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Excuse us if we’re not bowled over

“I’m so happy for the state of Washington that this Apple Cup is really going to mean something – for both schools.”

Steve Sarkisian

Meaning. I knew there was something missing from my life.

But now I have it. We all do.

It’s the Apple Cup. And it’s really going to mean something – for both schools, and by extension all of us – or so says Washington coach Steve Sarkisian. And after he Robb-Akeyed it on Saturday and pulled off the daring last-play victory over Cal, you’d have to think the guy walks on slush.

We owe it all to him. His call to go for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal and just two seconds left was what once again infused this moribund trophy game with meaning, and here it is:

The Huskies are playing for a berth in nothing less than the MAACO Bowl, probably the Hyundai Sun or the Bridgepoint Education Holiday.

Washington State is playing to keep them out.

And a rich full existence it is for all.

“It’s going to be a great day for the state,” Sarkisian said.

Wasn’t Dino Rossi telling his campaign supporters the same thing before Election Day?

Yes, yes – at least it’s something.

It’s been four miserable years since even that much was at stake in the Granny Smith of them All. You’ll recall that Bill Doba’s WSU warriors got to November 6-3 in 2006, then promptly dribbled Gatorade down the front of their jerseys the next three weekends. The Cougars were technically bowl eligible already, however. It’s just that they weren’t bowl worthy, buried in the Pacific-10 Conference standings like a Mini Cooper left on the street when the snowplow goes by.

Beating the Huskies might have changed that, and UW had lost six straight. Naturally, the Cougs cooperated by stumbling to the occasion.

Otherwise, since 2003, neither team has been within sniffing distance of poinsettias, never mind roses.

And so the most compelling juncture became the sublime absurdity of 2008, when 0-11 met 1-10 for the right to call itself the Worst Football Team in America. It was oddly dramatic in that Bristol Palin/Dancing With the Stars/train wreck sort of way, and it’s hard not to pine for it a little in the throes of this year’s bout of mediocrity.

Naturally, this is not a unanimous point of view.

“It’s going to be a great one,” Huskies running back Chris Polk, who scored Saturday’s game-winner, insisted. “A heated rivalry. It’s going to be real cold.”

So the heat will lessen the cold, or the cold will temper the heat? Anyone? Never mind.

“They’re not going to want us to go to a bowl game, so they’re going to bring their A-game,” he said.

So much for trash talk. Heck, roughly half the Wazzu fan base isn’t convinced coach Paul Wulff can muster an A-game, but Chris Polk thinks so.

Nevertheless, it’s a relief to see the modest gains the Cougars have made this season, and for the Huskies to be in third place – yes, they are – speaks to a level of resiliency that you may not have expected from a Sarkisian team this soon.

Perhaps there would be a smidgen more anticipation had this one not been pushed back to the point on the calendar where mall Santas are already lap numb.

Wazzu has been on hiatus longer than “The Marriage Ref.” The Cougars got to ride the momentum of their purported breakthrough win over Oregon State right into a long winter’s nap. But, hey, there’s a few extra grand in the budget to show for it.

Meanwhile, the Inland Northwest has been pummeled by a foot of snow with more on the way, and digging out has become the priority over digging football in sub-freezing temperatures.

“It’s going to be an exciting venue,” Sarkisian enthused.

Of course, he might have been talking about Friel Court. Wazzu’s basketball game the night before against Kansas State is more likely to fill every seat than the Apple Cup, which says something.

Mostly that this is still a ways from being anything close to the college football rivalries that are for more than just regional amusement.

On the other hand, neither team will be starting its backup quarterback. As selling points go, that’s a keeper in this year’s Pac-10. It almost really means something.

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