PULLMAN – Somewhere, lost blissfully in the din of Martin Stadium’s makeshift outdoor party on Friday afternoon, Logan Mayes knows there was a child smiling ear-to-ear.
That was Mayes not all that long ago, growing up the son of a WSU legend, living and dying with each of Washington State’s Apple Cup wins and losses.
“I was always so depressed when we lost,” Mayes said, but he’s laughing now, because for one night, finally, all is again right in this crimson world.
It was 31-28, Washington State over Washington. It was Jeff Tuel, senior quarterback, winning his final game as a Cougar. It was Andrew Furney and his happy-go-lucky right leg, his 27-yard game-winning field goal in overtime that sent fans bursting onto the field, his 45-yard kick to tie the thing and help erase UW’s 18-point lead. It was Toni Pole, all 277 pounds of him, rumbling some 60-plus yards after intercepting a pass in overtime.
The Cougars played without their heart and soul, senior linebacker Travis Long, who watched on crutches from the sideline. They trailed most of the game. And yet here were thousands of students, parents and children, sprinting to midfield once Furney’s kick split the uprights and the Cougars completed the largest comeback in Apple Cup history.
Would you believe these Cougars erased a 28-10 deficit after committing four turnovers?
That they scored the game’s final 21 points after nearly suffocating beneath a flurry of interceptions and fumbles?
That it was Elson Floyd, WSU’s president, who grabbed the microphone amid a sea of crimson and joy afterward to declare his team’s supremacy, furiously informing the thousands upon Martin’s turf that “we kicked the Huskies out of the place?”
Ah, catharsis. They’ve missed you here.
“It means the world,” Tuel said.
Especially in a game where it seemed Tuel and his teammates couldn’t catch a break. He threw two interceptions – one that bounced off the facemask of receiver Isiah Myers, another which was ripped out of the hands of receiver Brett Bartolone by UW defensive back Justin Glenn – and fumbled once while being sacked.
Two of those turnovers led to Huskies touchdowns. And UW scored again after Bobby Ratliff fumbled following a catch that might have netted a first down.
So the Huskies led 28-10 heading into the fourth quarter, despite finishing the game with just 269 yards of total offense.
But this time, despite an eight-game losing streak during which adversity toppled them repeatedly, the Cougars didn’t stop working.
The game turned after the second of Carl Winston’s three touchdown runs capped a 75-yard drive with 10:41 left in the game, WSU trimming the Huskies’ lead to 28-17.
Plays were made. Washington quarterback Keith Price fumbled after being drilled by Steven Hoffart, and linebacker Justin Sagote recovered.
Four plays later, the Cougars were in the end zone again, spurred by one of the finer moments of Tuel’s career.
The pocket collapsed around him on a first down from UW’s 47. He spun back to his right and appeared certain to lose massive yardage on a sack. But Tuel kept his balance, stepped up and fired a 29-yard completion to Isiah Myers just before taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from UW’s Andrew Hudson.
A pass-interference penalty – one of 18 infractions committed by the Huskies, which tied a school record – helped WSU get inside the 2-yard line before Winston again scored on a 1-yard carry, and Tuel’s 2-point conversion pass to Brett Bartolone cut UW’s lead to 28-25.
The Huskies (7-5, 5-4) went three-and-out. WSU drove to the UW 28-yard line before facing a fourth-and-1.
WSU coach Mike Leach thought about going for it, he said, but ultimately sent Furney out to drill a 45-yard field goal and tie the game with 1:59 remaining.
“I had 25 seconds to make a decision, and I made one,” Leach said. “Yogi Berra says if there’s a fork in the road, take it. So I took it.”
Bleak were the Cougars’ hopes when the Huskies responded by marching to WSU’s 17-yard line, 5 seconds remaining, Travis Coons on the field to attempt a 35-yard field goal for the win.
He missed wide right after a bad snap, and overtime ensued.
On the first play, Price dropped back to pass and found Mayes in his face. He tried to unload to Bishop Sankey. Pole caught the ball instead and almost won the game right there by returning it inside UW’s 4-yard line.
A pass from Tuel to Bartolone set the Cougars up with a first down at UW’s 9-yard line, needing only a field goal to win the game.
Leach sent Furney out on first down to get it over with.
“They called timeout, Coach (Eric) Russell came over and said, ‘All right, Furn, let’s do it,’ ” Furney said. “I was like, ‘OK, let’s do it!’ ”
He did it. Dead center. Game over. Party started.
It might not end until September.