There used to be something to the idea of Washington State having an advantage when it snows in Pullman during the Apple Cup.
But maybe not when the Cougars’ quarterback is from Mississippi and frozen precipitation is as unusual as not having receivers running free.
For those watching at home on Fox’s broadcast, the weather wasn’t a factor. It was the combination of Joe Davis, Brady Quinn, Bruce Feldman and the Fox production that made it tougher to watch.
What they saw …
• It wasn’t just the many times Davis, on play-by-play, and former Notre Dame quarterback Quinn mixed up Washington and Washington State. It wasn’t just the lack of replays on iffy plays. It wasn’t just the mistakes on the graphics on timeouts and down-and-distance. And it wasn’t just the talking over referee Steve Strimling’s announcements.
It was all of it – and more.
That being said, Quinn does deserve some sort of award for something he shared late in the first half. It was the best description of Washington State’s passing attack heard this season.
“Their tendency is to pass,” Quinn said, “but they don’t have a tendency to go to one particular player.”
• The person making those decisions is Gardner Minshew, the from-out-of-nowhere quarterback who leads the nation in passing, mustache hype and, until Friday, decision-making. Actually, though, Minshew does come from somewhere. South of the Mason-Dixon line.
Where snow is an anomaly.
Yes, Minshew has spent the fall in Pullman. But the weather has been mild, with Friday’s snow the first real one to hit the city this year. So it was new to Minshew, and it looked like it. Especially as conditions – including wind – changed in the second half.
He seemed to struggle finding receivers. He seemed uncertain of his footing. He seemed out of sorts. Of course, part of that could be Washington’s defense, which has done that to Cougars quarterbacks the past five years, all UW wins. This year, it held Minshew to 152 yards on 26-of-35 passing. More important, no touchdowns.
“The slickness on the football is going to play a factor in your grip,” Quinn said. That seemed to be a factor in the six turnovers, including Minshew’s two interceptions and a Jake Browning third-quarter fumble that led to a WSU touchdown.
• Even more slipped away from the Cougars in this one, including a chance for the Pac-12 title game, any playoff hopes and Minshew’s Heisman candidacy.
Davis put it into perspective with 2 minutes remaining.
“What a frustrating thing for Washington State,” he said. “This was supposed to be the year it would be different.”
“You wonder too, without these conditions, how this game could have been different,” Quinn said. It’s a question Cougar fans may be asking themselves for the next 365 days.
Minshew might be asking himself that as well. As he walked off the field, the Fox cameras caught him with tears in his eyes. He may be new to this rivalry, but his reaction showed he gets it.
What we saw …
• Washington State’s defense is built on speed. It’s even part of its nickname. But the conditions slowed defenders down. It’s harder to change direction and react when it’s slick. The Huskies took advantage, using counter plays to attack WSU’s aggressiveness. The best example was Myles Gaskin’s 80-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run that clinched it. It was part of his 170 yards on 27 carries.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Washington doesn’t come back to that same play they utilized for that Gaskin’s touchdown,” Quinn said at one point. “That counter play. You have this sort-of fast defense for Washington State, a little bit of misdirection, especially with how bad the footing is. It might catch Washington State’s defense overpursuing.”
The UW offense did a much better job dealing with the snow, wind and rain than the Cougars. The numbers: Washington had 487 yards of total offense, WSU 237.
As Quinn explained, it wasn’t just UW’s size advantage, it was also its personnel, mentioning the tight ends and run-heavy packages.
• If you turned on Fox at 5:30 and saw the last minute or so of the Michigan State-Texas basketball game, hope you didn’t panic. There was no chance you were missing the kickoff.
Though the game had been scheduled for, supposedly, a 5:30 p.m. start for months, the “real” kickoff time was 5:45. That’s what’s called “Fox Time” in the business.
That’s the term given to the network’s penchant for starting later than the listed time. For years, it was 10 minutes. Lately, it’s grown by another five. It’s a given.
So when a promo for the game came on at 5:36 and the broadcast still hadn’t checked in with Davis, Quinn and Feldman in Pullman, you didn’t have to hyperventilate.
But if you yelled “Get to the (a word of emphasis here) Apple Cup!” at 5:39, you were not alone.
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