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The Apple Cup, like life, was full of “if”

Washington State v Washington Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Many years ago, there was a commercial that some insurance company aired, the tag line of which stuck with me for some reason. It went, “(Blankety blank) insurance, for the “if” in life.” I honestly don’t remember the company, but for some reason, my dumb brain remembers that line. It popped back into my head Saturday evening while I was watching the final minutes of what was destined to be another bummer of an ending to a Cougar football game and season.

If you are among the young Cougar fans who visit the website, most of your Apple Cup experience and memories comprise of, “no matter how good or bad we are, and no matter how good Washington is, Washington beats our brains in.” And while WSU has been on the wrong end of many such ass-kickings over the years, the olds among us are all-too-painfully aware that there exists a litany of losses that played out just like Saturday’s, when WSU plays its ass off, demonstrates that it’s as good or better than Washington, and still can’t find a way to win.

My memory begins with 1984, when another BS penalty changed the entire tone of what likely would have been a WSU win. 1995, when heavy underdog WSU lost on a last-second field goal. The next year, when WSU rallied from a 24-0 deficit (my god it was so cold at that game), only to lose in overtime when Chad Carpenter’s foot landed inches out of bounds on a 4th down catch. 2001 (not necessarily a fit but WSU had the better team), 2002, 2003, 2006 (probably the apex of Washington’s absurd luck in the series), 2010 (when the refs decided WSU was the only team in the country committing chop blocks).

If one or two things go differently, WSU wins every one of those games, and Saturday was no different.

But before we get to that, did anyone else notice that unintentionally hilarious University of Washington commercial that talked all about working together to overcome obstacles? During a game which personified that school’s selfishness? My god, those Mount Sanctimony residents really have zero self-awareness. Not like anyone is surprised, but still funny.

WSU maybe-or-likely wins if one of these things is different (some bigger picture than others, obviously):

  • Ward runs on 3rd-and-long on WSU’s last possession instead of trying to force the ball to a double-covered Victor. He may not have made the line to gain, but he would have been close enough for WSU to try and convert on 4th down.
  • WSU isn’t missing its best back-seven player, again. Chau Smith-Wade’s absence hurt this team far more than I realized. While I’m on this, damn was Jamorri Colson’s performance impressive.
  • WSU’s receivers STOP THE FALSE STARTS FFS.
  • WSU is able to field an offensive line whose starters (center excepted) belong in FCS or D II. 57 and 65 especially, don’t belong anywhere near an FBS field. In my opinion, this is easily the biggest personnel failure of the Rolovich error and Dickert era. Just a complete trash heap of personnel, coaching and development on offensive line.
  • Dean Janikowski isn’t allowed on the field.
  • WSU isn’t flagged for holding (it was a legit flag) when Ward scrambles for a first down to the Washington 40. Killed a promising drive.
  • The refs accurately spot Isaiah Hamilton’s 3rd-and-17 catch, which was possibly a first down, but absolutely no further than half-a-foot away. Instead, WSU faced 4th and a full yard and didn’t convert.
  • Nakia Watson is his 2022 self. Kid’s legs just gave out this season, and WSU lost out on a ton of potential yards on Saturday because of it. I feel terrible for him.
  • Dickert and Schmedding blitz more. For all the hype he’s received this season, Michael Penix absolutely wilts under pressure. Happened time after time Saturday.
  • Cam Ward steps up in the pocket on several throws instead of bailing out the back and taking a loss. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why this was a chronic failing from his first WSU game to his last.
  • WSU calls timeout when Washington lines up to got for it on 4th-and-1. If Dickert had made DeBoer think about it, and/or seen the formation and called timeout to adjust, it’s possible that play ends differently.
  • Ron Stone’s roughing call doesn’t happen. Brock Huard said it was BS. Dean Blandino - who always sides with the refs - said it was BS. Why? BECAUSE IT WAS BS.
  • The refs flag one of the 3-4 Washington fouls on 4th-and-1.

