SEATTLE – His future as Washington State’s head football coach still undecided, Bill Doba knows at least one downside to hanging on to his job.
Washington quarterback Jake Locker is only a freshman.
“They’re going to be pretty good,” Doba confided. “Jake Locker is special. Throw a couple of healthy receivers in there and everybody is going to have problems. How are you going to defend him? We had guys assigned and he just broke them.”
Locker indeed turned the tide of the 100th Apple Cup, if temporarily. With the Huskies trailing 28-20, he found a wide-open Marcel Reece behind some blown coverage and connected on a 63-yard touchdown pass – and the tying two-point conversion on a nervy rollout-and- throw back against coverage.
Then he took the Huskies on a 16-play march for a go-ahead touchdown during which he reeled off three runs of 11 yards or more. The last – which set up his 1-yard plunge for the TD – saw him run through Cougars Cory Evans, Ropati Pituitoa, Greg Trent and Andy Mattingly.
“You see him coming around the corner and I’m not so sure I’d step in front of him, either,” Doba said.
Locker also had his struggles. While he ran for 103 yards in the 42-35 loss to WSU, he completed just 12 of 35 passes and had two interceptions, though one was a last-play Hail Mary.
Tyrone Willingham was pleased.
“The first thing is the (neck) injury Jake sustained a couple of weeks back – he was healthy, he was capable of playing and I thought he played just as you’d want your quarterback to play,” the coach said. “He was a true leader for our football team. When it got tough, he dug in and did absolutely the best he could.”
They can’t kick(off)
Once again, the Cougars had some nightmarish special teams play – in particular kickoffs and coverage.
Washington’s Louis Rankin took the opening kickoff back an Apple Cup-record 89 yards for a touchdown. And when the Cougars resorted to their fallback position of squib kicking, it hardly served them better.
Besides Rankin’s runback, the Huskies had another 104 yards even on the short kicks. Eight times UW started possessions at its own 35 yard line or better.
Impersonating the starter
Third-string tight end Devin Frischknecht is no Jed Collins, but he sure gave a good impression of Alex Brink’s security blanket.
With Collins (52 receptions, 512 yards, three touchdowns) limited to a mostly ceremonial first-quarter appearance because of a sprained ankle, Frischknecht became a big part of the Cougars game play.
He of 13 catches for 103 yards – the longest being 24 – responded with five receptions for 88 yards.
“Jed is really hard to replace; he’s such a tremendous athlete,” Frischknecht said. “I just did my job. Just ran the routes. Brink got it to me. Catched it. Did what I could.”
His touchdown catches of 41 and 19 yards in the first half staked the Cougs to a 21-20 lead.
Though it took a touchdown in the final minute for the Cougars to win, there was a point in the third quarter where it seemed they were about to seize control.
The Huskies were pinned on their 10, trailing 28-20. The situation could have become more severe with back-to-back incompletions, but on the second one WSU strong safety Alfonso Jackson was hit with a 15-yard penalty when he drilled Anthony Russo in the back after the ball sailed over his head.
“I saw the play, I saw him go up to catch it, and from my point of view I saw him tip it,” the junior said. “If a receiver tips a ball, it’s a green light, that’s what they teach you. I didn’t want it to be an easy catch. As soon as I saw the ball go up and tip his hands, I just put my head down and ran through him. I didn’t realize the play was over.”
That seemed to spark the Huskies. After another first down, Marcel Reece got loose in the secondary for a 63-yard touchdown and caught the two point conversion to tie the game.
“I put that on me. I was saying I had to make a play for the defense to get that one back,” said Jackson, who was met by Doba. “He said to keep my head in there. Bad judgment but don’t let it get me down.”
He didn’t, intercepting Locker’s desperation pass in the end zone on the last play of the game.