never been able to find us.)

We actually jumped up and down so hard we actually cracked those old wooden bleachers beneath us. About a minute later, we had a souvenir that I'm pretty sure is still in Jo-Jo's possession. All we had to do was avoid the hole for the next two hours -- not an easy task considering how much celebrating we did.

The rest, as they say, was history. As we stormed the field after the game, words can't even describe the emotion I felt. I think the most interesting thing to me was how many Huskies hung around in the bleachers to watch the celebration. I was told by some of them later that they were just in awe -- they'd never seen anything like it, not even from their own fans and students.

Nobody throws a party like we do. Something that was evident a month later in Pasadena. (You know what I'm talking about if you stopped by our pregame function and compared it to Michigan's. But I digress.)

How about all of you? Interesting that most of these revolve around Apple Cups. We'd love to hear you build on these with your own memories, or even share some stories pre-1997.

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