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Great (and not so great) moments in Apple Cup history

There were the best of times, and then there were the I-can't-take-it-anymore times.

Washington State v Washington

The Apple Cup brings out a lot of emotions. Any rivalry game will do that, especially one against the hated Huskies. Given WSU’s 32-71-6 record in this game, there are plenty of heartbreaking moments to go along with some euphoric ones.

The not-so-great part of this will be much more maddening compared to previous games against, say, Arizona.

In a way, this is therapy. It's good to confront our demons. When the Washington Sate Cougars and Washington Huskies meet, it just means more, even in down years (there have been plenty of down years).

But there have been great moments, too! Let’s start there.


Nov. 21, 1992: The Snow Bowl

We have to start with one of the most iconic games in WSU history, right?

Drew Bledsoe maintains that he had the most fun playing in this game compared to any other game—and he played in a Super Bowl.

You know everything about this game. Frigid temps, wind, snow, Bledsoe to Bobo.

And given the conditions, it's incredibly impressive that WSU gained 476 yards oo offense. A huge third quarter helped WSU win in the snow.

Everybody has their own story or memory from this game. Mike Price knowing he had UW's number once he saw how uncomfortable they were getting off the bus is a favorite of mine.

But one I read last year takes the cake: State Senator Michael Baumgartner said he was at the '92 Apple Cup with Steve Gleason and some fellow high school friends, where they decided to throw snowballs at the UW band.

As Jacob Thorpe wrote last year, Baumgartner, a WSU grad, met now former State Representative Jessyn Farrell, a UW grad, in Olympia. Baumgartner asked Farrell if she'd ever been to Pullman, to which Farrell indicated that she had only been there once. She was part of the band and went to the 1992 Apple Cup, where she was hit with snowballs.

Nov. 21, 1997: We're going to the Rose Bowl!

This is the greatest win in WSU history because of what it meant. It sent WSU to the Rose Bowl for first time since 1931, as you know, and came 20 years ago yesterday.

Chris Jackson backed up his trash talk from earlier in the week—he said, "I don’t have much respect for them as people or players," while also adding, "I just want to go in there, study film on them and go do what we set out to do — go in and kill them," and finally, "I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the Huskies get in my way of going to the Rose Bowl."—by catching two touchdowns, one a 57-yarder where he ran over Tony Parrish:

Nov. 20, 1982: Chuck Nelson misses

Story lines galore.

It was the first Apple Cup in Pullman in 28 years. The Cougs came out in all-crimson getups (except for their helmets), and the goalposts ended up in the Palouse River, legend has it.

UW kicker Chuck Nelson was 30-for-30 on field goals that season when he lined up for his 31st attempt with 4:35 to play and WSU leading 21-20. Nelson's kick missed, and WSU kicked a field goal for insurance to seal a 24-20 victory.

Oh, and it knocked the fifth-ranked Huskies out of the Rose Bowl. Hell yeah.

Nov. 18, 1972: The Sack Dance

Gary Larsen was a sophomore linebacker in the 1972 Apple Cup. The Cougs won 27-10, but that's not what makes this game memorable.

Larsen sacked UW quarterback Sonny Sixkiller and broke out into a dance over Sixkiller as he laid on the turf. Sixkiller, who is a Cherokee, interpreted Larsen's actions as a war dance, mocking his Native American heritage. Sixkiller threw the ball on Larsen's back and flipped the bird.

Larsen, as you'll see in the video above, says the dance was a spur of the moment thing and not intended to mock Sixkiller's heritage. Regardless of who's right and who's wrong, it's quite the Apple Cup moment.

Nov. 19, 1988: The punt block

Fourth quarter, down 31-26 and UW is punting. It's snowing. It's cold. And Shawn Landrum blocks a UW punt, giving WSU the ball 13 yards from the end zone.

Soon, quarterback Timm Rosenbach ran in from five yards to give WSU a one-point lead. They'd fail on the two-point conversion, but the WSU defense held on for the final nine minutes.

The Cougs then beat the Houston Cougars in the Aloha Bowl.

Nov. 22, 2008: The Nico Grasu Show

I almost put this in the "Not So Great" section because of how awful this game was.

It paired the 1-10 Cougars against the 0-10 Huskies. For some reason, this game was on national television (RIP, Fox Sports Net).

The Cougs were coming off a 31-0 loss at Arizona State—their third shutout of the season!—and UW was without its savior, Jake Locker. Ronnie Fouch, come on down!

UW actually led this garbage pail of a game 10-0, but WSU's Logwone Mitz got WSU within three after a 57-yard touchdown run. The tire fire got worse when UW missed two field goals in the fourth quarter from inside WSU's 25-yard line. Missing field goals was a theme for UW in this game.

Then, with 56 seconds left, WSU had the ball at its own 20. Kevin Lopina somehow connected deep with Jared Karstetter.

After spiking the ball, Nico Grasu drilled a 28-yard field goal to send the game to overtime.

