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WSU-UW notes: Fans brave deep freeze; Steve Gleason, Connor Halliday big hits

Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday, who suffered a season-ending injury on Nov. 1, takes the field on crutches during senior player introductions. (Associated Press)
Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday, who suffered a season-ending injury on Nov. 1, takes the field on crutches during senior player introductions. (Associated Press)

Ninety minutes before the coldest Apple Cup in history, Jael Thompson took her seat and warmed to the idea of what it means to be a die-hard Cougar fan.

Even after an all-day drive from Vancouver, Washington for yet another night game – a sore point for many Cougar fans faced with late-night, postgame drives.

“I just like that it’s at nighttime,” said Thompson, a 1998 graduate who brought along son Cody to cheer the Cougars and another son, Jack, a member of the WSU cheer team.

For those who stayed away – and there were many Saturday night – Thompson and other fans offered a counterpoint by making the most of the situation, even embracing it.

As far as the 7:30 p.m. kickoff – the third this season at Martin Stadium – Tom Woolley of Goldendale, Washington said it just makes the event that much better. “That way we catch the game and make it a whole weekend,” said Woolley, who also was joined by a nephew and a niece, Ryan and Lonnie Steltz of Selah.

And then there was Michelle Larson of Wilbur – a Husky fan, no less – who woke up Saturday morning and made a spur-of-the-moment decision to make her first trip to Pullman.

The reason was standing next to her. It was son Steven Chicklinsky’s 18th birthday. “I love him, and it’s the first time he’s got to see the Huskies in person,” Larson said.

Still almost empty at 7 p.m., the stands filled quickly before kickoff. Announced attendance was 32,952, with the stadium appearing about three-quarters full.

Temperature at kickoff was 19 degrees, making it the coldest game in the 107-year history of the series. The previous coldest was in 1985 in Seattle, when the Cougars won 21-20 to claim their third Apple Cup trophy in four years.

Gleason honored

The biggest cheer of the night came when both teams were on the sidelines.

Between the first and second quarters, former WSU and New Orleans Saints linebacker Steve Gleason was inducted into the Washington State Athletics Hall of Fame.

Gleason, who suffers from ALS, was joined on the field by former Cougar head coaches Mike Price and Bill Doba. In a prerecorded message, Gleason noted that WSU is 3-0 in Apple Cups he’s attended.

“I love this place,” said Gleason, who played on the 1997 squad that reached the Rose Bowl.

WSU seniors honored

Connor Halliday, who broke his right leg at the ankle in the USC game, did not get to play in his final Apple Cup, but he still received one of the biggest ovations of the night.

Prior to kickoff, all 14 of WSU’s seniors were honored individually. A prerecorded video of each senior played on the video board while the player walked out through a tunnel formed by members of the Cougars marching band; then players were greeted by family members.

They were also presented with framed jerseys with their name and number.

Halliday was the final senior honored and he drew the loudest ovation as he made his way out of the tunnel with the help of crutches. After spending a few days back home in Spokane, the Ferris High graduate is back on campus to finish his degree.

According to his doctors, Halliday is two to three months away from being able to run, and will be cleared to play about two months after that. He expects to participate in WSU’s Pro Day showcase for NFL scouts in the spring.

Edginess begins with dance-off

A brouhaha between the rival schools nearly broke out on the field before the game even began, but a ballroom may have been a more appropriate setting.

Shortly before the opening kickoff, the entire UW team went onto the field and started dancing while appearing to challenge the WSU players. The Cougars came out to meet the visitors, appearing to take exception, but many of them began dancing themselves.

Although officials and coaches rushed to separate the players – some of whom appeared to be on the verge of blows – the entire episode had a decidedly West Side Story feel to it.

Staff writers Jim Allen and Jacob Thorpe compiled this report
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