We all thought the usual suspects would carry the Cougs in the Apple Cup. You know the players; Jeff Tuel, Marquess Wilson, Jared Karstetter, Daniel Blackledge. Wait, Daniel Blackledge?
The senior went out in style tonight, hauling in seven passes for a career-high 132 yards and a touchdown. In his final game in a Cougar uniform, Blackledge did all he could to will this team to victory. It was a performance that Blackledge deserved.
The senior wide receiver has had an up-and-down career at Washington State. His career production is roughly half of what talented freshman Marquess Wilson put up this year. In fact, that 132 yards nearly doubled his yardage this year and was just 88 yards short of what he put up in the entire 2009 campaign.
I've been the biggest critic of Blackledge at times, often maligning his inconsistent hands. One play, he'll look like a sure-handed slot receiver. On the next, he'll drop a pass in maddening fashion. But here he was in the Apple Cup, stealing the show in a talented receiver corps.
On senior day in Pullman, one player was missing an important part of his family. Blackledge lost his mother to a stroke during his sophomore year. In her place, his brothers met him coming out of the tunnel.
You may have noticed Blackledge pointing to the sky after hauling in a touchdown pass in the third quarter. This game, that touchdown, was for his mother, Cynthia.
"That was to my mother. I definitely dedicate it to her. He said. "I had to give her one. She was out there with me."
Blackledge has been in Pullman for the worst of times and endured them all. From the team's struggles on the field to the passing of his mother, he stuck with the team and the program. And today, even though it came in the last game of his career, he gave us a heck of a performance.