The Washington St. Cougars and Washington Huskies played each other for the first time in 1900. The teams played to a thrilling 5-5 tie. Just a year later, the Washington Agricultural College got the first victory in the series, a 10-0 win. This was back in the day when a touchdown was worth five points and Teddy Roosevelt was hunting large beasts and hitting people who disagreed with him with a large, stick-like implement.
There have been plenty of match-ups in the interim. The Huskies and Cougars will meet for the 105th time when they walk onto the turf at Martin Stadium on Friday afternoon renewing what is, for my money, the best rivalry west of the Mississippi. Over the years, the game has carried a lot of significance not just for bragging rights but for trips to bowl games, including the Granddaddy of 'Em All. With 104 already in the books, I thought it'd be easy to rank the five best. This actually turned out to be much harder than I thought it would be and you'll see why later. I'll start you off with No. 5 because doing this in descending order wouldn't be nearly as thrilling.
No. 5: 2008 Apple Cup, Washington State defeats Washington 16-13 in overtime "Crapple" Cup thriller
This isn't a great game because the teams were great. Quite the opposite in fact. Between them, the Huskies and Cougars had just one win, Washington State's 48-9 victory over Portland State. Both teams redefined the term "terrible football team" that season. Weeks before, Washington head coach and current volunteer assistant golf coach at Stanford Ty Willingham had been told he wouldn't be retained. With time winding down in the fourth quarter and Washington leading 13-10, Willingham decided to punt on fourth and three from the WSU 43 yard line. The punt went into the end zone and on the ensuing possession, Kevin Lopina tossed a 48 yard bomb to Jared Karstetter to set up a Nico Grasu game tying field goal and the Cougs would win in overtime. The only reason this game cracks the top five is it doomed Washington to a winless season.
No. 4: 2007 Apple Cup, Washington State wins 42-35 in Alex Brink's final game
Love him or dislike him a little bit, Alex Brink made his mark on WSU by being crowned the Husky killer. Coming into the 100th edition of the game, Brink had beaten the Huskies twice in three tries and was looking to become the only Cougar quarterback to beat the Huskies three times. Brink had arguably the finest game of his career just a week after one of his worst, finishing the game with an Apple Cup record 399 yards of passing and five touchdowns. But there were none more important than his last. With the game tied at 35, Washington State got the ball back with 2:18 to go and the ball on their own 16 yard line. Six plays later, Washington State was on the Washington 35 yard line. Second and nine, Brink dropped back to pass and found Brandon Gibson wide open thanks to a mix up in coverage by the Huskies. Brink tossed the ball into the waiting arms of Gibson in the end zone for the final score of the game.
No. 3: 1982 Apple Cup, Washington State returns the favor, denying Huskies Rose Bowl with 24-20 win
The Huskies strolled into Pullman sporting a No. 5 ranking and were on the verge of a Rose Bowl birth. Just a year before, their win in the Apple Cup had denied Washington State a trip to Pasadena. But for the first time in over three decades, the Cougars were hosting an Apple Cup in Pullman. Don James had never played a game in Pullman and the Cougars had an upset on their mind. The Huskies were favored by 18 points over the Cougars but it didn't matter. Ever wonder why the uprights in Martin Stadium have two stanchions in the ground? It's because after the 24-20 victory, Cougar fans carried the uprights down to Paradise Creek and dumped them into the river.
No. 2: 1992 Apple Cup, Washington State buries Washington in the Snow Bowl 42-23
To say that it was snowing a little bit would be an understatement. To say the game featured two of the best quarterbacks in the respective schools' history would not. But it was Mark Brunell's Huskies who had the 7-6 lead over Drew Bledsoe's Cougars heading into the locker room. That is until the Cougars exploded for 29 points in the third quarter and would go on to win the game 42-23. Bledsoe's touchdown pass to Philip Bobo will remain on Cougar highlight reels for generations to come with Bobo sliding into a snow bank in the back of the end zone. Running back Shaumbe Wright Fair helped the Cougars to victory, finishing the game with 194 yards and three touchdowns.
No. 1: 1997 Apple Cup, Washington State beats Washington 41-35 to go to first Rose Bowl in 67 years
This one tops the list not only because it was a good game but because it meant so much to Washington State. The Huskies had been picked in the preseason to be Pac-10 Champions but came into the game just 5-2 in conference play and sitting in fourth place. A win over the Huskies was only half the equation for the Cougars. Because of a loss to Arizona State in Tempe (side note: what is about Tempe Cougs?), the Cougars need UCLA to beat their hated rival USC to clinch a Rose Bowl birth. The Cougars held up their end of the bargain with a 41-35 win in Ryan Leaf's last conference game for Washington State and UCLA held up theirs, beating USC 31-24. Leaf hit wide receiver Chris Jackson for two touchdowns of over 50 yards and Washington State was off to their first Rose Bowl in nearly seven decades.
There have been a lot of great wins for WSU in the history of the Apple Cup. But none better than these five.