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Interactive Graphic: The 2019 Apple Cup

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This is Mike Leach’s best offense. Will it be enough to win the Apple Cup?

Oregon State v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

I don’t know about you all, but CougCenter Slack and my group friend text thread has been turned into a support group this week as we process through the hope/despair cycle that is Apple Cup. Two of my favorite in-person sporting moments are the 2005 and 2007 games vs Washington, but pretty much all of my lowest lows related to sports have come at the hands of the humans who think barking like dogs is OK (can we pause for a moment to reflect on how there is nothing weirder than adult human beings barking like dogs?).

This game takes me down rabbit holes looking for reasons to be excited, like every road win the Cougs have had in this god forsaken game since 1973 has been when UW is quarterbacked by someone from the state of Washington. Jacob Eason is from Lake Stevens and now I’m back in the hope cycle. Gah, this stupid game.

  • 1973: WSU 52 - UW 26 (UW Quarterback Chris Rowland, from Seattle)
  • 1983: WSU 17 - UW 6 (UW Quarterback Steve Pueller, from Bellevue)
  • 1985: WSU 21 - UW 20 (UW Quarterback Chris Chandler, from Everett)
  • 1997: WSU 41 - UW 35 (UW Quarterback Brock Huard, from Puyallup)
  • 2005: WSU 26 - UW 22 (UW Quarterback Isaiah Stanback, from Seattle)
  • 2007: WSU 35 - UW 28 (UW Quarterback Jake Locker, from Ferndale)

Given that every QB on UW’s current roster went to high school in Washington, the Cougs may not lose a Seattle Apple Cup for the next decade, har har har. OK, back to reality.

Anthony Gordon is doing things no QB in the Pac-12 has ever done. The only QB since 2015 to have more passing yards than him at this point in the season is Patrick Mahomes. I am really going to miss this offense, which is why I will assuredly make an impulsive, bad decision to go to the game to see them in person. If there was a year for the offense to finally come good, it’s this one. In two out of the last three Apple Cups, WSU has faced a UW defense ranked 4th in SP+. The Cougs are currently 4th in offense and UW is 28th on defense. This will be the best offense from a success rate perspective that UW has faced all year. Gordon and company should move the ball and UW has been really struggling to take the ball away of late, which hopefully keeps WSU in this.


Watch party talking points when WSU has the ball:

  • Last 6 games UW is getting an interception every 92.5 pass attempts, and a sack every 15
  • UW is on par with Stanford in giving up explosive pass plays at 9% and on par with Colorado in giving up explosive run plays at 9%
  • Gordo Stat Line UCLA to Oregon: 36/55 | 66% | 412 Yards Per Game | 7.5 YPA | 4 TD per game | 39 pass attempts per interception
  • Gordo Stat Line last 3 games: 46/62 | 74% | 511 Yards Per Game | 8.24 YPA | 4.3 TD per game | 37 pass attempts per interception

Last 3 games Gordon has thrown for 407, 520 and 606 yards. Totally going for 700 vs UW, the trend is clearly there. UW had a fantastic game vs. Oregon State, but vs. Utah and Colorado they combined to give up 9.4 yards per attempt. Look for him to cook and hopefully get an inconsequential personal foul for talking trash.

The below chart compares the WSU offense to the UW defense. If you’re coming from Twitter, Apple News or Google AMP click here to see the chart and return to the story. If on mobile, turn your phone horizontal for best viewing experience.

WSU is No. 1 in the country in success rate on 2nd down. They’ve cooled a little bit in explosive plays from the beginning of the season, but this is the most efficient offense UW has faced. Below is the same format as the above chart, but looking at success rate by down and explosive plays. Interestingly, where WSU can hit UW is with explosive runs. The typical aggressive style UW has played could open up lanes for Max Borghi if Dezmon Patmon, Brandon Arconado and the Cougar receivers can get open.

If you’re coming from Twitter, Apple News or Google AMP click here to see the chart and return to the story. If on mobile, turn your phone horizontal for best viewing experience.


Now let’s take a look at the UW offense. There are things to be encouraged by, but it also feels like the WSU defense is giving out Pac-12 player of the week awards like it’s their job, so back into the despair cycle we go.

Watch party talking points when UW has the ball:

  • Eason Stat Line BYU to Oregon: 18/28 | 66% | 241 Yards Per Game | 8.5 YPA | 1.8 TD per game | 71 pass attempts per interception
  • Eason Stat Line last 3 games: 22/39 | 56% | 232 Yards Per Game | 5.9 YPA | 1.6 TD per game | 24 pass attempts per interception
  • UW is 86th in explosive plays and 97th in 3rd down conversions, please get off the field Cougar defense
  • UW is 67th in TD% on scoring opportunities, force field goals and hope WSU has the ball last

The below chart compares the UW offense to the WSU defense. If you’re coming from Twitter, Apple News or Google AMP click here to see the chart and return to the story. If on mobile, turn your phone horizontal for best viewing experience.

If like me you have nightmares of Myles Gaskin breaking off long, back breaking runs, hopefully this year will finally buck that trend. Mainly because he has mercifully graduated but also because UW is 116th in explosive runs this season. Granted, WSU is 117th in giving them up, but let’s not go too far down into the crevasse of sad.

Below is the same format as the above chart, but looking at success rate by down and explosive plays. UW is doing a nice job of moving the ball on early downs, but really struggling on 3rd. The Huskies are also not that efficient passing the ball and Eason has been on a downward trend the last few weeks that hopefully continues.

If you’re coming from Twitter, Apple News or Google AMP click here to see the chart and return to the story. If on mobile, turn your phone horizontal for best viewing experience.


My worry is that this game plays out in an incredibly frustrating way and finishes 38-21 with a ton of missed opportunities and maddening turnovers. However, this is by far the best offense Leach has brought into an Apple Cup. The Huskies are not the vaunted ball-hawking secondary of years past and if WSU can stay on the field they should move the ball. Eason going from throwing an interception every 71 pass attempts through the first part of conference play to throwing one every 24 over his last 3 games gives me hope that the Cougs can steal a possession or two. Blake Mazza got his one miss of the season out of his system last week, buckle up and hope the Cougs have the ball last in a one-score game.