The teams traded field goals in the first overtime. And WSU—I can't believe they did this—went for it on fourth-and-one from the four-yard line. They converted, barely, and still had to settle for a field goal. That kind of summed of 2008, don't you think?

UW missed its field goal in the second overtime, and Grasu hit from 37 yards for the win, giving WSU the title of "Second Worst Team In The Nation." Print the shirts!

Nov. 23, 2012: The Comeback

When UW's Bishop Sankey scored from one yard out with less than a minute to play in the third quarter to give the Huskies a 28-10 lead, it looked bleak. I was receiving text messages from friends saying it was over. I had responded during the game, but at this moment, I told myself to hold back because I didn't want to say something I'd regret. It was a dark, lonely place.

Of course, we all know what happened next! The Cougs roared back to tie the game and UW missed a 35-yard field goal attempt as the game moved to overtime.

Toni Pole nearly ended the game with what would have been the Piesman moment of the century. Alas, we had to "settle" for an Andrew Furney field goal to end that dreadful season on a high note.

The comeback was the largest in Apple Cup history, and the win was fun. But here's my favorite moment:

Nov. 29, 2014: Steve Gleason joins the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame

Sure, the game was lousy and it was bitterly cold.

But man, this was a special moment.

Nov. 19, 2005: "Harvey down the sideline!"

Another Apple Cup that ended a dreadful season. Alex Brink got his second of three Apple Cup wins and led the game-winning drive. Greg Prator laid a nice block and Trandon Harvey took a bubble screen to the house. The defense forced UW into a found-and-out and the Cougs came away with the Apple Cup.

And then the fans went crazy.

WSU fans seated in the end zones jumped the fence and raced pass a half-asleep security crew to rush the field. Security guards at other areas of the stadium weren't any better, as Husky fans also rushed the field looking for a fight.

They found one at midfield as the two teams came together. Fans came to blows, a UW fan tried to snatch a Coug flag from running back Brandon Asuega-Stark, and it was a wild scene on the UW turf.

Here's a bird's eye view of part of melee.

And here’s Alex Brink describing the last drive:

Nov. 24, 2007: "Gibson with the score!"

Alex Brink's last pass as as Washington State's quarterback was an Apple Cup game-winner to a wide open Brandon Gibson.

I mean, WIDE open. Like, the closest Husky defender was in Fife.

It was a sweet ending to a sour season. It was Bill Doba's last game and a great way to go out, both for him and Brink and the rest of the seniors.

Gibson's touchdown was so satisfying that it's easy to forget that the Huskies had a shot at the end zone and took it as time expired. Jake Locker's pass fell into the arms of Alfonso Jackson.

Nov. 20, 2004: The losing streak ends

The Cougs had lost seven straight (don't worry, we'll get to four of them later!). The Huskies were in the last year of the Keith Gilbertson experiment and came into the game 1-9.

The Cougs weren't much better. They were 4-6 heading into this Apple Cup, but everybody was focused on snapping the streak.

Redshirt freshman Alex Brink accounted for three touchdowns—two through the air and one on the ground in the 28-25 win.

The Cougar defense picked off three passes and recovered a Casey Paus fumble for a touchdown.

This was the first Apple Cup win for WSU since the 1997 win that sent the team to the Rose Bowl.

Not so great :(

Ugh. This part is rough.

Let's start with the three-act tragedy, and then we'll go from there.

Nov. 17, 2001: Missed opportunities

If the ninth-ranked team in the nation has first-and-goal three times and comes away with a grand total of zero points, you'd think they weren't actually the ninth-ranked team in the nation.

That's what happened in this Apple Cup. Jason Gesser fumbled at the six, Dave Minnich was stuffed at the goal line on fourth down, and Minnich also threw an interception (you read that right) on one of those halfback pass plays from the 13-yard line. Ugly.

Oh, and after being stuffed at the one on fourth down? UW then went on a 99-yard touchdown drive. UW also recovered a fumble on a kickoff and kicked a field goal right before halftime. Seeing Rick Neuheisel run off the field at halftime with his first in the air still makes me angry.

The Cougs had shot at the Pac-10 title in this game and blew it. But we knew it couldn't get any worse. RIGHT?!?!

Nov. 23, 2002: [Expletive]

Wrong. It got way worse.

Believe it or not, WSU had a chance to clinch a spot in the national championship game at this Apple Cup. They were ranked third, and had Ohio State or Miami lost that day and WSU came away with a win over the 6-5 Huskies, the Cougs would be playing in the Fiesta Bowl for the National Championship.

We all know how that went.

Jason Gesser went down in the fourth quarter (Tank Johnson was the culprit). In came Matt Kegel, and WSU held a 20-17 lead late in the game. Kegel was picked off by Nate Robinson—yes, the basketball player—and UW kicked a field goal to send the game to overtime.

The teams each kicked field goals in the first two overtimes. UW kicked another one to go up 29-26 in the third overtime. On WSU's first play of its possession, well, you know what happened.

