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Monday, January 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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John Blanchette: C’mon coaches, get fired up for Apple Cup

Spokesman-Review sports columnist John Blanchette.  (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokesman-Review sports columnist John Blanchette. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

SEATTLE – The grunt work of Armageddon Cup week – Apple Cup, sorry – is bringing the noobs up to speed.

Like Chris Petersen.

Washington’s first-year head coach is making like he gets it, even if he doesn’t know whether Chuck Nelson’s missed field goal was wide left or wide right. Surely it doesn’t help that the guy on the Washington State sideline isn’t afroth with rivalrous bile and seems pathologically incapable of distinguishing between the Huskies and Huxley College. Petersen, too, is hyper-naturally even-keeled. Between the two coaches, the tingle of the Apple Cup is mostly just numbness.

“We’re intense about the games anyway,” he explained this week.  “OK, now we have to play extra hard? Really? Harder than we wanted to play last week?”

Well, yeah. Humor us.

Part of Petersen’s problem may be his most recent frame of reference. He was hired away from Boise State, remember, where the most hated party was … Idaho.

(We’ll pause here so you can mop up the cereal milk that just shot through your nose.)

During Petersen’s time at Boise, the Broncos were 10-0 against their, uh, rivals, the average score being 50-17. Though he mercifully ended the bloodletting – and the Broncos have come to dismiss Idaho as an upstate cipher – he nonetheless remembers hearing that “if you only win one game, it needs to be against Idaho – and I’m thinking, ‘So you’re good if we win one game?’”

Hey, at Idaho, they have no choice but to be good with it.

On his weekly radio show, Petersen noted that Boise fans didn’t like making the trip to Moscow because they felt mistreated, which is to say the home fans had the temerity to stand up for the school song.

Well, he ain’t seen nothing yet.

Or so says Huskies receiver Jaydon Mickens, who would be pleased to pass on a little oral history.

He learned of it when he arrived on campus in 2012, even years being Wazzu’s turn to host the wingding. His new teammates filled him in on the last trip to Pullman, in 2010, not so much the big picture of a 35-28 UW victory but the telling detail.

“Semisi Tokolahi, a defensive tackle, broke his foot and had to get carted off the field,” Mickens related, “and when they carted him off, the fans threw ice at him.”

Mother Nature had left a lot of ammunition in the stands from a storm on Apple eve, and it was apportioned evenly. Band musicians from both teams got caught in the crossfire, as did the Cougar flag bearers. By game’s end, there would be 18 arrests and dozens treated for iceball wounds.

“But you’re really going to throw ice at somebody being carted off the field?” Mickens wondered. “Somebody who can’t play, who can’t defend himself, who’s probably crying because it’s probably their last game? It’s all bad.”

Yet in the next breath, Mickens conceded that the week and the game are “more fun for the players” than the three months of preliminaries the Huskies and Cougars play to get to this point. So go ahead and let the coaches keep deluding themselves otherwise.

Mickens has a fetching perspective on matters both Dawg and Coug, regardless of his affiliation.

For instance, he is UW’s leader in receptions with 48, twice that of any other teammate. But the Cougars have four players with 60 or more catches, and Vince Mayle with more than 100 after snagging 15 a week ago.

Could Mickens imagine himself in such an offense?

“It would be heaven, probably,” he said. “To get that many opportunities to catch the ball. You catch the ball and fall down 15 times, that’s probably 150 yards there even if you don’t do anything with it. Pretty good stat right there.”

Nevertheless, he proclaimed himself “more than happy” in Petersen’s offense, though he admitted to a tough adjustment in one aspect of the changeover from Steve Sarkisian.

“The fact we don’t get movies in the hotel,” he said. “That was hard to buy into. Sark, we’d get one movie per room the night before the game. I enjoyed those movies. Kasen Williams is my roommate, and now we just play dominoes and watch TV.”

That’ll just give him more time to reflect on that 2012 visit to Pullman, when the bowl-bound Dawgs blew an 18-point lead to the going-nowhere Cougs and lost in overtime. The indignity that year wasn’t ice missiles, but watching Wazzu students storm the field.

Felt just as bad, Mickens reported. But then, it should.

“They hate us and we hate them,” he said this week. “That’s how God wanted it.”

Somewhere, you have to figure God is saying, “Don’t get Me mixed up in this.”

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