What’s the best way to kick off Apple Cup week?
How about a campaign speech for the Cotton Bowl?
University of Washington coach Jim Lambright strayed rather boldly from the football coach’s one-game-at-a-time tunnel vision Monday in an attempt to upgrade his Huskies into a New Year’s Day bowl.
It figures to take some politicking - not to mention one more victory. If the Huskies can’t beat rival Washington State in Saturday’s Apple Cup in Seattle, they can probably kiss the Cotton goodbye, period.
“There’s a danger in all of this,” admitted Lambright, “but I told my players I’m going to do everything I can to get us in the best possible bowl.”
Grounded for two years by NCAA sanctions, the Huskies played their way back into the bowl picture last Saturday with a 38-14 thrashing of UCLA. That gave UW six victories over Division I-A opponents, the minimum required for a bowl berth.
The Huskies are second in the Pac-10 behind Rose Bowl-bound USC, but the Cotton Bowl isn’t necessarily obliged to take the conference runner-up. Even if Washington beats WSU, the Dallas committee may find third-place Oregon to be more attractive by virtue of its 9-2 record (assuming the Ducks beat Oregon State) and higher ranking (currently 16, compared to 22nd for UW).
And, of course, the Ducks did beat Washington 10 days ago.
So Lambright was moved to make his own arguments on Monday.
“I believe we’re the most exciting team in the Pac-10 right now,” he said. “The team that would come closest to us is Arizona State.”
Well, nothing could be more subjective than that, so Lambright produced some numbers:
- Washington’s 10 opponents have a cumulative winning percentage of 62 percent; Oregon’s 10 have won just 48 percent of their games.
- Seven of UW’s opponents have winning records, compared to five of Oregon’s opponents - and four Huskies foes have won eight or more games. No Oregon opponent has won more than six games.
- The Huskies have played five teams ranked in the Top 25 at kickoff - six if you include the coaches’ poll - while Oregon has met two.
And then Lambright really started fighting dirty.
“Where you really get into why we ought to go is that this is a year of NCAA sanctions and we still (have been) chosen by ABC for four (TV) appearances,” he said. “They have no restrictions and have been on twice … Just look at the TV market. We’re 12th and they’re 124th.
“And you can throw out the difference in attendance and see how many more people will follow us.”
Does this sound like a desperate man? It does if you bring up the sore point of Oregon’s 24-22 victory in Seattle, in which UW missed two potential winning field goals in the game’s closing minutes.
“They were damn lucky to walk away from it, the way we played in the second half,” said Lambright, whose team spotted Oregon a 24-0 lead. “It’s very easy for me to go to a bowl committee and say, ‘If you want to look at that, I’ll throw in all these other things. Let’s throw in Ohio State vs. (Oregon’s) out-of-conference opponent, or Notre Dame vs. your out-of-conference opponent.
“They’re going to throw out a 9-2 (record), so I can throw out some other numbers that take that 9-2 and puts it where it belongs.”
The full Neal deal
Leon Neal’s star-crossed senior season has come to an end - temporarily.
Washington’s tailback underwent surgery last Wednesday to remove a bone chip from his foot suffered back in September against Oregon State. He watched the UCLA game on crutches, and will do the same at the Apple Cup.
“The whole idea was to get that operated on so he could get in a bowl game,” Lambright said. “Our doctors felt we could do it - that the more time we got him, the better. The idea was to get it done quick and allow him enough time to recover.”
Still, Lambright used one of the Huskies’ 60 travel spots for the UCLA game to take Neal.
“There wasn’t anyone else that was as important (to take) as him,” Lambright said. “He has a quality about him that you want on the locker room and on the sideline.”
Spots available in Pullman
Anyone not holding a ticket but still hoping to stay in Spokane to view the closed-circuit telecast of the Apple Cup might as well hit the road.
WSU officials announced all 275 seats on the 17th floor of the Farm Credit Bank Building, site of the 12:30 p.m. telecast on the branch campus in Spokane, have been sold.
Plenty of seats are still available, however, to view the telecast in the Compton Union Building on the main campus in Pullman. The C.U.B. can seat 1,500.
The game will also be shown on WSU branch campuses in Richland and Vancouver, where tickets are also still available.
Tickets for the closed-circuit telecast are $10 for WSU alumni, donors and season-ticket holders and $7 for faculty, staff and students and will be sold at the door.
Anyone wishing more ticket information can call (800) GO COUGS or (509) 335-9626 at the C.U.B.; (509) 372-7231 in Richland and (360) 737-2186 in Vancouver.
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