Chris Hayes stands to join one of Washington State’s most exclusive clubs Saturday afternoon in Seattle - provided he and his Cougar teammates find a way to knock off archrival Washington in their annual Apple Cup showdown.
Should WSU spring the upset, Hayes would walk out of Husky Stadium as one of only six players in at least the last 40 years to have played in three victories over UW.
Hayes, a senior linebacker from San Bernardino, Calif., played on various special teams in Apple Cup ‘92, when the Cougars chilled the Huskies 42-23 in Martin Stadium during a snow storm.
And he was a starter in last year’s 23-6 pasting of the Dawgs, also at home.
Saturday, in his final game as a Cougar, Hayes will start at linebacker against a UW team that is favored by 13 points. The Huskies (6-3-1 overall, 5-1-1 in the Pacific-10) are ranked No. 22 in this week’s Associated Press poll and haven’t lost to WSU in Seattle since 1985.
But the Cougars (3-7, 2-5) have won two of the last three Apple Cups and realize how much a win over UW would brighten an otherwise dreary season.
For his part, Hayes is downplaying the possibility of beating the Huskies three times. Yet he admits he’s heard plenty of discussion about the subject around campus recently.
“They’ve been hinting that to me all week - that I have a chance to be one of the players that beat them three times,” Hayes said. “That’s good. It’d be exciting to step up and come away with three victories in my time here at Washington State.
“But the biggest thing is that a win would help make up for everything that’s happened this year when our season didn’t go as I expected.”
Hayes is the only member of this year’s senior class to have played against UW in ‘92. Wide receiver Jay Dumas played in four games as a true freshman that year, but did not show up on the participation chart for the Husky game.
That leaves Hayes as the only current Cougar in line to join Glenn Harper, Kitrick Taylor, Ben Carrillo, Erik Howard and John Traut as contributors in three Apple Cup wins.
The other five were members of WSU teams that beat the Huskies in 1982, 1983 and 1985.
The only other time the Cougars won three Apple Cups during a five-year span was in the mid-1950s.
Hayes recalls warming rather reluctantly to the Apple Cup rivalry.
“When I first got here, (the Huskies) had all the Rose Bowl hype behind them and all those strong, solid years,” Hayes said. “But being from California, I really didn’t look at the Apple Cup as being the Apple Cup. I looked at UCLA and USC (games) as being my Apple Cup.
“But as the years grew and whatnot, I started gaining more respect for the Apple Cup tradition and really got caught up in the rivalry.”
What really planted the hook, Hayes admitted, was the ‘92 win.
He remembers the way the big, fat flakes of snow blanketed the artificial turf. And he remembers how some of the upperclassmen went crazy at the sight.
“A lot of the seniors came out and started dancing in the snow, throwing snowballs and stuff before the game,” Hayes recalled. “They kept saying, “It’s on! It’s on!’ and ‘We gonna have a day today!’
“Somebody predicted the day before that it was going to snow and we were going to roll over them, and that’s what happened.”
Hayes remembers the Huskies reacting to the weather in a much different manner.
“They let the snow get to them and we didn’t,” Hayes said. “Little did they know, we had kids from California on our team, also. We had kids that ain’t used to the snow, but some of us came out sleeveless, with bare arms, just to prove a point - that the snow wasn’t a factor in the game.”
That win, Hayes admitted, helped destroy - in his mind, at least - much of the Husky mystique. And it made the 1994 victory seem like a foregone conclusion, considering the circumstances.
“I’ve never lacked any confidence in our team or its ability,” Hayes said. “And we came out in that game, basically, and set our mind on beating the Huskies so we could get a better bowl. We had the attitude like, let’s go put them aside and do what we have to do.”
This year, with the game being on enemy turf, Hayes doesn’t seem quite so confident.
“They’ve been in their ups and downs,” he said of the Huskies. “And I think they’re in one of their ups this year. Their momentum is rolling and No. 7 (quarterback Damon Huard) is working for them real well.
“Back when I first came in, they had those great receivers along with their running attack and they basically have those same weapons this season.
“I think next year they’ll be a team that’s a Rose Bowl contender for sure.”
But by then, they might also be threetime loser to Chris Hayes.
Shakin’ like a Leaf?
Redshirt freshman Ryan Leaf, who will make his first college start Saturday against UW, was as direct as a player can be when asked earlier this week if he was prepared to deal with 75,000 screaming fans in Husky Stadium
“Of course not,” Leaf said. “I’m not prepared to feel that kind of thing. I was in awe when I was at Nebraska. I was even in awe when I was at Oregon, it was so loud.
“(The noise) is just something I’ll have to learn to deal with.”
Bus-ness as usual
The Cougars will once again travel to Seattle by bus. And they will travel in huge numbers.
Price said he plans to take nearly every player on his roster and dress all 100 of them.
“I want all of the players - the younger players, the redshirts, everyone - to feel the intensity of the game and the pride that we have in playing this game,” Price explained. “I want them to have that experience, even if they don’t play. Then someday, when they do play, they’ll be more ready for it.”
Conference rules limit visiting teams to suiting up just 60 players, except in the case of rivalry games like the Apple Cup.
Tony ‘The Near-Perfect Toe’
WSU placekicker Tony Truant has made eight of his 12 field-goal attempts this year, including three from 40 yards or longer.
Even more impressive, it would seem, is that Truant hasn’t missed since the Cougars lost at Nebraska back on Sept. 30. His streak is somewhat tainted, however, by the fact that he did not even attempt a field goal in three of the six games WSU has played since the Nebraska loss.
Damon Huard, who has thrown for 5,416 yards in his three seasons as UW starting quarterback, needs only 81 more to pass Sonny Sixkiller as the Huskies’ career passing leader. … Saturday’s Apple Cup is a sellout, which means the gate will easily surpass the 61,951 needed to top UW’s single-season attendance record of 433,703 set in 1991. … WSU running back Frank Madu needs 115 rushing yards against UW to become the Cougars first 1,000-yard rusher since 1992 when Shaumbe Wright-Fair ran for 1,330 yards.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color Photos
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