Oh yeah, then there was a riot.

Nov. 22, 2003: Aw man, not again!

Once again, the Cougs came into this one with the better record and the better ranking. And once again, they left Seattle sans Apple Cup.

The Cougs turned the ball over seven times. They'd done the same in wins over Oregon State and UCLA earlier in the season, but their luck ran out this time (that's actually amazing).

Cody Pickett found Corey Williams for a touchdown with 1:10 to go on a play that probably still gives Eric Coleman nightmares. Then, Marquis Cooper intercepted Josh Swogger on WSU's ensuing possession and ran it back for the final nail. Swogger was playing in place of an injured Matt Kegel.

Tragically, Cooper died in a boating accident on March 1, 2009.

Nov. 22, 1975: Karma

WSU led 27-14 and was about to score again with less than three minutes to play. Normally, you'd run a few plays, milk the clock, and kick a field goal if you didn't get a touchdown. But not today.

Head coach Jim Sweeney decided to throw the ball on fourth-and-one form the 14-yard line and UW's Al Burleson intercepted the John Hopkins pass and returned it 97 yards for a touchdown.

UW would still get the ball back—don't ask me how—and Spider Gaines scored and with the converted extra point, UW stole a 28-27 victory.

I was 11 years away from entering this world when this happened, so if any of you have vivid memories of this one....I am terribly sorry.

Sweeney took the blame for the poor play calling. He would resign shortly after.

Nov. 21, 1981: There goes the Rose Bowl

A Rose Bowl berth was on the line for both teams in this one. The Cougs were 8-1-1 and the Huskies were 8-2. A WSU win would send the Cougs to the Rose Bowl, while a UW win, coupled with a USC win over UCLA, would send the Huskies to Pasadena.

WSU quarterback Clete Casper went down with an injury and the Cougs up 7-3. But it was all downhill after that. UW went on to win 23-10 and got the help they needed when USC beat UCLA.

Nov. 18, 2000: Deon Burnett quits

The 51-3 drubbing was bad enough. Learning that sophomore running back Deon Burnett changed into street clothes and walked out of the locker room at halftime left a bad taste in our mouths, too.

Years later, former players and coaches would say the 2000 team was actually good*. It lost three games in overtime and then-sophomore Jason Gesser began to introduce himself to Cougar fans before a season-ending injury against Oregon.

Matt Kegel was thrust into action for the remainder of the season and was just 12 of 28 for 122 yards and an interception. Man, he had the worst Apple Cup luck.

*I'd somewhat agree. They were close and then broke out the following season.

Nov. 18, 2006: Bowl hopes go down the drain

The Cougs were bowl eligible. They had been, in fact, for three weeks. They were 6-3 after a win at UCLA on Oct. 28, but then they dropped their next two to Arizona and Arizona State. While six wins were great, it didn't guarantee a bowl game back then because there just weren't as many bowl slots to go around. But a win in the Apple Cup would assure them a spot in the postseason.

Yeah, about that.

The Huskies came into Martin Stadium a week after losing 20-3 to previously winless Stanford.

UW had only four big plays, but they all ended in touchdowns or set up a touchdown. The Huskies ran back a blocked punt for a score and Marcel Reece caught a 69-yard touchdown off his toe for another. Louis Rankin took the ball 77 yards for a touchdown, and an 87-yard kickoff return (#Forces) set up an eight-yard Rankin touchdown run.

The Cougs found themselves left out of the bowl picture and kicked off a long winter on the Palouse.

Nov. 27, 2015: "We've beaten teams that are considerably better than Washington."

Mike Leach's post-massacre quote didn't go over well with UW fans (or many WSU fans, for that matter). WSU was without an injured Luke Falk and redshirt freshman Peyton Bender was tasked with going up against the surging Huskies in his first career start.

It did not go well. The normally reliable Dom Williams dropped a pass that looked like it could have gone the distance on WSU's first drive. That play kind of set the stage for the rest of the game.

The Cougs turned the ball over seven times and had three of those returned for a touchdown. It was an ugly performance no matter how you dress it up.

It left some questions questions: What happens if Dom Williams takes that pass to the end zone? What if it was Luke Falk starting this game?

We'll never know. But at least we got this:

Nov. 25, 2016: Losing the North

This one's fresh.

This was a playoff game for the Pac-12 North, and the Cougs were at home, which seemed like an advantage but cracks started to show the week prior in a loss at Colorado. And then they hardly showed up for the Apple Cup on the day after Thanksgiving.

The Huskies jumped out to a 28-3 lead after the first quarter thanks to WSU's inability to score at the goal line.

What was hyped as one of the biggest Apple Cups in a long time ended up being a gigantic disappointment for the Cougs.

UW went on to win the Pac-12 Championships Game and played in the College Football Playoff.

The Cougs "played" in the Holiday Bowl.

If you made it this far, you deserve a beer. Yeah, there are games I didn’t include. As always, feel free to reminisce.


Which Apple Cup loss was the most gut-wrenching?

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