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Two minute drill: Keys to victory for Washington State against Washington in the Apple Cup

Don’t take your eyes off …

The most valuable player of Washington State’s season will also have to be the Cougars’ top performer – or at least one of them – in this Apple Cup. WSU might not need the mind-numbing passing stats from No. 16, but Gardner Minshew’s leadership and calming presence in the huddle could be valuable if the Cougars find themeslves in an early hole. If he can keep WSU in the game, Minshew’s poise in the fourth quarter might come in handy as well. In each of their 11 games this year, the Cougars have either gone into the fourth quarter with a victory essentially in hand, or they’ve put themselves in a position to win late. That wasn’t the case in 2017, when WSU’s four losses came by an average margin of 26.7 points. Minshew has led three winning scoring drives in the fourth quarter this season (Utah, Stanford, Cal) and has only squandered one opportunity (USC). If the Cougars are still in this game toward the end, they should feel all right about their chances.

When Washington has the ball …

“Browning takes the snap, hands off to Gaskin.” If you want to make a Washington State fan uneasy, those eight words will usually do the trick. Myles Gaskin, the senior running back from Lynnwood, Washington, is playing in his final Apple Cup and it can’t come any sooner for the Cougars. They might have to stomach one more big game from the small but powerful tailback, who’s averaged 5.8 yards per carry in his three games against WSU and could hit 500 career yards against the Cougars with just 120 in his Apple Cup finale. But Gaskin isn’t the only back that should frighten WSU. Salvon Ahmed is getting into the end zone just as much as his backfield mate this season, but with significantly fewer touches. Both players have seven rushing touchdowns, but Ahmed, a sophomore, has 103 fewer attempts.

When WSU has the ball …

Lighting up the scoreboard early has been a key to the Cougars’ success, especially given the lulls they’ve had in the third quarter. In the first period, WSU is outscoring its opposition 107-65. Tack on the 153-82 disparity in the second quarter and the Cougars have outscored foes 260-147 in the first half. It would mark a major breakthrough if WSU can keep this trend going. The Cougars have been outscored a whopping 90-13 in the first half of the rivalry game since Chris Petersen got to UW – including 49-6 in the first quarter – and the Huskies have scored 12 first-half touchdowns compared to one for WSU during that same span. Tossing a punch in the first quarter could be what finally gives the Cougars an edge in the rivalry game.

Did you know?

Both radio broadcast booths – UW’s and WSU’s – will look a little bit different this Apple Cup. For the first time since 1979, former Huskies play-by-play broadcaster Bob Rondeau, who retired after the 2017 season, won’t be on the call for the annual rivalry game. And likewise, legendary Cougars broadcaster Bob Robertson won’t be inside the Wazzu booth for the first time since 1971. Robertson, who’d most recently been an analyst, announced his own retirement in mid-October.