And on and on.

All that said, I was pretty damn proud of WSU’s effort. The Cougs proved that they’re capable of matching up with one of the conference’s best teams (which is not one of the nation’s best teams). And for those of you who want to complain about “hargle bargle where was this effort against Stanford and Cal? grumble grumble”

Anyone who watches the NFL knows that it’s a week-to-week league, and those are the professionals! The college game and its participants come with even more variance. Should WSU have won those games? Probably! Am I incredibly disappointed that WSU lost so many winnable games this season? 100 percent! Does that mean you’re justified to parse the effort of 18-23 year-olds? Nope!

The weird part is that I wasn’t even really upset when the game was over. Maybe it was because I’ve seen this movie too many times to be hurt. Maybe it’s because as well as WSU played, it was never actually ahead. Not even for a second! Maybe it’s because I’m just ready for the season to be over. I don’t know. And as great as it would have been to win that game, the loss didn’t sting nearly as badly as many of the previous ones did.

What does eat at the gut is the way the seniors had to go out. Long-timers like Ron Stone, Jr., Brennan Jackson, Lincoln Victor and Konner Gomness. Players we barely got to know like Kyle Williams and Josh Kelly. They damn near pulled off the unthinkable. Damn near.

Just...man.

And now, for the first time in nearly a decade, we Coug fans have no bowl game to talk about. Far worse, we really have no idea what is next for the athletic department as a whole, and the football team in particular. Most of us human beings - me definitely included! - crave routine and order. It enables us to make plans, both short and long-term. In parallel, we sports fans tend to mark the passage of time by the sports calendar. Football in the fall, basketball and/or hockey in the winter and early spring, then spring football, then baseball + vacation, then football again. (you can sub in your preferred sport(s) as required)

But now, Cougar and Beaver fans have next to no idea what to expect. Who will the Cougs play? Where? Will this take two years to figure out? More? Any new/cooked-up rivalries? What will the courts decide? Will the Pac-12 name survive? If so, which Mountain West teams will join? All of them? What about all the other sports? I could go on. That’s all for another time and post before we hang things up, for probably good.

For now, we’ll sample Tom Petty

Into the great wide open
For both the Beavs and Cougs
Out in the great wide open
Fan bases without a clue

This Week in Parenting

Team Kendall spent the Thanksgiving break in Hawaii, where the kiddos got to hang out with their Spokane cousins, and set an unofficial record for number of 2-on-2 beach football games played. The 12 year-old and his younger cousin also played a fair amount of ping pong, and he got brave enough to challenge the old man, with the requisite pregame trash talk to boot. I’m not that good at ping pong, and far be it from me to brag about beating a 12 year-old at any athletic competition, but damned if I didn’t mop the floor with his ass. (I wouldn’t be writing any of this if he hadn’t talked smack beforehand)

To his credit, he and his younger cousin were brave enough to get on stage at the luau - Air Jordans, Santorini high socks and all - to attempt the nearly-impossible-for-white-folks hip movements.

As for the teenager, he started off the trip in rather peculiar fashion, venturing around the airline lounge to combine...sausage and sushi?

I...just...what?

Once we arrived, his only real goal - as a noted World War II enthusiast - was to visit Pearl Harbor, so we took an inter-island day trip to do just that.

It’s pretty neat and you should go if you can. They even have a virtual reality goggle thing that re-creates the attack, which I thought was the coolest part of our visit. We also checked out the USS Missouri and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, where he took his grandpa into a full-motion flight simulator (for an extra charge, of course) to try and play fighter pilot in a WWII-era pursuit aircraft.

On Turkey Day, I introduced the boys to snorkeling, and they both had quite a cracking time at it, which I considered one of my bigger parenting victories in a while.

Most importantly, dad found a scenic jogging route and drank a lot of beer. #priorities

Non-Sports

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I can think of 25 songs from the 1980s better than #1, but music is probably the most subjective topic of all time.

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