The Cougars made the biggest comeback in Apple Cup history on Friday, and they left fans with key memories that should last a long time in WSU lore.
The Washington State Cougars surprised just about everyone yesterday with a 31-28 overtime win over the No. 25 Washington Huskies in the 2012 Apple Cup, and there were plenty of plays throughout the game that Cougar fans won't forget for a long, long time.
Aside from the fact that WSU beat a good Husky team this time around, the abundance of exciting plays in Friday's win separates this Apple Cup victory from the last time the Cougars came back to beat the Huskies in overtime.
That 2008 game has two standout moments in Logwone Mitz's long touchdown run and Kevin Lopina's last-minute heave to Jared Karstetter, but outside of that it was just a bunch of made and missed field goals.That wasn't the case in 2012's edition.
The fourth quarter and overtime alone will give Cougar fans happy thoughts and show up on highlight reels in perpetuity, but WSU was making big plays on both sides of the ball before the come back was made.
Washington's opening play from the scrimmage was the first of those memorable moments. The Huskies called a wide receiver pass, but Cody Bruns could not find anywhere to throw the ball as he rolled right. Ioane Gauta, who was dominant all day, brought him down for an 11-yard loss and UW's drive was over before it ever got started.
In the second quarter came Dominique Williams getting loose behind the defense, looking just like guy he replaced on the outside. Jeff Tuel hit him in stride for a 61-yard catch-and-run that set the Cougars up for a go-ahead touchdown run from Carl Winston.
After a nightmarish third quarter put the Cougars down 18 points, WSU would need to make a number of big plays to pull out the win. They did just that.
WSU took their first drive of the fourth in for a touchdown, but they were still down 11 points with around 10 minutes to play. That's when the defensive line stepped up to create the first of two game-changing turnovers down the stretch.
On Washington ensuing possession, the Huskies faced a 3rd and 2 with the Cougs in desperate need of a stop to keep hopes alive. Senior lineman Steven Hoffart exploded through the middle of the line unblocked and knocked the ball of Keith Price's hand as he appeared to attempt a playfake. WSU recovered, and suddenly the Apple Cup was a game again.
Hoffart did get a 15-yard taunting penalty, but can you blame him? The senior had just made the biggest play of his WSU career.
It didn't take long for the next legendary moment to happen. Tuel took the snap on the next play and was instantly flushed backwards and out of the pocket. He circled around, eluding several sack attempts, before somehow finding a wide open Isiah Myers in the middle of the field for a 29-yard gain. Tuel took a shot to the head on the play, which tacked on more yardage for the Cougs and set them up for a chance to pull within on score. It looked certain that Tuel was going to be brought down, and showed flashes of his sophomore self is scrambling out of the pressure.
After the defense forced a huge three-and-out, the Cougars offense took over needing a field goal to tie the game. They moved into Husky territory quickly as Tuel hit senior Gino Simone on a routine-looking pass play that netted 18 yards. Slow-motion showed the catch was certainly not routine for Simone. The ball was tipped as it went straight throw a defenders hands. Simone showed tremendous concentration and reaction time as he corralled it for the catch, and turned up field.
Andrew Furney then calmly drilled a 45-yard field goal to tie the game and complete WSU's fourth-quarter comeback. The Huskies would answer with a something their fans won't soon forget: A missed 35-yard field goal as regulation ended.
That missed field goal set up what just may be one of the most exciting plays in Apple Cup history. Logan Mayes rushed Price, and the quarterback threw the ball up in desperation as Mayes pulled him to the ground. The ball floated before landing safely in the arms of 280-pound Toni Pole, who rumbled almost all of the 70 yards that were needed for the game-winning touchdown.
ESPN mentioned on SportsCenter that Pole reached a top speed of 20 mph on that run. That's pretty fast for a nose tackle.
He was cut down short, robbing us of one of the greatest fat guy scores ever, but the play almost ensured a WSU victory as Furney would split the uprights on the game-winner and send Martin Stadium into a frenzy.
Many of these moments will be discussed over and over during the offseason, and every year from now on during Apple Cup week. WSU seniors (students and athletes alike) will finally have their signature game to look back upon. The memory was made so much sweeter by the way the Cougars stepped up and took the game away from UW with a number of unforgettable plays.
Thankfully, Fox Sports put together some of those highlights after the game. Enjoy: